Thursday, August 18, 2011

Believe in the Day

I have always been stirred by the following poem.  Not every day is one that I feel I can readily believe in, so it's good to be reminded that every day holds promise, power, hope, life and majesty.  Vast, incredible, expansive majesty from horizon to horizon.  If the day seems small or pointless to you, then get out, get up a mountain and have a look for yourself at how limitless and grand this day really is.

The poet and the wise man stand behind the gun,
Behind the gun!

And signal for the crack of dawn: Light the Sun,
Light The Sun!

Do you believe in the day? Do you?
Believe in the day!

The Dawn Creation of the Kings has begun,
Has Begun!

Soft Venus, lonely maiden, brings the Ageless One,
The Ageless One.

Do you believe in the day? Do you?
Believe in the day!

The fading hero has returned to the night,
To the night.

And fully pregnant with the day,
wise men endorse the poet's sight.

Do you believe in the day? Do you?
Believe in the day!

Can you name the poet and the title of the work?  Scroll down.

And for you astronomers out there, you really should be able to give the identity of the lonely maiden, The Ageless One, and the fading Hero.  (Hint: the lonely maiden is a giveaway.  The name of the celestial body represented is mentioned right in the poem.  Hint:  So is the name of The Ageless One, but it's slightly less obvious.)

Give up?  This is an excerpt from a much longer poem by 8-year old child prodigy Gerald Bostock, deservedly nicknamed "Little Milton," a student at Moordale Primary School in St. Cleve, England. Having once dragged myself all the way through Milton's "Paradise Lost" I can attest to Little Milton's stylistic similarity to the master, which in some ways eclipses the blind elder Milton's genius for charged allusion to natural imagry.

Gerald's mental stability is reputed to be questionable, for reasons not the least of which is the fact that Gerald is actually a fictional character (don't laugh - it could happen to you!) He is the literary creation of world-famous flautist Ian Anderson. Gerald's lengthy poem economically forms the libretto of one of Anderson's most ground-breaking musical compositions. The 44-minute piece, much of it in 5/4 time, titled "Thick as a Brick" was first recorded as a Pythonesque prank in 1972 by Anderson's progressive ensemble, Jethro Tull. ("Call that a prog rock concept album, do they? They wouldn't know one if it bit 'em in the arse.  I'll give 'em a concept album....")

The passage I quote occurs roughly 29 minutes into the piece where it occupies a tense and leisurely 6 minute interlude. Nothing I can say will prepare you for the full impact of listening to it.  It's somewhat like the feeling of being on a wonderful, relaxing vacation and facing a return to your job in the midst of a firestorm at work.  Can you really relax knowing what's coming?

Some Interesting facts about Ian Anderson:

He holds an honorary (though well-deserved in my opinion)  Doctorate in Literature (they don't just hand those out on the street, you know), but NOT a driver's license (which virtually anyone with a pulse can get).

Anderson bought his first flute and tried out it for the first time in 1967. Within just 6 months his flute playing was an international commercial success, including a top-10 album in the UK, winning over audiences who previously never showed much interest in the flute as a popular rock instrument.  This is a great album, by the way.

He taught himself to play flute, and only discovered he was doing it "wrong" 25 years later when his daughter took formal flute lessons in 1992.  (Can you imagine the pressure?  On both the student and the teacher.) By then of course he had already made millions playing the flute and was world-famous for it. Can that really be considered "doing it wrong?"

I wonder.

My favorite Ian Anderson Quote:

Upon winning a 1989 Grammy award for, of all things, Best Heavy Metal Performance, Ian said,

"Well, we do sometimes play our mandolins very loudly."

When you think about it, flutes are made mostly of silver alloy, which technically is a heavy metal.

Thick As a Brick    Thick As A Brick (Edit No 1) (2001 Digital Remaster)  Jethro Tull: A History of the Band, 1968-2001

PS  The fading Hero of the night is of course the planet Mars, the Warrior, who for all his endless conquering never gets what he really wants.

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