Page 1 of 2

Music Poems

PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2011 6:18 pm
by Des
Any faves?

Here's a lovely one by the fab Elizabeth Bishop:

I Am in Need of Music

I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!

There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.

Elizabeth Bishop

Re: Music Poems

PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2011 7:23 pm
by gary booth
The Play Way
Seamus Heany

Sunlight pillars through glass, probes each desk
For milktops. Drinking straws and old dry crusts.
The music strides to challenge it
Mixing memory and desire with chalk dust.

My lesson notes read: Teacher will play
Beethoven’s Concerto Number Five
And class will express themselves freely
In writing. One said ”Can we jive?”

When I produced the record, but now
The big sound has silenced them. Higher
And firmer, each authoritative note
Pumps the classroom up tight as a tire

Working its private spell behind eyes
That stare wide. They have forgotten me
For once. The pens are busy, the tongues mime
Their blundering embrace of the free

Word. A silence charged with sweetness
Breaks short on lost faces where I see
New looks. Then notes stretch taunt as snares. They trip
To fall into themselves unknowingly.

Re: Music Poems

PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2011 8:20 pm
by judith
Great thread, Des. And I dedicate the following to those of us who, nowadays, "bop to the bass line".

Groovin’ Low
by A.B. Spellman

my swing is more mellow
these days: not the hardbop drive
i used to roll but more of a cool
foxtrot. my eyes still close
when the rhythm locks; i’ve learned
to boogie with my feet on the floor
i’m still movin’, still groovin’
still fallin’ in love

i bop to the bass line now. the trap set
paradiddles ratamacues & flams
that used to spin me in place still set me
off, but i bop to the bass line now
i enter the tune from the bottom up
& let trumpet & sax wheel above me

so don’t look for me in the treble
don’t look for me in the fly
staccato splatter of the hot young horn
no, you’ll find me in the nuance
hanging out in inflection & slur
i’m the one executing the half-bent
dip in the slow slowdrag
with the smug little smile
& the really cool shades

Re: Music Poems

PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2011 9:17 pm
by Hugh Weldon
Great idea Des, and thanks Judith and Gary for two poems new to me. There must be plenty, but here's the first that came to mind:

For Sidney Bechet

That note you hold, narrowing and rising, shakes
Like New Orleans reflected on the water,
And in all ears appropriate falsehood wakes,

Building for some a legendary Quarter
Of balconies, flower-baskets and quadrilles,
Everyone making love and going shares--

Oh, play that thing! Mute glorious Storyvilles
Others may license, grouping around their chairs
Sporting-house girls like circus tigers (priced

Far above rubies) to pretend their fads,
While scholars manqués nod around unnoticed
Wrapped up in personnels like old plaids.

On me your voice falls as they say love should,
Like an enormous yes. My Crescent City
Is where your speech alone is understood,

And greeted as the natural noise of good,
Scattering long-haired grief and scored pity.

- Philip Larkin

Re: Music Poems

PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2011 9:26 pm
by Hugh Weldon
Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker looked like Buddha
Charlie Parker, who recently died
Laughing at a juggler on the TV
After weeks of strain and sickness,
Was called the Perfect Musician.
And his expression on his face
Was as calm, beautiful, and profound
As the image of the Buddha
Represented in the East, the lidded eyes
The expression that says "All Is Well"
This was what Charlie Parker
Said when he played, All is Well.
You had the feeling of early-in-the-morning
Like a hermit's joy, or
Like the perfect cry of some wild gang
At a jam session,
"Wail, Wop"
Charlie burst his lungs to reach the speed
Of what the speedsters wanted
And what they wanted
Was his eternal Slowdown.

- Jack Kerouac

Re: Music Poems

PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2011 9:29 pm
by Hugh Weldon
And Shakespeare of course asked the pertinent musical question, "Is it not strange that sheeps' guts should hale souls out of mens' bodies?"

Re: Music Poems

PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2011 9:41 pm
by judith
Good lord. That Shakespeare never ceases to amaze me - and boggle my mind.

This is already a collection of really beautiful stuff. Here's another.

The Guitar

The weeping of the guitar
The goblets of dawn
are smashed.
The weeping of the guitar
to silence it.
to silence it.
It weeps monotonously
as water weeps
as the wind weeps
over snowfields.
to silence it.
It weeps for distant
Hot southern sands
yearning for white camellias.
Weeps arrow without target
evening without morning
and the first dead bird
on the branch.
Oh, guitar!
Heart mortally wounded
by five swords.

Frederico Garcia Lorca
(I don't have the original. This version may have been translated by Cola Franzen, not sure)

Re: Music Poems

PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2011 11:52 pm
by Rob Hall
The Trumpet Player

The Negro
With the trumpet at his lips
Has dark moons of weariness
Beneath his eyes
where the smoldering memory
of slave ships
Blazed to the crack of whips
about thighs

The negro
with the trumpet at his lips
has a head of vibrant hair
tamed down,
patent-leathered now
until it gleams
like jet-
were jet a crown

the music
from the trumpet at his lips
is honey
mixed with liquid fire
the rhythm
from the trumpet at his lips
is ecstasy
distilled from old desire-

that is longing for the moon
where the moonlight's but a spotlight
in his eyes,
that is longing for the sea
where the sea's a bar-glass
sucker size

The Negro
with the trumpet at his lips
whose jacket
Has a fine one-button roll,
does not know
upon what riff the music slips

It's hypodermic needle
to his soul
but softly
as the tune comes from his throat
mellows to a golden note

Langston Hughes

Re: Music Poems

PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 12:08 am
by NormanD
The Bells
by Edgar Allan Poe


Hear the sledges with the bells--
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells--
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.


Hear the mellow wedding bells
Golden bells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
Through the balmy air of night
How they ring out their delight!
From the molten-golden notes,
And all in tune,
What a liquid ditty floats
To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats
On the moon!
Oh, from out the sounding cells,
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
How it swells!
How it dwells
On the Future! how it tells
Of the rapture that impels
To the swinging and the ringing
Of the bells, bells, bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells--
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!


Hear the loud alarum bells--
Brazen bells!
What tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
In the startled ear of night
How they scream out their affright!
Too much horrified to speak,
They can only shriek, shriek,
Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire,
Leaping higher, higher, higher,
With a desperate desire,
And a resolute endeavor
Now--now to sit or never,
By the side of the pale-faced moon.
Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
What a tale their terror tells
Of Despair!
How they clang, and clash, and roar!
What a horror they outpour
On the bosom of the palpitating air!
Yet the ear, it fully knows,
By the twanging,
And the clanging,
How the danger ebbs and flows ;
Yet, the ear distinctly tells,
In the jangling,
And the wrangling,
How the danger sinks and swells,
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells--
Of the bells--
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells--
In the clamour and the clangour of the bells!


Hear the tolling of the bells--
Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
In the silence of the night,
How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy meaning of their tone!
For every sound that floats
From the rust within their throats
Is a groan.
And the people--ah, the people--
They that dwell up in the steeple,
All alone,
And who, tolling, tolling, tolling,
In that muffled monotone,
Feel a glory in so rolling
On the human heart a stone--
They are neither man nor woman--
They are neither brute nor human--
They are Ghouls:--
And their king it is who tolls ;
And he rolls, rolls, rolls, rolls,
A pæan from the bells!
And his merry bosom swells
With the pæan of the bells!
And he dances, and he yells ;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the pæan of the bells--
Of the bells :
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the throbbing of the bells--
Of the bells, bells, bells--
To the sobbing of the bells ;
Keeping time, time, time,
As he knells, knells, knells,
In a happy Runic rhyme,
To the rolling of the bells--
Of the bells, bells, bells--
To the tolling of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells--
Bells, bells, bells--
To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

Re: Music Poems

PostPosted: Tue Mar 15, 2011 1:21 pm
by MurkeyChris
Great thread. Here's my contribution.

Maire Macrae’s Song

The singer is old and has forgotten
Her girlhood’s grief for the young soldier
Who sailed away across the ocean,
Love’s brief joy and lonely sorrow:
The song is older than the singer.

The song is older than the singer
Shaped by the love and the long waiting
Of women dead and long forgotten
Who sang before remembered time
To teach the unbroken heart its sorrow.

The girl who waits for her young soldier
Learns from the cadence of a song
How deep her love, how long the waiting.
Sorrow is older than the heart,
Already old when love is young,
The song is older than the sorrow.

- Kathleen Raine

Re: Music Poems

PostPosted: Tue Mar 15, 2011 1:50 pm
by Adam Blake

Poised in frozen flight above the quaking keyboard,
The artist strikes a chord to pierce the jealous minds
Of those who dare disdain
Such consummate mastery.

Yet nobler, it's effect is to reveal
A wounded sensibility
An exile, stealing back,
Groping in dark passageways of fine tempered sonority
Fumbling for that final muse
That will reconcile this torrid and exquisite longing
And surrender, at last, to joyous laughing.

Oh there shall be
A music free of tyranny
Free to be as beauty is, itself
And owing nothing
Save to proud imaginings
Wrought of creation's fire in the soul.

Re: Music Poems

PostPosted: Tue Mar 15, 2011 3:58 pm
by AndyM
This is indeed a great thread. The Kathleen Raine is my favourite so far. It could in fact be set to music, and sung by June Tabor. (Or June 'Chuckles' Tabor as we call her in our house.)

Re: Music Poems

PostPosted: Tue Mar 15, 2011 4:15 pm
by howard male
Lovely stuff. I’d forgotten how reading poetry seems to freeze time (I must do more of it). The Langston Hughes gets my vote so far, just for how it seems to conjure the very music and musician it describes.

Re: Music Poems

PostPosted: Tue Mar 15, 2011 4:36 pm
by Des
There was a young fiddler called Mabel

Re: Music Poems

PostPosted: Tue Mar 15, 2011 6:19 pm
by judith
Orpheus in Hell

When he first brought his music into hell
He was absurdly confident. Even over the noise of the
       shapeless fires
And the jukebox groaning of the damned
Some of them would hear him. In the upper world
He had forced the stones to listen.
It wasn’t quite the same. And the people he remembered
Weren’t quite the same either. He began looking at faces
Wondering if all of hell were without music.
He tried an old song but pain
Was screaming on the jukebox and the bright fire
Was pelting away the faces and he heard a voice saying,
             He was at the entrance again
And a little three-headed dog was barking at him.
Later he would remember all those dead voices
And call them Eurydice.

- Jack Spicer
(one of the San Francisco poets)