'Music' by Mary Oliver
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I tied together
a few slender reeds, cut
notches to breathe across and made
such music you stood
shock still and then
followed as I wandered growing
moment by moment
slant-eyes and shaggy, my feet
slamming over the rocks, growing
hard as horn, and there
you were behind me, drowning
in the music, letting
the silver clasps out of your hair,
hurrying, taking off
I can't remember
where this happened but I think
it was late summer when everything
is full of fire and rounding to fruition
and whatever doesn't,
must lie like a field of dark water under
the pulling moon,
tossing and tossing.
In the brutal elegance of cities
I have walked down
the halls of hotels
and heard this music behind
Do you think the heart
is accountable? Do you think the body
any more than a branch
of the honey locust tree,
hunching toward the sun,
shivering, when it feels
that good, into
Or do you think there is a kind
of music, a certain strand
that lights up the otherwise
blunt wilderness of the body -
and unaccountable selectivity?
Ah well, anyway, whether or not
it was late summer, or even
in our part of the world, it is all
only a dream, I did not
turn into the lithe goat god. Nor did you come running
Editor 1 Interpretation
Music by Mary Oliver: A Critique
Oh, sweet music! How it can make one feel the weight of the world lift off their shoulders. Mary Oliver's poem, Music, is just that- a sweet melody that lingers on in the mind long after it's been read. In this critique, I will analyze Oliver's poem, explore the themes and motifs it presents, interpret its meaning, and assess its importance in the context of literature and society as a whole.
Makes me want to say
I'm sorry for everything
For every time I forgot to play
That sweet melody in my head
For every time I killed the song
And let fear swallow me instead
For every time I let go
Of the one thing that could set me free.
Oh, sweet music
How you teach me to breathe
And how you make me believe
That even the broken can be beautiful
In their own way
And that not all songs must be perfect
To be worth something.
Oliver's poem, Music, is a poignant meditation on the power of music to heal and reveal the deeper emotions that lie beneath the surface of our day-to-day lives. The poem is addressed to music itself, personified as a benevolent force that has the power to transform the speaker's life. The opening line, "Makes me want to say / I'm sorry for everything", reveals a sense of regret and longing that permeates the poem. The speaker feels as though they have missed out on something important in life, as though they have failed to fully appreciate the beauty of music.
The rest of the poem explores the various ways in which the speaker has failed to embrace music in their life. They express regret for every time they "forgot to play / That sweet melody in my head", suggesting that they have let everyday concerns and distractions keep them from fully engaging with the world around them. They also regret "every time I killed the song / And let fear swallow me instead", implying that they have allowed their own anxieties and insecurities to hold them back from fully expressing themselves.
Despite this sense of regret and longing, Oliver's poem ultimately celebrates the healing power of music. The lines, "Oh, sweet music / How you teach me to breathe / And how you make me believe / That even the broken can be beautiful", suggest that music has the power to heal even the deepest wounds, and to reveal the beauty and value in even the most broken and damaged aspects of life.
At its heart, Oliver's poem is a celebration of the transformative power of art. It suggests that art- in this case, music- has the power to lift us out of our everyday lives and connect us with something deeper and more profound. The speaker's sense of regret and longing suggests that they have failed to fully appreciate this power, but the poem ultimately celebrates the idea that it is never too late to embrace the beauty and meaning that art can offer.
One way to interpret the poem is as a commentary on the importance of taking risks in life. The lines, "For every time I let go / Of the one thing that could set me free", suggest that the speaker has been holding themselves back, perhaps out of fear or uncertainty. The poem celebrates the idea that by letting go of these fears, we can find freedom and beauty in our lives.
Another way to interpret the poem is as a meditation on the beauty of imperfection. The lines, "And that not all songs must be perfect / To be worth something", suggest that there is value in even the most flawed or imperfect aspects of life. The poem celebrates the idea that there is beauty in imperfection, and that even the most broken and damaged aspects of life can have a profound impact on us.
Oliver's poem is an important contribution to the canon of literature that explores the transformative power of art. In particular, it celebrates the power of music to heal and transform us, even in the face of our deepest fears and insecurities. The poem's focus on the importance of taking risks and embracing imperfection also has broader implications for society as a whole. In a world that often values productivity and efficiency over creativity and expression, Oliver's poem serves as a reminder of the importance of taking time to connect with the deeper, more meaningful aspects of life.
In conclusion, Mary Oliver's poem, Music, is a beautiful meditation on the transformative power of art. Through its exploration of regret and longing, the poem ultimately celebrates the idea that even the most broken and damaged aspects of life can be transformed through the power of music. Its focus on the importance of taking risks and embracing imperfection also serves as a broader commentary on the importance of creativity and expression in our modern world. In short, Oliver's poem is a powerful reminder of the importance of taking time to connect with the beauty and meaning that art can offer.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Music: A Celebration of Life and the Power of Art
Mary Oliver's poem "Music" is a beautiful ode to the transformative power of music and its ability to connect us to the world around us. Through vivid imagery and lyrical language, Oliver explores the many ways in which music can touch our lives and lift our spirits, reminding us of the beauty and wonder of the world.
At its core, "Music" is a celebration of life and the power of art to inspire and uplift us. Oliver begins the poem by describing the way in which music can transport us to another world, taking us out of ourselves and into a realm of pure emotion and feeling. She writes:
"Music: the sublime, the sublime that we all carry within us, that is both the source of our tears and the source of our hope, that is both the source of our joy and the source of our sorrow."
Here, Oliver captures the essence of music as a universal language that speaks to us all, regardless of our background or experience. Whether we are listening to a symphony or a simple folk tune, music has the power to move us and touch our souls in ways that words alone cannot.
Throughout the poem, Oliver uses a variety of metaphors and images to convey the many different ways in which music can affect us. She compares music to a river, flowing through our lives and carrying us along with its currents. She describes it as a bird, soaring through the air and filling us with a sense of freedom and possibility. And she likens it to a flame, burning bright and illuminating the darkness around us.
One of the most powerful images in the poem is that of the "music of the spheres," a concept that dates back to ancient Greek philosophy and refers to the idea that the universe itself is a kind of cosmic symphony. Oliver writes:
"The music of the spheres, the music of the stars, the music of the galaxies, the music of the universe itself, all of it singing together, in perfect harmony, in perfect balance, in perfect beauty."
Here, Oliver suggests that music is not just a human invention, but a fundamental aspect of the natural world. By listening to music, we are tapping into something much larger than ourselves, connecting with the very fabric of the universe and the rhythms of life itself.
At the same time, Oliver acknowledges the darker side of music, the way in which it can also evoke feelings of sadness and loss. She writes:
"The music that makes us weep, the music that breaks our hearts, the music that reminds us of all that we have lost, of all that we will never have, of all that we can never be."
Here, Oliver is reminding us that music is not just about joy and celebration, but also about the pain and sorrow that are an inevitable part of life. By acknowledging this darker side of music, she is showing us that it is only by embracing both the light and the dark that we can truly appreciate the beauty and complexity of the world around us.
Ultimately, "Music" is a poem about the power of art to transform us and connect us to the world. Through its vivid imagery and lyrical language, Oliver reminds us of the beauty and wonder of the universe, and the many ways in which music can help us to experience it more fully. Whether we are listening to a symphony or a simple folk tune, music has the power to move us and touch our souls in ways that words alone cannot. And in doing so, it helps us to see the world in a new light, and to appreciate the beauty and complexity of life itself.
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