Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Poetry Wednesday

By Judith

The hallmark of a lyric poem is its inherent musicality. Whether it was written to be set to music or not, the lyric sounds as if it should be sung. A lyric poem such as Jonson's "Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes" (which we mentioned during our poetry quiz a few weeks ago) or Burns' "Auld Lang Syne" are examples of words that sing just by saying them out loud, although they are associated with music that makes them soar when sung.

Lyricists in the genre of the American Popular Song or American Standards (High Standards to XM radio - and I agree) wrote poems that sang even on paper. George Gershwin and Richard Rodgers may have written music without their famous counterparts (Ira and Lorenz Hart, respectively) but, oh, those lyrics. Cole Porter did both jobs and did them brilliantly. The line "When they begin the beguine" had people swaying to the rhythm, even though nobody knew what a "beguine" was. (Defined as a "spirited ballroom dance", although I've heard the story that Porter made up the word and the dance was created after that.)

From the romantic (Night and day you are the one/Only you beneath the moon or under the sun) to the slightly naughty (Some Argentines without means do it/I hear in Boston even beans do it/Let's do it, let's fall in love), Porter was clever, witty and even sentimental, without being saccharine.

This lyric is again full of one of my favorite poetic devices, internal rhyme. Like several of Porter's songs the tune has a slightly Latin beat that emerges even when the lyric is recited. In just a few short lines, a picture is painted and the universal emotion that a good poet can capture evokes the feeling that makes you want to draw your wrap around you a little tighter because of the "still, chill of the night."

In the Still of the Night

In the still of the night
As I gaze from my window
At the moon in its flight
My thoughts all stray to you

In the still of the night
While the world is in slumber
All the times without number
Darling when I say to you

Do you love me, as I love you
Are you my life to be, my dream come true
Or will this dream of mine fade out of sight
Like the moon growing dim,
On the rim of the hill
In the chill, still, of the night

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