Demons deserve our sympathy



My latest Coppola Comment post reflects on what we mean by "demons". Are they really the evil spirits of myth? Or are they a metaphor for something else - something all too human, and for many people, all too familiar?
I spent last Saturday singing Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius. There’s a famous “Demon’s Chorus” in this piece, which made me think… well, about the demons. I felt sorry for them. Seriously. 
In the Dream of Gerontius, demons are an auditory representation of mindless evil and cruelty. The Soul doesn’t hear them until after death, but of course mindless evil and cruelty exist in life too, so they must have been present throughout its earthly life. Perhaps it encountered them a few times but didn’t realise what they were. Or perhaps it never went to places where demons hang out. 
Anyway, the Soul is disturbed by the sound. Demons are noisy things. The Soul asks the Angel what the “fierce hubbub” is, and comments that it ought to find it frightening, though fear now seems to be impossible. The Angel replies: 
"We are now arrived close on the judgement court; that sullen howl is from the demons who assemble there, hungry and wild to claim their property, and gather souls for Hell."  
The Soul is fearless, but we, the living, are invited to fear the demons. If they get the chance they will seize us and carry us off to Hell, where they will torture us for eternity. The Angel tells us that the hate they express is "the restless panting of their being". It has neither reason nor justification. They hate because they are evil, and they torment because it gives them pleasure. 
But the demons themselves tell another story...
Read or listen to the whole post here

And if you would like to hear the Dream of Gerontius, the Bach Choir is performing it in the Festival Hall on Thursday 16th May. There are still a few tickets available from the South Bank's website.


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