As I mentioned in my previous post, I think that music can provide a background and context to scenes in a story.
“Lacrimosa” provides the music for “Gabriel’s Inferno”‘s video trailer, which you can watch here.
You can read the Latin and English lyrics to the Requiem here.
Here are the lyrics to “Lacrimosa”:
Day of Weeping,
On which will rise from ashes guilty man for judgment
So have mercy, oh Lord, on this man.
Compassionate Lord Jesus,
Grant them rest.
Within the context of the story, Julianne learns that Professor Emerson has been playing “Lacrimosa” over and over again in his office, much to the exasperation of his research assistant. (His research assistant later steals the CD in an effort to stop the madness).
If you wish, you can duplicate poor Paul’s experience by replaying the book trailer. Then you can try, like Julianne, to imagine what kind of psychological space Professor Emerson would have to be in in order to listen to that music continually …
I won’t spoil the story.
Although Mozart lived hundreds of years after Dante’s death, his Requiem is a perfect fit for the The Divine Comedy and for the tortured male lead, Gabriel Emerson.
If you’re interested on the background to Mozart’s composition, you can read a short article here.
For a longer article on the life and works of Mozart, click here.
I invite you to share your favourite piece of music from “Gabriel’s Inferno” in the comments below, or perhaps to suggest a piece that should have been included but wasn’t. A playlist and media player are featured here.
Thanks for reading (and listening),
If you haven’t read it yet, you can purchase an electronic version through the publisher for $4.99, $2 less than it’s offered on Amazon.com.
As a writer and as a reader, I’m interested in the way that music can set a scene, hint at a subtext, or offer clues to a mystery. I’ve explored some of these options in “Gabriel’s Inferno.”
In one scene, I envisioned “You and Me” by Matthew Barber playing in the background while the central characters talk over dinner. This song emphasizes the differences between the characters and the way they have chosen to live their lives. The song also mentions the contrast between virtue and vice.
Few contemporary songs include references to virtue and vice, but Matthew Barber is not your typical singer-songwriter. You can watch him perform the song here. (And you can purchase the song from the “Ghost Notes” album on iTunes.)
Professor Emerson confesses to having all Seven Deadly Sins: pride, envy, wrath, sloth, avarice, gluttony and lust. He thinks that he’s a magnet for a sin. On the other hand, the lovely Miss Mitchell is a paragon of the Seven Virtues that oppose those vices: humility, kindness, patience, diligence, liberality, abstinence and chastity. The virtues and vices are paired in this way because humility is the corrective for pride, kindness is the corrective for envy, etc.
Liberality is perhaps the virtue least familiar by name. It can be likened to generosity and it’s supposed to combat greed. We normally think of generosity in terms of giving to others, particularly in terms of donating money to charities or worthy causes.
Through Goodreads, I have been able to meet a number of my readers. The interface on that website is set up in a similar fashion to Facebook so that one can see updates on what one’s friends are reading, what their ratings are of particular books, etc. Recently, I saw that one of my readers was reading a series of books by an American author named Heather Huffman.
Mrs. Huffman describes her novels as stories about strong female leads who face difficult situations. She provides her books for free through Barnes and Noble for Nook readers or anyone who uploads a Nook application to their cell phone or PC or Mac computer.
Why would a novelist provide ALL her books for free?
Mrs. Huffman answers this question on the top of her website, where she states that she would prefer her readers make a donation to WorldVision or the charity of their choice, rather than paying for her book. In particularly, she encourages her readers to donate to WorldVision’s program to support and protect sexually exploited girls.
Mrs. Huffman’s work is a great example of the virtue of liberality. She donates her writing to charity and in so doing, inspires others to give of their talents to worthy causes. Donations don’t always have to be financial – one can donate time, things that one makes, or even one’s writing. One person can make a difference.
All the best,
PS. If you read one of Mrs. Huffman’s novels or if you make a contribution to a charity or a worthy cause, would you let me know? I welcome your comments below.
There is a scene in “Gabriel’s Inferno” in which a male and a female character enter into a discussion about forgiveness and penance. I don’t agree with the view of penance that is presented by the woman and neither does she (it differs from the one presented in the link above). But since the man she is speaking with is distraught, she reasons with him as best she can, taking a much starker, harsher view of penance.
She also mentions forgiveness and she does so by referencing Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables. This work is arguably one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century and if you haven’t read it yet, you should. There are several different stories intertwined in the narrative but my favourite is the story of Jean Valjean, the convict. He steals a loaf of bread to feed the hungry children of his widowed sister. He is arrested for the theft and sentenced to five years in the galleys.
After his release from prison, he steals again. This time, he steals the rich trappings of a Bishop’s house. But when he is arrested and forced to face his victim, something surprising happens. The Bishop declares that the stolen items are gifts and he adds to the items, giving more than Jean had stolen initially. After the gendarmes have departed, leaving Jean alone with the Bishop, the Bishop bids him go in peace. And he declares that he has bought the convict’s soul for God and that he must now go forth and do good.
This exchange is, perhaps, one of the most powerful ones in the novel. It’s a mirror image of Jean’s previous experience over the theft of the bread, but with an unexpected outcome. Once again, the law would provide justice and certainly the Bishop was well within the rights that the law provides him to demand that justice be served. But he doesn’t do that. He offers mercy, instead. He gives back the items Jean stole from him and in so doing, forgives him and challenges him to go forth in peace and to be a good man.
Anyone who has ever pondered the subject of forgiveness knows that some wrongs are incredibly difficult to forgive. We’ve all been in situations in which we would rather have justice than offer mercy to the person(s) who wronged us. Some people cling to justice or revenge and spend their entire lives striving for it. I’m not suggesting that we substitute forgiveness for justice or that justice should be jettisoned altogether. I’m simply pointing out that forgiveness and justice can go together not just for the good of the wrongdoer, but also for the victim. Forgiveness and mercy are gifts that only the victim can bestow on the wrongdoer, but they are gifts that bless both the giver and the recipient.
William Shakespeare provides one of the best speeches on mercy through the words of Portia in Act IV, Scene I of The Merchant of Venice,
The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence ‘gainst the merchant there.
There are a number of important lines here. Notice how Shakespeare points out that mercy is “twice blest” and “mighty.” One might wonder if part of the blessing mentioned is the liberation and freedom that comes with forgiving someone, rather than holding tightly to the injury one has from being wronged.
Shakespeare also points out “That, in the course of justice, none of us should see salvation.” The speech as a a whole highlights the painful truth of our own shortcomings as human beings – our need for grace, forgiveness and mercy. Portia’s challenge is for us to remember our needs when we deal with others and to allow mercy to “season” justice. Yes, this is easier to say than to do. But the beauty that is the mercy of the Bishop far outstrips the ugliness of the justice that sends a man to prison for stealing a loaf of bread.
I welcome your comments below.
All the best and thanks for reading,
If one wanted to make sense of the references in Dante’s Divine Comedy, the first book to start with would be the Bible. Biblical characters, themes and allusions are woven throughout the three parts of Dante’s great work.
Although much of western literature once included biblical allusions, literature has changed. Today’s fiction is more likely to draw on feature films and comic books than the Bible. Much of what I consider to be the literature of the Bible is unfamiliar to many people. (MIT has an online course that some of you might find interesting)
In this post, I’d like to draw your attention to one book from the Hebrew Bible and one passage from the New Testament, solely for the purpose of enjoying their words. I’m not interested in questions of interpretation with these passages. I’m simply asking readers to approach the texts as pieces of literature and see what they think of them.
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth–for thy love is better than wine.
Thine ointments have a goodly fragrance; thy name is as ointment poured forth; therefore do the maidens love thee.
Draw me, we will run after thee; the king hath brought me into his chambers; we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will find thy love more fragrant than wine! sincerely do they love thee….
“Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thine eyes are as doves.
Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant; also our couch is leafy.”
Song of Songs 3:1-5
“By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth; I sought him, but I found him not.
‘I will rise now, and go about the city, in the streets and in the broad ways, I will seek him whom my soul loveth.’ I sought him, but I found him not.
The watchmen that go about the city found me: ‘Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?’
Scarce had I passed from them, when I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me.
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles, and by the hinds of the field, that ye awaken not, nor stir up love, until it please.’”
Song of Songs 4: 1- 7
Song of Songs 4: 1- 7
Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thine eyes are as doves behind thy veil; thy hair is as a flock of goats, that trail down from mount Gilead.
Thy teeth are like a flock of ewes all shaped alike, which are come up from the washing; whereof all are paired, and none faileth among them.
Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy mouth is comely; thy temples are like a pomegranate split open behind thy veil.
Thy neck is like the tower of David builded with turrets, whereon there hang a thousand shields, all the armour of the mighty men.
Thy two breasts are like two fawns that are twins of a gazelle, which feed among the lilies.
Until the day breathe, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.
Thou art all fair, my love; and there is no spot in thee.
As a piece of literature, the verses quoted above seem to fall into the category of erotic poetry. There’s a sweetness to the descriptions of the lovers’ interactions, which is coupled with a tremendous desire and an appreciation of physical beauty.
Notice how the voice shifts from the female lover to the male beloved in the last two verses of the first passage, and again in the third passage. The female lover extols the virtues of her beloved and describes her longing for him. In the third passage, the male beloved describes the beauty of his female love. We’re treated to an insight into ancient views of beauty in the analogies he uses for her appearance. (I’ll leave you to your own inferences as to what the mountain and the hill refer to.)
I welcome you to share your thoughts in the comments below.
The second passage I’d like to draw your attention to is the parable of the prodigal son from the Gospel according to St. Luke 15: 11-32. This text is important within the context of “Gabriel’s Inferno” and Dante’s Divine Comedy in that both works explore aspects of forgiveness, love and redemption. Here is the text from the Bible:
And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
I don’t think that one needs to be religious in order to be moved by this story. Anyone who has ever disappointed his or her family, or felt alone and abandoned can surely relate to the despair of the prodigal. The prodigal’s longing for his home is another important image, contrasting sharply with his disgust with himself.
The forgiveness and welcome communicated by the father is something that provides hope and inspiration, despite the jealousy and condemnation manifested by the son of constancy.
Sex, love, faith, hope, redemption, sin, virtue …. all of these concepts are presented in the literature of the Bible, providing inspiration for their presentation in other literary works throughout history.
All the best and thanks for reading,