all my springs

Friday, May 30, 2014

“Where words leave off, music begins.” –Heinrich Heine

“Words, after speech, reach / into silence.” –T. S. Eliot

“Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends.” —Alphonse de Lamartine

•  •  •

These observations are either plagiarized or so true that they’ve been formulated at least three times in almost exactly the same way.

UntitledWhile poetry, like all of traditional literature, appeals to one section of the human brain, the language center (Wernicke’s and Broca’s Areas), scientists say “Listening to Music Lights Up the Whole Brain.”

So after words are spoken, silence ensues, ambient sound quietly makes its presence felt, and that’s where music begins. Eliot often uses this image of silence filled with distant sounds, such as in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”:

     I know the voices dying with a dying fall
     Beneath the music from a farther room.
     So how should I presume?

As for me, I wake up with a head full of ideas as words and phrases, tiny puns and verbal problems, and in the slurry of coffee and pastries and newspaper i become mentally organized. I become task oriented. Sometimes a poem is a task I can accomplish in a day. Usually all I accomplish are more mundane things, such as answering emails and paying bills.

Walter Pater famously said that “all art constantly aspires towards the condition of music”; I believe this to be true. My words aspire toward music, which is why I feel such gratification reading them in public. They taste good to me. But I envy a woman who can take a few stanzas of poetry and sing them to life in a way that makes my whole brain light up. Heaven will be full of singing and praise, the Bible says. We will have music and dancing—whole brain, whole body. Of the City of God, writes the Psalmist,

     Singers and dancers alike say,
     “All my springs are in you.”

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2 Responses to “all my springs”

  1. Rob Says:

    From that same Psalm:

    “The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.”

    Perhaps Zion is the place where the murmurings, words and actions of Jacob resolve themselves into music.

  2. Leslie Santi Says:


    Sent from my iPhone


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