Thursday, December 20, 2012


One of the artifacts from my years with Sherry, between 1970 and 1973, is a page of illuminated music manuscript. Another of our artifacts hasn't survived: a 3 x 5 card inscribed in Sherry's black-letter script that we posted in the refrigerator after I broke a glass shelf and replaced it with a piece of masonite: Res graves in plauteo inferno non ponete. Flexit. -- "Don't put heavy things on the bottom shelf. It bends." These two objects
exemplify the precious and rather pompous humor we went in for. We couldn't even plead callow youth as an excuse for this sort of thing. Sherry was in her late twenties; by the time we moved out, I was thirty.

I was studying Latin at the time and produced the out-of-wedlock text for the sign. The music manuscript was a product of my brief study of Medieval music. In a moment when there must have been something constructive I could have occupied myself with, I transcribed Take Me Out to the Ball Game into thirteenth century mensural notation. "Mensural" refers to the fact that that system of notation showed relative note values, in a crude and limited fashion. I used Take Me Out to the Ball Game instead of some other hokey tune because triple meter is much easier in thirteenth century notation than anything counted in twos.

Sherry was delighted with this exercise in arcane whimsy and produced an elegant illuminated manuscript, gold leaf and all. I framed it and it hung on our wall, and subsequently on various walls of mine. There was no place for it in Medford, so it was relegated to the attic. I wondered from time to time what changes were being wrought in it by the heat, thinking that, if anything, signs of age might befit it. There were plenty of things in the attic that were in more danger.

When it did turn up, it was in about the same condition as when it emerged from Sherry's pen and paintbrushes. Illuminated manuscripts are tougher than one might think: the Book of Kells has been fished out of water -- maybe even sea water -- any number of times, after the Vikings tossed it in or the monks hid it there. Take Me Out to the Ball Game has now been restored to public view, on the wall behind the piano.