Poem: Music described through Nature

Music, by Walter De La Mare, from the collection Music's Spell, edited by Emily Fragos.

From Books and Writers: "In his poems de la Mare has described the English sea and coast, the secret and hidden world of nature. His favorite themes, childhood, death, dreams, commonplace objects and events, de la Mare examined with a touch of mystery and often with an undercurrent of melancholy."

This poem's message is certainly universal. And melancholy. (I think many people confuse melancholy with depressed. Melancholy is a necessary and even constructive emotion. Allowing one-self to experience the sweet sadness of a good memory, or the quiet mystery of Nature, may help store that pleasant experience more deeply in the soul.)

De la Mare uses slightly vague images to describe the emotions and deep connections he has to music. Music is generalized into Nature, Time and Spirit and their representations in our myths and spirits.

In the first stanza, Music renders Nature beyond flowers into "vision flame", trees that "Lift burdened branches, stilled with ecstasies." The word "stilled" could mean instilled, which has some motion, and is shortened to 'stilled to accommodate the rhythm. (In that case, an editor misread the original text and omitted the '.) Or it could mean stilled, as in held in suspension.

The second stanza, mythical Naiads, a type of nymph who presided over fountains, wells, springs, streams, and brooks, are evoked by music's sounds. But they are "Rapt in strange dreams". "Burns each enchanted face." is a suggestive image. A Flushed face looks like it is burning. Women may flush when embarrassed, perhaps, in de la Mare's time, from the stimulation being in the company of a man she desires. But her "echoing", which implies reflection, and could extend to a reflection of our own feelings, is "solemn". Sad, perhaps unrequited, longing and desire burn in her strange dreams and show on her enchanted face.

The third stanza literally refers to the author, but also the reader. Music exposes the very spirit of our-self, all that "I was before I came to this body" ("haunt of brooding dust"), I now "am", understanding through the reflection of the music our ex-corporeal selves. From "Time's woods", from eternity's history, including all past and future human emotions, "swift-winged hours break into distant song as I hasten along". Music fills the fast passing hours of our lives, and offers a connection to, the void of infinity, history, memory.

Still, a pleasant poem to read-


When music sounds, gone is the earth I know,
And all her lovely things even lovelier grow;
Her flowers in vision flame, her forest trees
Lift burdened branches, stilled with ecstasies.

When music sounds, out of the water rise
Naiads whose beauty dims my waking eyes,
Rapt in strange dreams burns each enchanted face,
With solemn echoing stirs their dwelling-place.

When music sounds, all that I was I am
Ere to this haunt of Brooding dust I came;
And from Time's woods break into distant song
The swift-winged hours, as I hasten along.

Walter De La Mare
Nationality - English
Lifespan – 1873 -1956
Family – Mother related to Robert Browning (Poet)
Education – St Paul's School in London
Career - Poet, novelist and dramatist critic and editor
Famous Works – Memoirs of a Midget (1921) and The Return

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