Saturday, July 2, 2011 | By: Brianna

Poetry Friday -- Ode

[I had every intention of posting this on Friday.  It didn't happen.  Fail.]

So today, StumbleUpon (this is really a problem, I think I need to seek help) brought me to this lovely poem that was just so wonderful that I had to copy and paste it here:

Arthur O'Shaughnessy

We are the music-makers,

   And we are the dreamers of dreams,
    Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
    And sitting by desolate streams.
    World-losers and world-forsakers,
    Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
    Yet we are the movers and shakers,
    Of the world forever, it seems.

    With wonderful deathless ditties
    We build up the world's great cities,
    And out of a fabulous story
    We fashion an empire's glory:
    One man with a dream, at pleasure,
    Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
    And three with a new song's measure
    Can trample an empire down.

    We, in the ages lying
    In the buried past of the earth,
    Built Nineveh with our sighing,
    And Babel itself with our mirth;
    And o'erthrew them with prophesying
    To the old of the new world's worth;
    For each age is a dream that is dying,
    Or one that is coming to birth.

After doing a quick Google search, I learned that Gene Wilder quotes the beginning of this poem in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  I also learned that a re-write of the screenplay for that same movie adds in Willy Wonka's quoting a number of famous literary sources, and that's part of the reason Roald Dahl was so upset with the adaptation of his book.  I wonder if Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory made amends with the Dahl estate.  Hm.  AND one final fun fact that doesn't have to do with Willy Wonka...this poem is where the term "movers and shakers" originally came from.

I greatly enjoy that it seems this poem was written as an ode to art in all of its forms.
The first stanza introduces the artist/poet/composer/etc. as "dreamers of dreams," and though it sounds redundant, the sound of those first two lines gives me the chills.  This stanza sends the artist toward nature as a form of inspiration, and it seems as if the artist is alone, emphasizing the idea that art is a solitary creation.  And despite the fact that artists are the "world-losers" and the "world-forsakers," they are the ones who make the most lasting impact on the world with their moving and shaking.  Though looking at this poem now, "movers and shakers" would be a cliche now, but in this poem it rings with a sense of power because the artist has the power and responsibility to move people with their art and shake them up.  Art isn't supposed to let people be comfortable in their own happy bubbles, art is meant to prompt questions and spur action.

The second stanza explains how abstract things like "ditties" and "story" can create concrete things such as "cities" or an "empire."  I think this is particularly powerful because it further illustrates the power of art.  Something that can be considered so trivial like a "ditty" has created something gigantic and permanent, not only impacting a person but also architecture.  It also sounds like though a man can conquer a kingdom with a dream, three men with a song can trample the empire down.  That sentiment reminds me of the Biblical story about trumpeting down the walls of Jericho.

The final stanza describes the idea that we live in a world that's buried in the past, and the only way to shake off the dust of the past is through art's prophesying because art is a way of seeing the world anew, as well as seeing the new world's potential.  Then of course there are the Biblical allusions here.  And though the idea of a dream dying is sad, the poem ends with the idea that "every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end" (Closing Time - Semisonic). Which I love.

Overall, I absolutely adore the rhythm of this poem and the rhyme.  It's not a forced rhyme, and it makes the poem taste delicious on the tip of the reader's tongue.  The rhyme scheme also keeps it from sounding too much like Dr. Seuss, and enhances the beauty of the poem.

1.  Write about the power of art.  Maybe that's a grandiose idea, but write about the importance of art.
2.  Write about something abstract influencing something concrete.  What does love do to asphalt?  What does patience do to a toilet seat cover?  Do the abstractions improve or degrade the concrete things?
3.  Include geography in a written piece.  Is it fictional geography or real?
4.  Take the first two lines of this poem, and write your own take on it.  Does your version rhyme?  Or is it a piece of prose/prose poetry?
5.  Write about what it would be like to be a "world-loser" or "world-forsaker."  What's the difference between someone who renounces the world and someone who is renounced by the world.

"Invention, my dear friends, is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation, and 2% butterscotch ripple."
- Willy Wonka


J Cosmo Newbery said...

Lovely poem and a thoughtful review.

Post a Comment