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The Cadence

He embraces the sheep
an ungainly bundle unusually tilted
now leaning back against the man
who bowed over, grasps with his knees
and left hand, to perform. Like a cellist

he knows how to play.
Fingertips splayed to tension the skin
right hand guiding across the bridge
a gleam of blades to separate fleece –
music from silence, wrapped up in wool.

The animal listens
accepting the prospect of resolution ahead,
resigned to his practised hands, grip of the thighs
the charm of the music
and caressing of steel.

He stretches his arm out
to reach high notes in third position.
Lanolined leather feet shift softly beneath.
The sheep tips back more to enable the soar
of melody heard only by them.

He lets fall the burden
accustomedly righting the sheep. He arises
to bow for a moment as if in acknowledgement
then straightens – the fleece being lifted
and folded, like music.

The performer resumes
with no pause for applause. He turns
to the next – there are more
many more waiting. So the music continues –
each movement to end in a cadence.

A Musical Interval…

I like the idea in a blog of not having those pages which go on about where you went to university, your much later Ph D in Lorca and and how you love ferrets, but rather to show stuff as and when it’s relevant or helpful to someone who may be interested to know.

Well, that’s the way I’m doing it – so here’s something about me.

As a musician, I see (if that’s the right word) music (and the making of it) in many places.

I found myself watching a sheep shearer.  He reminded me strongly of a cellist, what with the positioning of the two protagonists (the real cello can almost be another creature, if not a person – often a professional cellist will buy two adjacent seats for the two of them in a plane, for example), the vigorous work of the right hand combined with the deft placing of the left hand fingers, the occasional very definite shifts of the body, the concentration by the performer on something almost dissociated from what seems to be the immediate task and the careful placing of the feet.

All in all, the shearer appeared to be no less accomplished than a fine cellist.

I liked the idea of a cadence – literally, a falling: in music, that temporary closure, resolution and completion that both finishes and starts a phrase, maintaining the flow.

And in shearing, the falling of the fleece: the cadence that precedes and enables the proceeding to the next.

But, nice idea as it seemed to me, I’m not sure this poem works.

Whether it’s a bit too far-fetched, contrived and strained, or whether I haven’t quite tied the two activities well enough together, or whether simply they just are too different, I don’t know.

Still, I spent a long time watching him, and them (the sheep), and others were enjoying the performance too, which itself was not about the audience, but was the pursuit of a task with experience, concentration and tenderness – doing something that called for both delicacy and strength, which seemed almost greater than that which one was witnessing.  The shearer wasn’t showing off: he was simply doing his job with consummate skill, even making it seem easy.

I’ll be interested how others feel – I mean about the poem.
(Interesting too how I used the word feel, not think – as one would about music?)

I’m not looking for encouragement, let alone praise – honestly! – just a personal response (also a bit like music).

Perhaps poetry really is after all very like music, even if you feel (think?) a sheep shearer bears only a slight resemblance to a cellist. 


  1. Of course it works!

    Suddenly my brain was triggered to give me Cadenza....the virtuoso performance when the performer is alone to demonstrate his understanding of what's needed, and his mastery of the instrument!

    Same root word...cadere:to fall.



    1. Thank you! I remembered (from my O level latin) cadere, but hadn't related that to cadenza - a nice link here, which I was unaware of.
      Your supportive comments are hugely appreciated.

  2. Thank you - great to have the poem and the background!

  3. A fascinating connection Richard and a very vividly, visual poem

    1. Thank you dear friends - it's lovely to have your warm responses.
      I just heard from another friend (JH) who said:

      Dear Richard — love your blog! I’ve sent your sheep shearing poem to all my 'cello-playing friends and family — didn’t quite dare send it to the sheep-shearing ones!

      I wonder if anyone who can draw might be able to draw a cellosheep or sheepcello?!


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