Oratorios: The Meaning of the Rats

The narrator's voice is cold. Thou sands of rats, he says, have come from the cellars and sewers to die in the city's streets. The plague has begun. The dead will be carried away in tramcars. There is a panicked whisper of running feet, a scream, a distant moan. The chorus is a clamor of wails—"the rats, the rats." Trombones trail down the declining moan of an air-raid siren, and the orchestra shrieks in echoed despair. In a long, fatal moment, the music dies on the slowly fading tremor of a gong. And...

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