Singing as the Farm was Home

Another display we’ll have in the museum, besides Marginalia, Doors, and Poet Products, is an interactive one where people can record themselves saying a poem. I just bought 100 blank cassettes off of ebay for this purpose. My other tools are an outdated cassette player gangked from some school in my past and an old karaoke machine that has a cassette player on it (I don’t have one of these yet).

The audio display will let people listen to some famous poets read their poems (Frost, Eliot, Brooks, etc.) and also listen to some not-so-famous people do the same. There will be the option to read along with someone on the karaoke machine. The primary difference between poetry and other imaginative writing is its sound. The rhythm a poem makes often is what makes it a poem, and since trying to define poetry is incredibly difficult, that’s the best measure I have of it. That is also why I often hear poetry in other types of writing.

Back in the early 80’s when I was in college, a friend named Marynelle asked me over to her house to listen to some records. What she played were poets reciting their poetry. I had never heard a real poet until that time. The cracked, arrogant voice of T.S. Eliot declaring “In the room, the women come and go, talking of Michaelangeo,” saying, “I grow old. I grow old. I shall wear my trousers rolled” and wondering if he “dare to eat a peach” was remarkable to me.

But then, oh then, dear readers, she put on a Dylan Thomas record, and that was it. That’s when I knew how the sound of the poem could not be distingushed from its other qualities, when I knew that the journey in words that beautiful, fated man made was a journey I was going to take also–without the alcoholism and early death, I hoped. Is there anything more lovely in sound than “Fern Hill”? (Please click the link and listen if you have never heard him.) Or even “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night”?

I simply love the sound of things. And that’s what I want visitors to the museum to experience also.

Fern Hill
by Dylan Thomas
Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
     The night above the dingle starry,
          Time let me hail and climb
     Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
          Trail with daisies and barley
     Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
     In the sun that is young once only,
          Time let me play and be
     Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
          And the sabbath rang slowly
     In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
     And playing, lovely and watery
          And fire green as grass.
     And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
     Flying with the ricks, and the horses
          Flashing into the dark.

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
     Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
          The sky gathered again
     And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
     Out of the whinnying green stable
          On to the fields of praise.

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
     In the sun born over and over,
          I ran my heedless ways,
     My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
     Before the children green and golden
          Follow him out of grace,

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
     In the moon that is always rising,
          Nor that riding to sleep
     I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
          Time held me green and dying
     Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

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