In Rita Dove’s Sonata Mulattica the poem “Friedrich Augustus Bridgetower Discovers the Purposes of Fatherhood” gives insight into the a parent’s devotion for his child, which stems solely from the child’s potential for wealth and fame. As a father, the older Bridgetower is oblivious to his son George’s talent for sound, the “purring bees and crickets, sighing leaves, / hammer clack from the courtyard” that mesmerize him and reveal his genius.
Bridgetower’s failure to see his son’s startling aptitude results in a plan to return him to his mother until “Master Haydn / reaches down to cup / the rough head, murmurs: There’s music in there.” Bridgetower proclaims “let’s squeeze it out of him!” revealing a greed which lies in opposition to the natural love that one would expect from a father. Thus, Dove creates a sense of sympathy early on for George who had a great gift for music but who would be forever (ab)used because of that gift.
[By Emily Phillips]
Rita Dove’s Sonata Mulattica