Friday, November 18, 2005


The Greeks heard it

Long ago
Before there was anything else
To hear
They stared up at the night sky
Tracked the stars and planets
By eye
The harmonics of geometry
The music of the spheres
This is part of the 7th Poetry Carnival.


Erin said...

love the format Martin. The left half can stand without the right. I like the way you've taken something that's normally a mere abstraction (the stars, the cosmos whatever you want to call it) and given it solidity with the geometry, and yet left it mysterious by adding dacing and music. Nice.

martin said...

The form is vaguely similar to the 'Echo' verses of Edward de Vere, although here rather than echoing the sound the 'right-hand voice' expands or qualifies the left-hand one, operating almost as a Greek drama's chorus.

garnet david said...

Effective form and idea. I'm glad you sent it in to the poetry carnival. I'm wondering, though. Is the music of the spheres fading? Why?

rdl said...

very nice!

martin said...

Garnet raises an interesting question, which can't be answered briefly. Pyhtagoras and his followers developed mathematical theory, astronomy, and the undertanding of music as part of an expaloration of number mysticism. They established the groundwork of octaves and intervals as instances of the mathematical order of the universe. They also tracked the heavens, and ebacuse they believed that the circle was the perfect geometric figure, they assumed that the orbits of the heavenly bodies must be circular. In order to account for their observed motion, which did not correspond to simple models, they developed a very complex model of concentric spheres of motion in which Earth is off centre. The music of the spheres they posited was the sound made by the bodies moving as aprt of these spheres and the resulting harmonies.

So why was it fading? Because, it slowly emerged, that (along with various other key mathematical constructs like pi) the real world did not conform to the elegant, simple and beautiful model they had developed (because orbits are ellipses and cannot be resolved into any system of spheres).

My poem is intended to suggest that the urge to create music is rooted in the desire to move part of our experience back into the purer, cleaner, ordered world that they knew.