The responsive chord in our imagination needs re-awakening. We need to hear again that new ‘music’ we have faintly heard before – Nature’s Unfinished Symphony.
The Lark Ascending
The music of skylarks overhead, as they hover with quivering wings singing their effortlessly flowing rhapsody above us, is a sound so linked with the open fields and downs especially on summer days.
Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, based on the poem by George Meredith, is a favourite piece of music with many. Lovely music, lovely birdsong! Listen to Vaughan Williams’ own piano
I remember the excitement of hearing skylarks, these ‘ethereal minstrels of the skies’, when we first moved here. The South Downs are full of them thankfully.
Nature’s Unfinished Symphony
Nature’s music is everywhere if we listen: the wind rustling though the trees or even singing through the telegraph wires and power lines like an ‘eolian harp’, the buzzing ‘undertone’ of summer’s flying insects and the ever present pleasure of birdsong. Also in the ‘orchestra’ will be tinkling water flowing into a stream, small mammals rustling through the grass and even the singing of whales and dolphins in the oceans – all part of the ageless ‘song of the earth’.
Another kind of music is coming from the planets that has been poetically described as ‘The Music of the Spheres‘. Does this include the vibrations of space, some of them with a beauty of their own, that have been picked up by the NASA space craft ? If so the Universe itself seems to be joining in the symphony,
“so shalt thou see and hear
The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible
Of that eternal language, which thy God
From ‘The Frost at Midnight’ by S.T. Coleridge
Sounds and tones put together as harmonies and music have the power to influence our mood, to lift the spirit, to inspire, create an emotional response and give us a sense of well being. Listening to such natural sounds can sooth our minds of the disturbing effects of the clanging noises of the ‘sad music of humanity‘ (Wordsworth’s phrase). So often in troubled times people have found solace here.
Last but not least there is the refreshing sound of silence in nature – “the mute still air
is music slumbering on her instrument”.
“Methinks, it should have been impossible
Not to love all things in a world so filled ;
Where the breeze warbles, and the mute still air
Is Music slumbering on her instrument.”
From ‘The Eolian Harp’ by S.T.Coleridge
Heaven is full of joyful music, and this ‘unearthly minstrelsy‘ is constantly flowing out and spilling over on to the earth. C.S. Lewis puts this beautifully in Chapter 8 of the first Narnia book, ‘The Magician’s Nephew’. Here he describes Aslan singing Narnia into being, joined by the ‘stars’ (Job 38 verse 7).
’Hush’ said the Cabby. They all listened. In the darkness it seemed that something was happening at last. A voice had begun to sing…… Sometimes he (Digory) almost thought it was coming out of the earth beneath them. Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth itself …..it was beyond comparison the most beautiful noise he had ever heard.
Then they heard another sound as well – ‘If you had seen and heard it, as Digory did, you would have felt quite certain that it was the stars singing’
That’s how it started, but this is a symphony that is unfinished – the Composer is still at his work creating more ‘movements’, ever flowing rich melodies and ‘variations on a theme’.
I too want to share Digory’s and the others’ excitement at hearing ‘that eternal language that God utters’ through his Creation that comes as echoing voices, ringing bells and a resonance that rings true. I caught something of this – just the first few bars of that great new movement in the symphony – when I woke up early to be with the Dawn Chorus last May (I must repeat this in early May). This week, opening a window I heard a few of these celestial notes of the first song thrush. I always wait expectantly for the return of this lovely winter/early spring song – it’s a joyful moment for me.
Such moments are often elusive. There are times we have to say with Keats
“Thy plaintive anthem fades past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hillside, and now it is buried deep in the next valley glades
Was it a vision ? Or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:- Do I wake or sleep ?”
From ‘To the Nightingale’
The whole of Creation is trying to tell us something. ‘Day after day’ it is ‘pouring forth speech’. (as in Psalm 19 verse 1-2). My soul ‘seeks to hear‘ and I want mine to be ‘a listening heart‘. I hope you do too.
Thank you for joining me. To read more on this theme see my post ‘The Song of the Earth’
Next Post – ‘The City of Dreaming Spires’