Across the universe – Lennon/McCartney

This is my most favourite John Lennon song ever and has some my most favourite bits of verse ever. I would even daresay, it is Lennon’s best ever too. He admitted himself,

“It’s one of the best lyrics I’ve written. In fact, it could be the best. It’s good poetry, or whatever you call it, without chewin’ it. See, the ones I like are the ones that stand as words, without melody. They don’t have to have any melody, like a poem, you can read them.”

The song’s lyrics sound largely reflective in nature, like they were the result of some random ruminations on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Though in truth, John said the song came to him when his first wife, Cynthia, had slept off after having gone “on and on” about something and he simply channelized his irritation into a “cosmic” song rather than an “irritated” song. Mean, I know. But if this is what irritation brought out of him, I am definitely not complaining.

Back to the song. It was probably written during the Beatles’ Maharishi days and hence the nod to the Guru Deva, but what amazing lines the rest of the song throws up. The imagery of some of the lines is truly breathtaking.

“Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup”

“Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my open mind”

“Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes”

And my most favourite of them all,

“Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box”

The gems just keep coming, one after another (or on and on, as the song says), conjuring up beautiful snapshots in our minds, vividly and oh so effortlessly. There is something almost magical about the way the words distill the still life moments and present them in all their technicolour glory.

John himself said of the song, in a interview,

“[The words] were purely inspirational and were given to me as boom! I don’t own it, you know; it came through like that.”

The assured optimism of the refrain,

“Nothing’s gonna change my world”,

the song’s unwavering faith in love,

“Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns”,

not to mention Lennon’s soothing vocals, all make listening to the song such a moving experience for me, each and every time.

Enjoy the song in its entirety.

Across the universe – John Lennon/Paul McCartney

Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup
They slither while they pass, they slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my open mind
Possessing and caressing me
Jai guru deva om
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes
They call me on and on across the universe
Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box
They stumble blindly as they make their way across the universe
Jai guru deva om
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Sounds of laughter, shades of life are ringing
Through my open ears inciting and inviting me
Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns
And calls me on and on across the universe
Jai guru deva om
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world

Daffodils – William Wordsworth

Daffodils, a nature poem by William Wordsworth, is probably one of my earliest exposures to poetry. The tinge of nostalgia has always made this a very special poem for me. If I sat down to it, I can probably recall the exact setting of my classroom when I first read the opening lines of the poem:

“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills”
I remember being bothered by the o’er bit for a long while, at least until I realized that the line did indeed sound better with o’er than o-ver.

This was way before I knew anything about poetic form or metre. It was only many years later, thanks to the Wondering Minstrels, I found out about terms like iambs and trochees and understood why the poet went for o’er instead of o-ver. He obviously made the two syllable word into a single syllable to preserve the metre of the poem – iambic tetrameter, in this case. (An iamb is a metric foot that contains a short unstressed syllable followed by a long stressed syllable. Each line of this poem made up of four iambs and hence the tetrameter.)

The poem’s stanzas follow a simple ababcc pattern (the technical name of this form is a sextilla). The cc lines make for some really nice couplets,

“Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.”

“I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought”

“And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.”

I particularly love the dramatic way the poet describes his chancing upon the flowers. There he was, happy in his own company, traipsing through the country side, when his solitude was interrupted “all at once” by a “crowd” of daffodils. It was no gradual change of scenery for him. He mirrors the same in the last stanza, where, once again he is wallowing in his own company, and the daffodils “flash upon that inward eye, which is the bliss of solitude”.

The other thing that strikes me is that the poet seems to have been quite a loner in his lifetime, seemingly taking immense pleasure from the company of nature rather than from that of fellow men. That would explain his long sojourns on his own in the countryside and the following two lines in the poem.

A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company

The daffodils must have been quite a sight indeed, to have affected him so profoundly and to have moved him to write such a beautiful poem, that has withstood the test of time over so many generations.

Here is the poem in its entirety.

Daffodils – William Wordsworth

Daffodils by William Wordsworth

Source: Pixabay

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Bits of Verse – The Wondering Minstrels

Back in the late 1990s and through most of the 2000s, there was a daily poetry mailing list called the Wondering Mintrels. It was maintained by a couple of poetry enthusiasts from MIT. The moderators, Thomas Abraham and Martin DeMello, used to post a poem a day along with a personal commentary on it and invited readers to weigh in too. It gave way to some really amazing discussions of poetry in their comments section. They even started posting guest poems sent by regular readers too. The archives can still be found here.

I used to be a huge fan of the mailing list, and spent hours lurking in the comments section, enjoying the hell out of the discussions. I learnt a lot about poetry appreciation on those discussions, though I did not participate in them. For a long time, the list was my daily fix before starting on my work day. There is nothing like the beauty of the words, the vividness of the imagery, the quirk of some of the humorous poems to lighten you up and brace you for a long day at work.

The site moved a few times, from its original repository in the MIT network to a yahoo groups mailing list and eventually moved on to its own blog space. I faithfully followed it all through it many avatars. But for the some reason, the posts stopped coming sometime in early 2007, never to be revived again.

With this blog, I can’t even begin to try recreating that massive body of work. But I am going to be posting my favourite poems, song lyrics, bits or whole thereof (despite what the title promises)or maybe even bits of prose that I totally enjoyed reading. I am not planning to stick with only English either. So, be forewarned.

I am going to be posting one poem at a time, along with a note on my own personal experience with reading it.

I hope you enjoy reading the bits of verse too!