Frances Cornford was either grand-daughter or great-niece of Charles Darwin, he of the theory of evolution; and mother of the young Spanish Civil War poet, John Cornford, who was killed in action. But her poetry has a voice which deserves to be heard in its own right, not just as an addendum to other famous lives.
This poem is a wonderful vignette, capturing a moment which can easily be missed but which has its own delicate beauty. And I always enjoy the tuning up whenever I go to a concert.
The Guitarist Tunes Up
Poem by Frances Darwin Cornford
With what attentive courtesy he bent
Over his instrument;
Not as a lordly conquerer who could
Command both wire and wood,
But as a man with a loved woman might,
Inquiring with delight
What slight essential things she had to say
Before they started, he and she, to play.
The central image here is of the guitarist leaning over his instrument as if he was caressing his lover, and, in a sense, it is a similar experience of oneness and single-minded attention. And both moments, tuning the guitar and getting up close with a lover, usually lead to sweet music afterwards.
The Poetry Dude