Eclogue VIII - Krzysztof Penderecki

go to content

The text of Virgil’s song narrates a mysterious ritual by a young girl, who tries to reignite love in her unfaithful lover. On the one hand, it describes a series of magical actions, and on the other, the very spell repeated at the end of each successive stanza works as a refrain, which ritualises the narrative. The ritual’s stages are marked by various formulas, initially so ones, with the use of socalled white magic (pharmaceutria alba): prayers to ancient gods such as Apollo, Luna, and Venus, later moving to more radical or downright dangerous formulas of so-called black magic (pharmaceutria nigra): poisonous herbs. The song’s last stanza brings good news: the magic worked and the lover has returned. 

In his interpretation of the text, Penderecki follows the dramaturgy of Virgil’s poem, establishing a higher level of “purely musical tensions: formal, expressive, and fonic (timbral),” to quote Barbara Cisowska.1 The sentences set to music by Penderecki often become incomprehensible, various words—with the exception of keywords—losing their layer of meaning. is happens through superimposition, reordering, and intertwining of words, single syllables and phonems. Abandoning the regularity of the ancient hexameter, Penderecki “aims at enriching the text from the musical and sonoristic point of view, bestowing original articulation and therefore emphasising the crucial aspect of the work: the text’s character and expression.”2


In so doing, the composer obtains a musical equivalent of the magic ritual, which he sets in two sharply de ned semantic parts. The first section, Katadesis, sets the first six stanzas of the text, presenting the ritual up to its climax. The second section, Apolysis, corresponds to the very conclusion of Virgil’s song. These Greek terms of casting and resolving the plot might seem merely a reference to the dramaturgy and narrative of the verbal–musical action. Yet katadesis and katadeo, “I bind,” can also mean “spell,” “bind by casting a spell,” while apolysis in this context can be understood as “breaking the spell,” “freeing oneself from the bond.” Etymology thus shows that bonding and breaking from bondage has a predominantly magical meaning here.3 In the timbral shaping of this form, the typical sonoristic music principle dominates of juxtaposing textural and timbral structures: linear and vertical, dynamic and static. Their succession is strictly governed by the textual content. The description of so-called white magic is interpreted predominantly with linear timbral structures, alluding to traditional polyphony: the static structure that opens the work, an acoustic effect of breathing, can be related to the imitazione della natura of the Baroque; the dynamic structure of the first refrain is parallel to punctualist counterpoint; the structure from the third stanza is similar to Medieval hocket. 

The mood of peace and balance is also mapped by Penderecki through the use of performing indications such as tempo del respiro or sostenuto. Change is merely brought by the music of the second stanza, where linear structures give way to a homorhythmically chanted text marked energico. Here, Penderecki anticipates the type of narrative that depicts the black magic ritual in the fourth, h, and sixth stanza: sostenuto is replaced by furioso, vivo, or agitato. 

The concluding apolysis synthesises the earlier techniques, while the last bars, mirroring the effect of the work’s opening, clearly establish an arch-like structure of the entire work.


Eclogue VIII combines traditional contrapuntal techniques with vivid, purely timbral experimentation. The work thus continues Penderecki’s style known from works such as the PassionCosmogony,Canticum Canticorum, and Magnificat. 

Agnieszka Draus 


Ecloga VIII 
 
KATADESIS 
 
PHARMACEUTRIA ALBA 
Effer aquam et molli cinge haec altaria vitta 
Verbenasque adole pinguis et mascula tura, 
Coniugis ut magicis sanos avertere sacris 
Experiar sensus; nihil hic nisi carmina desunt. 
Ducite ab urbe donum, mea carmina, ducite Daphnim. 
Carmina vel caelo possunt deducere Lunam, 
Terna tibi haec prium triplici diversa colore 
Licia circumdo, terque haec altaria circum 
Efflgiem duco, numero deus impare gaudet. 
Ducite ab urbe donum, mea carmina, ducite Daphnim. 
Necte tribus nodis ternos, Amarylli, colores;
necte, Amarylli, modo et „Veneris” dic „vincula necto” 
Ducite ab urbe donum, mea carmina, ducite Daphnim. 
 
PHARMACEUTRIA NIGRA 
Has olim exuvias mihi perfidus ille reliquit, 
pignora cara sui, quae nunc ego limine in ipso, 
terra, tibi mando, debent haec pignora Daphnim. 
Ducite ab urbe donum, mea carmina, ducite Daphnim. 
Has herbas atque haec Ponto mihi lecta venena 
Ipse dedit Moeris nascuntur plurima Ponto
His ego saepe lupum fieri et se condere silvia 
Moerim, saepe animas imis ezcire sepulcris 
Atque satas alio vidi traducere messis.
Ducite ab urbe donum, mea carmina, ducite Daphnim. 
Fer cineres, Amarylli, foras rivoque fluenti
Transque caput iace, nec respexeris. His ego Daphnim 
Adgediar; nihil ille deos, nil carmina curat. 
Ducite ab urbe donum, mea carmina, ducite Daphnim. 
 
APOLYSIS 
 
CONCLUSIO  
Aspice: corripuit tremulis altaria flammis
Sponte sua, dum ferre moror, cinis ipse. Bonum sit! 
Nescio quid certe est, et Hylax in limine latrat. 
Credimus? an, qui amant, ipsi sibi somnia fingunt? 
Parcite, ab irbe venit, iam parcite, carmina, Daphnis.4 
 
CASTING
 
PHARMACEUTRIA ALBA 
Bring water forth; then round these altars twine
The sacrificial billet—burn thereon
Rich vervain and the strength of frankincense,
So I may seek by magic rites to turn
My love’s sound mind; only the charm I lack.
Bring Daphnis, O my songs, bring Daphnis home!
For charms have power to draw the moon from Heav’n,
First, I wind round thine image triple threads
Of three-fold hues, and three times lead it round
The altars. Gods unequal numbers love!
Bring Daphnis, O my songs, bring Daphnis home!
Now, Amaryllis, tie the three-hued knots
And say the while, “I tie fair Venus’ bands.”
Bring Daphnis, O my songs, bring Daphnis home!

PHARMACEUTRIA NIGRA 
Long since the false one left as pledge with me
His cast-off garments—dear—for they were his.
I to the earth commit them—by the gate,
These pledges should bring Daphnis to my side,
Bring Daphnis, O my songs, bring Daphnis home!
Mœris himself gave me these herbs, and these
Most poisonous plants, gather’d in Pontus, where
They grow in plenty—by their magic power
Oft have I seen Mœris become a wolf
Hiding in woods, and from deep graves call forth
The shrinking ghosts, then charm the growing crops
From the sown fields, to other grounds transferred.
Bring Daphnis, O my songs, bring Daphnis home!
Bring ashes, Amaryllis, out of doors,
Throw o’er thy head into the running brook.
Look not behind thee! I will now attach
Daphnis with these—he scorns both gods and charms!
Bring Daphnis, O my songs, bring Daphnis home!

RESOLUTION
 
CONCLUSIO
Look how the ashes of themselves have clothed
With flickering flames the altars whilst I wait!
A lucky omen—tho’ I know not what—
And in the doorway, hear how Hylas barks.
May we believe, or do all lovers dream?
Now cease, my songs, for from the town at last, my Daphnis comes!5

1 Barbara Cisowska, “Ecloga VIII,” in Współczesność i tradycja w muzyce Krzysztofa Pendereckiego (Cracow: Academy of Music in Cracow, 1983), 137–38.
2 Ibid., 139.
3 In many language families, “bonding” can also refer to casting magic: in Turkic and Tatar languages bag, baj, boj signify both “sorcery” and “band, cord”; the Latin fascinum, “charm, malefic spell” is related to fascia, “band, bandage”; Romanian legatura means “act of tying,” but also “to bewitch”; Sanskrit yukti, properly “to harness,” “to attach,” acquires the sense of “magic means.” See Mircea Eliade, “The ‘God Who Binds’ and the Symbolism of Knots,” in Images and Symbols: Studies in Religious Symbolism, trans. Philip Mairet (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), 114–15.
4 Publii Virgilii Maronis, Bucolica et Georgica. Tabulis Aeneis. Olim a Johanne Pine... (London, 1774), 1:39–41.
5 The Eclogues of Virgil in English verse. Translated by John William Mackail (London: George Pulman & Sons, 1908).