An ordinary person's thoughts on the complexities of art & life ...

An ordinary person's thoughts on the complexities of life ... or just ramblings from the mind of a working Mum with far too little time to think!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

On music and poetry ... and imagination

The Yarra River at Dusk - Melbourne, Australia

Today I listened to a reading of John Keats' poem Ode on a Grecian Urn, which was preceded by an elegant Chopin Mazurka and then followed by a haunting Chopin Etude. At first, it seemed quite surreal and completely out of place, listening to 19th century words and music while fighting the traffic on a busy modern freeway -  but as I was drawn into the poetry, it began to feel just perfect. What a wonderful haven for the mind and soul in the middle of a hectic week. I have always been a fan of the poetry of John Keats and I remember so clearly a university lecture on his poems. I can still hear the lecturer's insightful comment that made so much sense to me ~ When reading the timeless words of John Keats, we are compelled to imagine more than we can fully understand.
Having our imagination engaged is what draws us to music and poetry, and indeed to art in all its forms. Imagination gives us the ability to look at any situation from a different perspective. It enables us to mentally explore both the past and the future and it fosters the growth of our thought patterns and creativity. We can do absolutely anything with imagination. The Greek writer, Plutarch wrote: "What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality". Born of intelligence and creativity and fired by passion, music and art have the power to reach deep within us and act upon our souls by igniting our imagination.
JK Rowling, the creator of Harry Potter, in a recent address to Harvard Graduates said: "We do not need magic to change the world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: We have the power to imagine better." What better reason could we have to surround ourselves and our children with poetry, music and art?

Ode on a Grecian Urn
by John Keats

Thou still unravished bride of quietness!
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flow'ry tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endeared,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal -yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
For ever warm and still to be enjoyed,
For ever panting and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloyed,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea-shore,
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of its folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e'er return.

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou sayst,
“Beauty” is truth, truth beauty, - that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

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