Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Envying song redux

I'm not a particular fan of The Pretenders, but they certainly have some intensely beautiful moments. The other day a seemingly banal phrase from "Talk of the Town" popped into my head:
You've changed
Your place in this world.
You've changed
Your place in this world.
The melody alters on the repeated lines, and the rhythm of the second and fourth lines differs subtly as a result of that and intonation. You can almost hear the singer thinking. (The opening and closing chords are magical, but that's entirely a question of guitar craft.)

Thinking about the ability of song to modulate and transform repeated lines, I remembered a fragment of T.S. Eliot that struck me very strongly when I first encountered it as a beginning poet:
Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-tree
In the cool of the day, having fed to sateity
On my legs my heart my liver and that which had been contained
In the hollow round of my skull. And God said
Shall these bones live? shall these
Bones live?
Ok, so the "and that which" is hackery, but the quote from God (via Ezekiel) shows poetry's ability to act as an amplifier.

p.s. Seamus Heaney on the above fragment.


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