Saturday, March 23, 2013

Music and Moonlight and Feeling are One

In the last weeks before he was drowned in 1822,   Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote a series of poems inspired by his friend Jane Williams  and her musical talents. Among other things she sang and played the guitar, and indeed a guitar Shelley gave to her still exists in the Bodlean Museum in Oxford (pictured below).

The poem's romantic linking of 'music and moonlight' has been repeated many times - think of Irving Berlin's 'There may be trouble ahead, But while there’s music and moonlight and love and romance, Let’s face the music and dance' and all those 'Dancing in the Moonlight' songs. 

To Jane: The Keen Stars Were Twinkling

The keen stars were twinkling,
And the fair moon was rising among them,
Dear Jane!
The guitar was tinkling,
But the notes were not sweet till you sung them

As the moon's soft splendour
O'er the faint cold starlight of Heaven
Is thrown,
So your voice most tender
To the strings without soul had then given
Its own.

The stars will awaken,
Though the moon sleep a full hour later,
No leaf will be shaken
Whilst the dews of your melody scatter

Though the sound overpowers,
Sing again, with your dear voice revealing
A tone
Of some world far from ours,
Where music and moonlight and feeling
Are one.

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