Tag Archives: Chamber Music

James Joyce – Poems from ‘Chamber Music’: The twilight turns from amethyst to deep and deeper blue…

16 Apr

These days I have been reading James Joyce’s collection of poems “Chamber Music”, first published in May 1907. I love the dreamy mood of the poems and the beautiful images they evoke in my imagination so I decided to share some of my favourites with you on this lovely April day, accompanied by some pretty photos. Birds are singing, sun is shining, flowers are blooming, and the weather is perfect for poetry or falling in love… with poetry!

Apple Blossoms, Emma Justine Farsworth, American, hand-pulled photogravure published in periodical ‘Sun & Shade’ New York, June, 1893

II

The twilight turns from amethyst
To deep and deeper blue,
The lamp fills with a pale green glow
The trees of the avenue.

The old piano plays an air,
Sedate and slow and gay;
She bends upon the yellow keys,
Her head inclines this way.

Shy thought and grave wide eyes and hands
That wander as they list — –
The twilight turns to darker blue
With lights of amethyst.

Curtis High School Girl Gathering Dogwood Boughs, Charles Rollins Tucker, 1910-15

VII

My love is in a light attire
Among the apple-trees,
Where the gay winds do most desire
To run in companies.

There, where the gay winds stay to woo
The young leaves as they pass,
My love goes slowly, bending to
Her shadow on the grass;

And where the sky’s a pale blue cup
Over the laughing land,
My love goes lightly, holding up
Her dress with dainty hand.

Alfonse van Besten, Youth idyll, Autochrome, 1914

XX

In the dark pine-wood
I would we lay,
In deep cool shadow
At noon of day.

How sweet to lie there,
Sweet to kiss,
Where the great pine-forest
Enaisled is!

Thy kiss descending
Sweeter were
With a soft tumult
Of thy hair.

O unto the pine-wood
At noon of day
Come with me now,
Sweet love, away.

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Golden Hair – James Joyce and Syd Barrett

2 Jun

1858. William Powell Frith - The signal1858. The signal – William Powell Frith

V

Lean out of the window,
Goldenhair,
I hear you singing
A merry air.

My book was closed,
I read no more,
Watching the fire dance
On the floor.

I have left my book,
I have left my room,
For I heard you singing
Through the gloom.

Singing and singing
A merry air,
Lean out of the window,
Goldenhair.

Poem ‘Golden Hair’ is part of the collection of poems ‘Chamber Music’ by James Joyce, published in May 1907. Chamber Music is a collection of lyrical meditations. Main motifs of the thirty-six poems that the collection contains are yearning for love, disappointment, and beauty and universality of music. Poems are also characterised by their musicality, for they were written more like lyrics for songs than the usual poems.

syd 115

It’s not surprising that Syd Barrett was inspired by this beautiful poem – Golden Hair – and decided to put it to music. Even though it appeared on Syd’s debut album ‘The Madcap Laughs‘, which is part of Syd’s solo work after the Pink Floyd, Golden Hair is one of Syd’s first songs, made at the time he experimented with setting poetry to music, during the cannabis idyll at Earlham Street in 1966.

In ‘Golden Hair’, culled from Chamber Music, a slim verse Joyce wrote in 1907, a troubadour yearns for a Rapunzel locked in a tower. With simple barre chords, Barrett conjured a solemn air akin to a medieval madrigal. Its cadence is pure plainsong, chanted words over bare chords, with the first of his thrilling downward octave leaps at the end.‘ (Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd – Dark Globe by Julian Palacios)

Syd’s rendition of ‘Golden Hair’ leaves the listener engulfed in a world of shadows, longings and mysticism, in a wistful and melancholic mood, denuded of earlier psychedelia and its vividness; decadence of the 1960s finally exposed.