When visiting Cape Town in July 2010 to participate in the College of Music Centenary celebration, John Purser attended a Poetry Reading at Kalk Bay Books, where he read many of his own poems, ending with Erik Chisholm specially written for the occasion. With his permission we print it here.
You premiered Berlioz and Mozart
Played beside Casella; page turned for Bartok
And entertained him in your home; the pair of you
Sharing pianistic skills and love of your traditions.
You performed Szymanowski for the man himself,
And rescued Walton when he lost the place
In his own music; accompanied Paul Hindemith,
and then played Schmidt to Schmidt.
But you were no outsider, for when you sat beside them,
they sat with you, heard how you played, and
learnt from you, both of your native music and of each other-
for it was you, uniquely, who brought such men together.
Well, you and I have been together now
for several years. As well we never met.
You were so far ahead-besides we would have fought,
Fighting the powers that be, that still
Obstruct our shared ideals.
Giving more to others than you ever gave yourself,
you died too young and left your music
lying for years in trunks. Such riches have emerged-
those tiny perfect gems of Scottish airs,
blue as the brightest waters of the lochs:
and the ennobling echoes, as the Piobaireachd sounds
'savage and shrill' necklaces of notes
as sensual as the East; crowns of concertos:
operas formed from forbidding myth
and skulls of stark realities:
and works whose crafts is in their mysteries,
dark and profound.
Your ashes have been scattered none knows where,
but should there be existence after death, yours would be hunting
through the wild star-scape of universal mind,
chasing a restless muse, that you
might embrace her loveliness once more,
no matter what if anything she wore.
John Purser July 20 2010, Cape Town