Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Pomp and Circumstance

The pairing of the two terms in Pomp and Circumstance came up on Tuesday’s show, principally because this is graduation season and Elgar’s composition is played countless times this month.

Pomp comes from a Greek word meaning procession, parade, or display. In Latin, circumstantia signified a surrounding condition, and one of the meanings acquired in English was a ceremony or a formal presentation. So, Procession and Ceremony would be a synonym.

The pairing was forever established by William Shakespeare in his Othello, Act III, Scene iii:

Oh now, for euer
Farewell the Tranquill minde; farewell Content;
Farewell the plumed Troopes, and the bigge Warres,
That makes Ambition, Vertue! Oh farewell,
Farewell the neighing Steed, and the shrill Trumpe,
The Spirit-stirring Drum, th' Eare-piercing Fife,
The Royall Banner, and all Qualitie,
Pride, Pompe, and Circumstance of glorious Warre:
And O you mortall Engines, whose rude throates
Th' immortall Ioues dread Clamours, counterfet,
Farewell: Othello's Occupation's gone.

That might have passed from memory had not Sir Edward Elgar used it as the title of his suite of marches written for the coronation of King Edward VII.

Arthur Christopher Benson later added words to Elgar’s music:

Land of Hope and Glory,
Mother of the Free,
How shall we extol thee,
Who are born of thee?
Wider still and wider
Shall thy bounds be set,
God who made thee mighty,
Make thee mightier yet.

SIDEBAR: Elgar--NPR program with music

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