Monday, January 08, 2007

Laughing at His Poet Hand, Illicitly

One entry found for illicit.
Main Entry: il·lic·it
Pronunciation: (")i(l)-'li-s&t
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin illicitus, from in- + licitus lawful -- more at LICIT
: not permitted : UNLAWFUL
- il·lic·it·ly adverb

Just, you know, 'cause.


My head spins when I think about this:

"It is strange to think that the man who wrote Mozart’s librettos spent most of the latter half of his adult life in New York: that he ran a boarding school on Greenwich Street, a bookstore on lower Broadway, and also, soon after his arrival, a grocery store. (Imagine, he asks us, “how I must have laughed at myself every time my poet’s hand was called upon to weigh out two ounces of tea, or measure half a yard of ‘pigtail’ ”—chewing tobacco—“now to a cobbler, now to a teamster.”) Later, he sold medicines and drygoods, and set up a distillery. None of these businesses prospered. At one point, the creditors made off with the family’s beds."

(From "Nights at the Opera," a review of books on Mozart's librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte, by Joan Acocella, in the New Yorker.)

Da Ponte moved here in 1805. How are we supposed to reconcile the extraordinary imaginary gulf we have created between New York of the 19th century and Europe of the 18th? (Newsboys and fire brigades vs. vermin-infested powdered wigs? Oh, dead horses littering the streets--that's how.) Let alone with what we think of when we think of "teamsters"? How very, very strange.


At 9:36 AM, Anonymous sarah p said...

Here's the real story:

Everyone else leaves out the American connection. Even the MArriage of Figaro was about the American Revolution!

At 4:55 PM, Blogger mcbickle said...

interesting. thanks for the link, sarah p (sans period). i'd never thought about that, about la nozze.


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