Darren L. Slider
I slept, and behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto me, and he shewed me a vision. And in that vision I was in the shop of a craftsman, and in the midst of that shop stood a great anvil. And I heard a tumultuous noise, for round about the anvil were hammers, chisels, saws, knives, wrenches, drills, and all manner of tools: and the tools did continually attack the anvil, and smite it, and did not cease day nor night.
I did stop mine ears by reason of the great noise, and continued to behold. By and by I saw that some of the tools wore out, and brake into pieces, and lay scattered across the floor of the shop. Others arose to take their places, but still they could not prevail against the anvil. And I marvelled greatly at this assault, and at the vanity thereof.
In my vision this went on for many days, and in the midst thereof I beheld, and saw a great sledgehammer, the head of which was almost as large as the anvil. And as I looked on, the sledgehammer rose up, and smote the anvil at the base thereof with great fury, such that the base thereof did crack; but the sledgehammer did shatter into so many fragments that I could not count the number of them. Thus did the anvil prevail against them that smote it.
And I turned unto the angel of the LORD who shewed me these things, and shouted unto him, so that my voice could be heard over the tumult, saying, What meaneth this vision of the anvil, and of the tools which smite it, and of the sledgehammer which could not prevail against it to destroy it? And the angel said unto me, Wait and see: for thou shalt see this vision several times again, and its fulfilment also, until the meaning thereof be plain unto thee.
And he shewed me another vision, and I beheld a great orchestra, and the musicians thereof did play a symphony. And I looked upon the conductor of the orchestra, whose hair was white as snow: and I marvelled at the wisdom which shone from his countenance. Then the angel said unto me, Hearken thou unto the musick which the orchestra doth play.
And I hearkened, and behold, the orchestra did play loud and noble sounds, which were like unto the glory of the house of the LORD: nevertheless the musick was troubled, and knew not whither to go. And the instruments divided into groups, and these sounded divers chords which did not agree one with the other, so that I heard a tumultuous noise. Therefore was I perplexed, and was about to inquire of the angel the meaning of this noise, when I heard the sound of the trumpet. For behold, the trumpet did sound a high note, and did play so loudly that I could hear it plainly above the other instruments.
When they heard this, the other instruments did cease their tumult, so that for a moment the trumpet sounded alone on its high note: but then the other instruments sounded their various chords furiously, and all at the same time, so that I could not hear the trumpet any more. But lo, the conductor raised up his arm, and bade them cease, and they were silent: and behold, the trumpet did continue to sound its high note. And I was amazed.
Then said the angel of the LORD unto me, Behold, this vision and the vision of the anvil which thou sawest before are one. And I answered and said, Indeed; but what meaneth all this, and who is the conductor of the orchestra? And he said unto me, The LORD is the conductor: it is he who prepareth and keepeth watch over the musick. And as for the trumpet, and for them that would cause it to be silent, thou shalt understand more of these hence.
And as we spake, the orchestra began to play another symphony. And I hearkened, but, behold, there was no life in it, and it was cold, like unto the chill of a calm day in the midst of winter. And the name of the key which the musick was in is called Inertia, for no good thing can live and grow therein. Indeed, the violins assayed to sing a melody, but, behold, the melody could not prevail against the cold, for the cold did slowly strangle it until it was dead.
And after it was dead, behold, the instruments did play a march. But this was not done in order to mourn the death of the melody, but in order to exult over the triumph of the king of the key of Inertia, who played the snare drum. And the name of him that did play the snare drum was called in the Hebrew tongue Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.
And when the dead march was ended, it came to pass that the musick was in a different key. Then said the angel of the LORD unto me, The name of this key is Opportunity: for through this key the musick might peradventure pass into another key, whose name is Grace; and there the sun doth shine continually, and it is warm. And as he spake, behold, the cellos arose, and would have caused the musick to pass into the key of Grace. But as soon as they began to rise, Apollyon did protest loudly, beating on his drum with the sound of the dead march, and at length did prevail against them, so that the musick could not pass beyond the key of Opportunity. And after that no one dared to protest against the king of Inertia, and the musick got itself into a rut, such that it was about to return unto the key of Inertia. And I was disconsolate.
Then the angel of the LORD that was with me bade me lift up mine eyes. And I obeyed him, and I saw that even as the musick was in a rut, and the snare drum played the dead march, behold, the conductor did command them that played the violins, that they should sound a single high note, and repeat that note continuously. And so did they, and the sound of that note was like unto a small ray of warm sunshine in the chill, for that note was great in the key of Grace. And since the violins did play according to the pattern of the rut which the musick was in, Apollyon made no further protest against it, but continued to sound the dead march on occasion as before: for he was ignorant of its purpose. By and by it came to pass, that the instruments began to be silent, and the dead march became a whisper while the violins did continue to play the high note. At last the conductor bade the snare drum hold its peace, but the violins yet sounded. Then there was silence for a moment, but when the musick began again, behold, it was in the key of Grace.
And, lo, the violas did sing a new song, and the horns and the rest of the stringed instruments did accompany them, in the key of Grace. And I hearkened unto the melody, and, behold, it was possessed of much beauty, and warmth, and dignity, and there was life in it, and also a hint of sorrow. And the melody prospered, and waxed great, and for a moment it was transfigured into a key where all was glory and warm sunshine. Then it returned unto the key of Grace, and continued to play quietly.
But it came to pass by and by, that the woodwind instruments began to make sounds of warning, and to repeat these sounds, and for a moment the melody stumbled, and fell into the key of Inertia. Now the brass instruments did rescue it, and pull it back into the key of Grace, but, behold, it was more sober, as it were being prepared for battle. And now both the woodwind instruments and the stringed instruments sang the song of warning, and the sound of them was like unto distant thunder in a sky which grew always darker and cloudier.
And, behold, Apollyon refused to hold his peace any longer, but rebelled against the conductor. Indeed, he was moved with great choler against the melody, and attacked it. And the snare drum sounded the dead march according to Apollyon’s own tempo, in spite of the conductor; Apollyon as it were laying hands on the melody, and dragging it down into the key of Inertia. But the melody did continue to sound in the brass instruments: and, behold, a new thing came to pass.
The conductor commanded them that played the trumpets, that they should fight against the snare drum, and they did obey him: they played in the key of Grace, but behold, the song which they sang was Apollyon’s dead march. And I was greatly perplexed, and was about to protest unto the angel of the LORD, but he bade me keep silence, and hearken unto the musick. And behold, the sound of the melody, having been stripped of its outward glory, could barely be heard in the noise of battle: Apollyon did press his attack, and the trumpets fought against him by playing his dead march in the key of Grace. And as I beheld, it came to pass that the harder Apollyon did fight, and the more noise his snare drum did make, that much louder did the trumpets sound in the key of Grace, and that much more was the musick inclined to return thereto. By and by Apollyon waxed so wroth that he fought wildly, and foolishly, and the trumpets by playing the dead march did prevail against him: the musick returned wholly unto the key of Grace, and thence the melody rang out in glory and triumph, the whole orchestra bearing witness. And it came to pass that the conductor compelled even Apollyon to accompany the triumph song, which expanded to fill the earth with its splendour. And I rejoiced greatly.
But when the song of victory had ended, behold, a lone clarinet sang a dirge, a song of lament and sorrow; and from a great distance, though I could not see it, I thought I could hear Apollyon playing the dead march on his snare drum. And as the music ended thus, the angel of the LORD spake unto me, saying, As the victory of the melody was great, so was the cost thereof, and the sorrow which made it possible; and Apollyon, though he was defeated, yet lives, and will fight again, even though he fight in vain. And I said unto him, I understand that this vision is like unto the visions that came before it, and that righteousness will triumph over evil, though at great cost: but what is the fulfilment of these visions? and what have I to do with it? And he said unto me, Behold, and see.
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For the chief musicians. For soprano, mixed chorus and full orchestra. A psalm of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, which they sang with the son of God in the midst of the fiery furnace, into which Nebuchadnezzar the king had cast them.
O all ye works of the LORD, bless ye the LORD:
O ye angels of the LORD, bless ye the LORD:
O ye heavens, bless ye the LORD:
O ye waters, bless ye the LORD:
O all ye powers of the LORD, bless ye the LORD:
O ye sun and moon, bless ye the LORD:
O ye showers and dew, bless ye the LORD:
O ye winds of God, fire and heat, bless ye the LORD:
O ye winter and summer, O ye dews and frosts, bless ye the LORD:
O ye frost and cold, O ye ice and snow, bless ye the LORD:
Nights and days, light and darkness, lightnings and clouds, bless ye the LORD.
O all ye works of the LORD, bless ye the LORD:
O let the earth bless the LORD:
O all ye green things upon the earth, bless ye the LORD:
O ye mountains, O ye hills, O ye wells, bless ye the LORD:
O ye seas, O ye floods, and all that move in the waters;
O all ye fowls of the air, O all ye beasts and cattle, bless ye the LORD:
O ye children of men, bless ye the LORD:
O let Israel bless the LORD:
O ye priests, bless ye the LORD:
O ye servants of the LORD, bless ye the LORD:
O ye spirits and souls of the righteous, O ye holy and humble men of heart,
O let the earth bless the LORD:
Author’s Note: In 1994, I began to recast The Man in King James prose, with the object of presenting it in a nobler style. I rewrote the toolshop and orchestra scenes, condensing the incorporating the introduction into the former, and replaced the original epilogue with Daniel 3:57-87 (Old Testament Apocrypha) (inspired by Vaughan Williams’ Benedicite) cast as a psalm. I also intend to combine the two scenes from the life and death of Christ and reset the resurrection scene to a description of “La Résurrection du Christ” from Messiaen’s organ cycle Livre du Saint-Sacrement, but I have not begun either of these.