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Ode -- Arthur O'Shaughnessy

       
(Poem #6) Ode
    We are the music-makers,
    And we are the dreamers of dreams,
    Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
    And sitting by desolate streams.
    World-losers and world-forsakers,
    Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
    Yet we are the movers and shakers,
    Of the world forever, it seems.

    With wonderful deathless ditties
    We build up the world's great cities,
    And out of a fabulous story
    We fashion an empire's glory:
    One man with a dream, at pleasure,
    Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
    And three with a new song's measure
    Can trample an empire down.

    We, in the ages lying
    In the buried past of the earth,
    Built Nineveh with our sighing,
    And Babel itself with our mirth;
    And o'erthrew them with prophesying
    To the old of the new world's worth;
    For each age is a dream that is dying,
    Or one that is coming to birth.
-- Arthur O'Shaughnessy
Another of my favourites - this is truly a poem that sings. The first two
lines, in particular, I rank among the most beautiful I've come across.

A brief biographical note:

The Irish-English singer, Arthur William Edgar O'Shaughnessy, was born in
London in 1844. He was connected, for a while, with the British Museum,
and was transferred later to the Department of Natural History. His first
literary success, Epic of Women (1870), promised a brilliant future for
the young poet, a promise strengthened by his Music and Moonlight (1874).
Always delicate in health, his hopes were dashed by periods of illness and
an early death in London in 1881.

[Ode] is not only O'Shaughnessy's best, but is, because of its perfect
blending of music and message, one of the immortal classics of our verse.

                        -- Louis Untermeyer (ed.), 'Modern British Poetry'

77 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Priest Elnora said...

This is a beautiful Poem. I have been looking for a long time for the
complete poem. I think this poem really speaks to me. Thanks for posting it.

Elnora

Longardner Curt said...

...I came across this poem in its entirety just today by chance. For years my
wife and I have know it only through the first two lines which are in the
screenplay "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory".

William Johns said...

[independently submission of same poem]

Don't ask me what this is supposed to mean, but it strikes a chord in me
- perhaps because I have been far too many times accused of being nothing
more than a "dreamer of dreams". This poem somehow exonerates me.

I found this poem on the back of a box of tea, I forget the brand, but
it was that famous one with all the weird flavours. This came off a box
of Bengal Spice, if I recall.

Bill

phone op said...

I attach an even more literal meaning behind the poem. Myth-makers,
storytellers, poets, musicians and writers among other artists have had,
since the birth of civilization, the ability to affect the course of history
to an extent often greater than the mightiest statesman or warrior. It is
often said that history is written by the winner; I would argue that it is
the writer of the history that wins. Ideas are many times more powerful than
actions, demonstrated throughout history as powerful individuals sought to
maintain thier power through harnessing or abolishing any who spoke against
the establishment. One such world-changing example of the power of an idea
and those who spread it can be witnessed in the amazing effect of the
Christian Bible and its proponents throughout the course of the last two
thousand years of western culture. This beautiful piece shouts of the
amazing influence of those oft-overlooked "movers and shakers" who sing the
songs that truly build our empires or destroy them.

-Chandra

Ed said...

No one has mentioned the fact that this poem was the basis for Sir Edward
Elgar's "The Music Makers" for chorus, soloists and orchestra. In it, he
quotes many of his earlier (and probably better) musical works such as The
Enigma Variations theme and "Nimrod" Variation, the two Symphonies and Sea
Pictures in addition to "Rule Brittania" and the Marseilles.

Ed

Jeffery Colkmire said...

From: "William Johns" <william_johns@>

[independently submission of same poem]

Don't ask me what this is supposed to mean, but it strikes a chord in me

- perhaps because I have been far too many times accused of being nothing

more than a "dreamer of dreams". This poem somehow exonerates me.

I found this poem on the back of a box of tea, I forget the brand, but

it was that famous one with all the weird flavours. This came off a box

of Bengal Spice, if I recall.

Bill

"We are the dreamers of dreams............"

I too have been told this literally all my life. A daydreamer.

It was on the back of a box of Celestial Seasonings tea. I don't recall
what my flavor was, but the first two lines of the poem stuck with me for 3
decades before I finally found it again. Unfortunately, CS tea doesn't
print quotes like this anymore. At least none I've seen.

Jeffery Colkmire

Kalbaugh James M. GS11 said...

entire poem ...

We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamer of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
With wonderful deathless ditties,
We build up the world's great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire's glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song's measure
Can trample an empire down.
We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o'erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world's worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.
A breath of our inspiration,
Is the life of each generation.
A wondrous thing of our dreaming,
Unearthly, impossible seeming-
The soldier, the king, and the peasant
Are working together in one,
Till our dream shall become their present,
And their work in the world be done.
They had no vision amazing
Of the goodly house they are raising.
They had no divine foreshowing
Of the land to which they are going:
But on one man's soul it hath broke,
A light that doth not depart
And his look, or a word he hath spoken,
Wrought flame in another man's heart.
And therefore today is thrilling,
With a past day's late fulfilling.
And the multitudes are enlisted
In the faith that their fathers resisted,
And, scorning the dream of tomorrow,
Are bringing to pass, as they may,
In the world, for it's joy or it's sorrow,
The dream that was scorned yesterday.
But we, with our dreaming and singing,
Ceaseless and sorrowless we!
The glory about us clinging
Of the glorious futures we see,
Our souls with high music ringing;
O men! It must ever be
That we dwell, in our dreaming and singing,
A little apart from ye.
For we are afar with the dawning
And the suns that are not yet high,
And out of the infinite morning
Intrepid you hear us cry-
How, spite of your human scorning,
Once more God's future draws nigh,
And already goes forth the warning
That ye of the past must die.
Great hail! we cry to the corners
From the dazzling unknown shore;
Bring us hither your sun and your summers,
And renew our world as of yore;
You shall teach us your song's new numbers,
And things that we dreamt not before;
Yea, in spite of a dreamer who slumbers,
And a singer who sings no more.

Ananda said...

From: phone op <phoneop@>

I attach an even more literal meaning behind the poem. Myth-makers,
storytellers, poets, musicians and writers among other artists have had,
since the birth of civilization, the ability to affect the course of history
to an extent often greater than the mightiest statesman or warrior. It is
often said that history is written by the winner; I would argue that it is
the writer of the history that wins. Ideas are many times more powerful than
actions, demonstrated throughout history as powerful individuals sought to
maintain thier power through harnessing or abolishing any who spoke against
the establishment. One such world-changing example of the power of an idea
and those who spread it can be witnessed in the amazing effect of the
Christian Bible and its proponents throughout the course of the last two
thousand years of western culture. This beautiful piece shouts of the
amazing influence of those oft-overlooked "movers and shakers" who sing the
songs that truly build our empires or destroy them.

-Chandra

ACTION is always there.
A fact worht more than a thousand words.
We talk from brow to brow and listen with our eyes...
how can we keep our love secret?

Nick Lee said...

My sincere thanks to James Kalbaugh for giving us the full version of
Arthur O'Shaugnessy's beautiful poem. It has always been a favourite of
mine, but this is the first time that I have seen it in full. Having
seen it, I now place O'Shaughnessy among the 'greats, not just as a
poet, but as an inspired visionary.
Nicholas Lee

Rachelle Alexander said...

Would you mind telling me where you found the full version of this poem? I have the first three verses in a book of poetry printed in 1902 and had seen the full version or most of it in a piece of music written by Koday.

Thanks, Rachelle

Cynthia BOEHLERT said...

It was kind of you to share this ode I am very interested in reading it unfortunately I find it impossible to read with the dark background. Please help! thanks

Avril Tyrrell said...

Some 57 years ago,as office workers in London,a like minded teen aged friend and I would sometimes economise on our very modest lunch funds and use the proceeds to buy a ticket and climb to "the gods" for the Promenade Concerts at the Albert Hall.

One most memorable concert was Elgar's "The Music Makers", well worth the hour and a half spent standing in line outside and the sacrificed lunch. A memory that enriches my life today.

Avril

Chris said...

Thank you so much for posting this poem. And especially thank you to the gentleman who posted it in its entirety.

Beautiful.

jouade benjelloun said...

hi i read u comment about the the poem of music and moonlight and i need u r help can u help me in analzing this poem please add my msn addres " i hope u rply on u r message thx alot

Ash Srinivasan said...

hello,

i've been searching for the full version of this excruciatingly
beautiful poem for some time. my thanks to james kalbaugh for giving
us the entire version of this work, which is not just art, but
something that exonerates people individually. for this is a
universal poem that appeals to the dreamer who resides in all of us.

i have just one question - i recall one line of the poem being
slightly different from the way james kalbaugh has presented it.

'great hail! we cry to the corners
from the dazzling unknown shores'

i remember it as being

'great hail! we cry to the newcomers
from the dazzling unknown shores'

any thoughts on this, anyone?

cheers,

ash

Anonymous said...

what is the hidden meaning behind this poem?

ภาพโป๊นักศึกษา said...

i have just one question - i recall one line of the poem being
slightly different from the way james kalbaugh has presented it.

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MATTIA said...

As mentioned before..Thank you Kalbaugh James M. for the entire poem. I searched for a good 45 minutes (including FGCU's library database) and couldn't find it.
I was motivated to hunt for it after watching a brief moment of Willy Wonka and getting the urge to "dig in" after being a fan of the movie since I was in middle school.
I will soon be a first time Father, and Arthur O'Shaughnessy's poem struck a beautiful and deep chord.

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Anonymous said...

Thank you for bringing this poem to light again for me. I love it. I chose the first few lines of this poem as my 8th grade class's graduation theme :) and have only seen reference to it one other time since then!

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Anonymous said...

Had never heard this poem before, prompted by the BBC 2 trailer which uses the cento by Alison Chisholm to find out more. Googled the line Movers and Shakers of the world and this came up. Absolutely amazing, love it. The power of the television to do some good!

Anonymous said...

This poem has given me much hope in my life. During the course of my life, I have been going through the problem of lacking in confidence in myself, as well as others. I have always thought that as the years go by, and the generations change,I have feared that we will be dunbed down and the standerd of hard work and dedication will fall into nothing. But this poem has made me seen that we have so much capabilities as humans that we can do. If one man with a dream can conquer a crown, than one man with a dream can change the whole future for the better

Anonymous said...

I have just celebrated my 80th Birthday and find that my life is described fully in this poem, I have dreamed a dream - I have lived a life - full of all the expectancy that one could hope for - I am satisfied. Yet these is still so much more to learn, alas, I am more of a shaker than a mover now..... but I can still follow a desolete stream and watch the pale moon and wander by the lone sea breakers. I am so lucky.

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DR.Peter Ruschenburg, Hamburg said...

To all of You who love O'Shoughnessy's Ode, I can recommend you the score of Edward Elgar's composition with the full text of the Ode published by Novello & Company (Nr.13704). There is also a wonderful record by Sir Adrian Boult with Dame Janet Baker (superb!).Listen to the Music while reading the score! A German fan.

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