Oh, to have the recollection of a Mr. Boreham and place the scene in its correct literary place. I cannot but remember the image and must leave you to benefit from reading George MacDonald until it's found. Here is a small shepherd boy with nothing to his name except a delightful contentment. The sheep graze and wander about him on a Scottish hillside as he pulls out of his pocket a book of poetry to be read again and again with unfading pleasure, the companion of his days, an accompaniment to the delights of the breadth of heather and hill.
Walking down the hills and through the autumn woods of Nova Scotia, Anne is reading, absorbed in poetry as the trees and foliage take on the life of those lines. Her mood and thoughts disappear in the passage until she is rudely awakened by an irate guardian. The music swells behind her walk with haunting tones as the score of the film brings us in, but the notes are completely silent in her ears as only the melodic poetry sings her home.
As I read more and more from authors of past years, these scenes are played out in seemingly everyone’s life or characters. I can hear the refrain as they quote various passages and refer with reverence to some work that brings forth image after image from their lives and experiences. Lewis would use these poetical experiences as one given avenue in which the anguish of the deepest heart is stirred at the hint of that which has been lost or is missing, that far-off country.
My brother and I, even as he begins to gain some experience with poetry, recently discussed the almost complete loss of poetry as a means to these ends in the common experience of this, and probably at least one previous, generation. Poetry is all but lost. Individuals would argue against this in certain tight spheres, but I do not think it is debatable in the general. And yet, as much as I have had a desire to experience the same thing through those poetic means, I fear I am a long way off. To start now in gaining an appreciation would only be to catch faint glimpses in these later stages of life when many of the unique moments of younger days would be completely lost to this gracious phenomenon.
But wait! Upon reflection, I have had the same experiences that Chesterton, Buchan, Boreham, Wodehouse, MacDonald, and Lewis describe. Not only so, but it is with almost certainly similar consistency. I can track my entire life with the glimpses of glory and fairyland through something these men knew nothing about. Not a better means surely, but, rather surprisingly I feel, an equal one. David is my witness. For, my moments have been defined with the lilt and waver of song. Not just a song from the stage, but a song in my pocket!
Journaling, and all writing, has been extremely difficult lately. For this reason, I have been making some historical lists to change up the routine (or maintain one). A new form of diary began in the listing of the albums, artists, and songs that defined moments and eras quite similarly to how, I would assume, a poem or works by a poet would immediately evoke certain life images and times. In fact, upon this idea first percolating in the old noggin, I could go down almost year by year (or certainly stage by stage) and tell you the music I was listening to and even have my heart glimpse that unspeakable painting of those times at the simple recalling of an album or artist. I can quote lyrics from my childhood as the authors quoted poetry. I may hear a song and an entire mountain range, a drive from someone’s hospital bed, a room in a house, a chair and a book, or a moment of friendship are before me. Now, as snippets of those melodies or lyrics pass through my mind abruptly by happenstance or conjuring, the specter flies up as a line from a poem may have evoked in years past. That past time is gone, but a new pastime has filled the void with audible notes that a poem’s melody, I think, tried to suggest.
I briefly mentioned Anne of Green Gables above. To continue that theme, the orphan or youth of today would have come down that path with headphones on, lost in a similar way, in the mood of Lorde or something. While the music of choice may be rubbish for the edification of the person or quite movingly affective at the de-edification, the effect, most likely, is quite similar. The bemoaning of the loss of poetry cannot be a bemoaning of a loss of its sensation. Music was as rare as a holiday and out of the question for providing a moving moment in the everyday. Poetry filled the gap in reverse. The movement of poetry has been actually given voice through music in one’s ears on the train, on the path, on the water, or upon the hill. The content of the form is not the discussion here, but simply a part of what is being “lost” in the absence of a book of poems in the hand is actually given amazing voice with the possibility of a song in the hand.
The greatest beef I suppose I could have in this exchange of forms is that the person who walks in front of me does not feel or know the mood which I would imbue to him as a part of the scene from the music playing in my head. When the music is present, the theme, genre (what a terrible word), mood, and essence often seem to play out in everything around me. I immediately assume everyone and everything is moving to the same music and feeling its weight. The poets wrote with the environment of God’s creation or man’s industry, ones that are shared and experienced commonly (not to infer a baseness in this commonality). Therefore the poem can have similar weight with, say, two individuals in the cafe.
Without a doubt, as with everything our crooked fingers touch, music has become increasingly rugged and fishy at times, but, as far as a metaphor goes, it must be said, music touches all feelings, from the basest to the highest, as may be the case with poetry if I new more of its range.
As a follower of Christ, servant in His Kingdom, and an adopted son of His Father, all is sacred. Through music in the car over the flint hills, in my ears on a run through the fields, playing in the home as I study, God hints and reveals as I “watch the sheep.”
Roeland Park, KS
Preparing to board ship and sail from beneath this green canopy.
Landscape with Apolo and Mercury
Oil on canvas, 1660
Claude Gellée, called Le Lorrain, French, 1604/1605(?)-1682