Stravinsky – by Picasso – 1920 (photo by James Vaughan)


Elegy for J.F.K. is a piece of vocal music composed by the Russian-born composer Igor Stravinsky in 1964, in memory of assassinated President John F. Kennedy. The text, in four stanzas, was written at the composer’s request by W. H. Auden, and Stravinsky chose to repeat the opening stanza also at the end

Elegy for J.F.K.
When a just man dies,
Lamentation and praise,
Sorrow and joy, are one.

Why then, why there,
Why thus, we cry, did he die?
The heavens are silent.

What he was, he was:
What he is fated to become
Depends on us

Remembering his death,
How we choose to live
Will decide its meaning.
The poem is an elegy, a lament over a person’s death., which tries to capture some of the deep emotions felt by Americans after the tragedy.

The poet first strives to come to terms with the wide range of feelings and dichotomies surrounding death, then he asks several questions connected to it, and even though mourners look to the heavens for answers “the heavens are silent” .
Finally the speaker wonders how to remember him, because a person’s memory lives on within the living. Therefore JFK’s legacy will depend on what people will be and will do

In his elegy “In Memory of W. B. Yeats” Auden wrote:

“The words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living”.

Dead people, writers in this case, can’t control how their words will be changed and reinterpreted by those who come after them. Their words are not only incorporated into us, but also modified, and our own unique encounters with them will cause each of us to assimilate their words in different ways.

Quando muore un uomo giusto,
Il compianto e la lode,
Il dolore e la gioia, sono tutt’uno.

Perché è morto allora, perché là,
Perché così? Ci chiediamo piangendo
Ma il cielo non risponde.

Quello che lui è stato, è stato:
Quello che lui è destinato a diventare
Dipende da noi

Il ricordo della sua morte,
E Il modo in cui scegliamo di vivere
Ne decideranno il significato.


3 thoughts on “ELEGY TO JFK

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