Young Brahms played piano in a brothel parlor:
He watched the beery patrons go upstairs
And said, “Non olet,” pocketing his thaler,
But something nasty caught him unawares.
He never made it with a girl it seems;
His love was Clara Schumann, who had far
Too much to cope with to indulge his dreams—
Mad Robert flared out like a shooting star.
I couldn’t take to Brahms when I was young—
Too sentimental, learnèd, ponderous,
I thought. Now that I find I live among
Such damning adjectives myself, I’m less
Inclined to carp, and if the cap fits wear it;
Let’s hear your heartache, Brahms; yes, I can bear it.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 32 Number 6, on page 29
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