19. 1969? (on Elgar)




Dear Andrew,


a few points for you. In primis, the centre section of the cipher table began no doubt as Ted + Edu + Edward William Elgar – but at what stage was the N added below the T to make Enigma? And when (if at all) did it occur to the chap who invented it (by which I mean Elgar) that the addition of a Y in the central section would then make Auld Lang Syne?

   Next, try the experiment (without of course taking too long over it, mindful as you will be of the other more important things you have to do) of writing these symbols, thus grouped, on a stave, with each point on a line or space. For example (I daren't write e.g. any more)




   Now as to Auld Lang Syne. Bob Moberly suggested that "I own the dark makes E.E. sigh when you are too long gone" was a reply to a metrical question, i.e. the third and fourth lines of a quatrain in common metre, on these grounds – it's rhythmical; 'sigh' looks like a rhyme; "EE" looks like a way of stretching "me" to two syllables; "own" like a way of compressing "admit" into one. I rejoined that if so (and the points seemed good ones to me, even though I must now abandon 'below my own.') then the original two lines were "Should old acquaintance be forgot "etc. (not forgetting that what the text says is, as you observed, forgont). There's some echo there; got/syne =  sigh/gont & the vowels are similarly patterned ō däk ā ö and lang = long.
   But what? and why? and when? and how? Is it Pitmans shorthand? (Pitman died in 1897!)

   Proposed solution: the theme that fits the melody punctus contra punctum is the word "Enigma" (which is thus its own solution) with strong  personal connotations for Elgar himself; while the theme that 'goes' throughout but is not heard is indeed Friendship but cloaked in the musical symbolism of the melody of Auld Lang Syne (actually you can hear it best in Dorabella, I'd guess) which is used as a kind of master-theme which can be felt guiding the music rather than actually stated (a concept of Gerald Abraham's about Schumann which struck me as pretty absurd when I first read it, but which I now see is profound in both contexts). The Schumann parallel is surely v. clear – Elgar at forty at last gets the message about how his kind of mind ought to write music, thus achieving his Papillons/Carnaval late in life – different, of course but there's the same kind of intellectual excitement about it.

   And the connexion from the idea of Auld lang syne to Friendship to Enigma – Elgar (Old Man Desolate Stream) is very easy to follow except for the apparently unbridgeable gap between Friendship and Enigma. But this is leapt by Diana, excellently bright, in her and Sir Thomas Browne's book – from which it's a pleasure to copy - (italics his)

"There are wonders in true affection; it is a body of Enigmas, mysteries, and riddles; wherein two so become one, as they both become two. I love my friend before myself, end yet methinks I do not love him enough" etc. You can see how the sound and idea waves spread; but what had Dora said about Auld Lang Syne to set his creative mind reverberating with so vast a resonance like some great gong struck in the sky (e.g. the moon, topically). Is he saying that he like the cipher has been too self centred (note that of Schumann's seven letters, five are his love for another, while of Elgar's eleven or so, if we include Enigma, all refer to himself). It's the outward-turning gesture of rearranging them all as Auld Lang Syne that brings him to a relation with the rest of world and makes him a great composer (if he was one). At least his music seems much better from then on.

   Is there perhaps a moral here, such as Remember Your Friends? (assuming, that is, that one can identify them). Remember Your Duties and Responsibilities; and so on.

   As the old folk sadly croon on the plantation - Should All Dark Quaint Aunts Be Forgot?


   yours ever