Vivaldi’s Virginal Choir

Females seduced, babies took blame,

infant girls lacked needed surname,

at della Pieta discreetly deposited,

orphaned offspring, convent-closeted.


Music mentored, once-undesired,

Vivaldi’s brain melodically inspired:

quick-inscribed score, passion poured out:

hard hearts bow, joyful angels shout.


Venetian audiences deeply moved,

salacious souls briefly soothed

by lively lutes, violin strings bowed,

balconied singers blessing bestowed.


*Figlie di coro, lattice-protected

very eligible girls, half-inspected:

pinafore-plain, hair bundled in bun;

sacred songs about life-giving Son.


Wondrous such words, echo-flung

in Latin language, sweetly sung;

happy the heart that well resonates

In excelsis deo: transferred all weights.


  • Figlie di coro = choir of daughters

The Ospedale della Pietà was a convent, orphanage, and music school in Venice. Much of Vivaldi’s sacred vocal and instrumental music was written for performance at the Pietà, where there was an orchestra of at least thirty to forty elements, all females.


Born to be Wild


New spoke sparkle this child idolised,

two wheelers seen on winter streets,

slightly envious, my Clark-shod feet

didn’t push shop-clean pedals prized.


Hand-me-down bike, sibling pre-owned,

chrome carrier rusty, paintwork scratched,

absent twist-grip with numbers attached,

no dynamo, frame paint not two-toned.


Metallic gold unisex bike came next,

my “grease-monkey” brother restyled,

custom-made chopper brought smile:

cow-bars, back-rest, banana seat spec.


Acoustic Harley had no starter key,

trend setter now, not cyclist outsider,

three speed throttle, rapid easy-rider,

street-long wheelies achieved with ease.


Small queues formed to take turns,

round the block races counted down,

born-to-be-wild, Steppenwolf sound:

rebel engine grumble, sweet octane burn…

Simple Six Dot Sequence


His father’s face showed fright;

child-curious, Louis fatefully

played with sharp workshop awl,

accidentally scratched cornea;

infant internship fully blinded.

“Why this deep dark, daddy?”

his plaintive query stung pride…

did ever-mindful mother berate

that fallible self-accusing father?


Tight-gripped, lovingly-crafted

cane now guided this blind boy

on country lanes and village paths;

free-spirited his sense of adventure.

Boarding-school then mentored

the imaginative adolescent, inventor;

adopted the cryptic night writing

patterned print adapted, improved.


Morse-code freed the sightless

with a simple six dot sequence,

thick paper awl-pummelled,

embossed by abstract alphabet,

brains baptised, Braille bolstered:

finally all books opened, unsealed.


Blinded in both eyes as a result of an early childhood accident, Braille mastered his disability while still a boy. He excelled in his education and received scholarship to France’s Royal Institute for Blind Youth. While still a student, at the age of fifteen, he began developing a system of tactile code, inspired by the military cryptography of Charles Barbier.  “Braille” allowed blind people to read and write quickly and efficiently.

Alexander Cruden, eccentric corrector

Hunting holy words with glee,

indexing them systematically,

feather quill scrawled hurriedly,

almost autistic, evangelical energy

passionate, prophetic, lexicon pursuit.


By early morning candle light,

proofreading  pre-print newspapers,

slept exhausted until dawn,

birdsong summoned to pious prayers.


Wondrous words need compiling,

digging through biblical dramas;

verbal quarry a one-time Sabbath game,

“every man a scriptural scholar”.


Abjectly neglected, your bookshop’s

sparsely stocked shelves unattractive;

your bloodshot eyes frightened off many,

your mad muttering many dismayed.


Asylum imprisoned, until night escape

over wall, hobbling home wearing one shoe.

What surreal contrast from an earlier

introductory audience with Queen Caroline!

Never pre-destined, “Albion’s Corrector”

your manifesto meaninglessly declaimed,

elected only for one gallows rope rescue.


Thrice-spurned by mocking amours

– unloved but for platonic prostitute

whom you rescued from sexual slavery;

she discovered you dead with blessed Book;

What an epitaph for an earnest autodidact!

Pious people still mine meaning from

your elephantine small-print treasure,

magisterial, your gargantuan concordance.


Cruden (1701 – 1770) compiled his Concordance, first ever index of key words in the Bible. He was proofreader and publisher, and also self-styled Corrector of the nation’s morals.