My soul is dark – Oh! quickly string
The harp I yet can brook to hear;
And let thy gentle fingers fling
Its melting murmurs o’er mine ear.
If in this heart a hope be dear,
That sound shall charm it forth again:
If in these eyes there lurk a tear,
‘Twill flow, and cease to burn my brain.
But bid the strain be wild and deep,
Nor let thy notes of joy be first:
I tell thee, minstrel, I must weep,
Or else this heavy heart will burst;
For it hath been by sorrow nursed,
And ached in sleepless silence, long;
And now ’tis doomed to know the worst,
And break at once – or yield to song.
This poem is a great example of English Romanticism. It is an expression of inner pain and suffering that is only alleviated through the restorative power of art.
In the poem, Byron conveys a sense of deep sorrow, the type which leads to isolation and despair. The emphasis on the darkness of his soul indicates that all hope and joy are void from his being. He is cast into a state of darkness that nothing seems able to penetrate. He concedes that there is one thing that can overcome this darkness, and that is music.
Here it is important to note that music has two meanings. On one level, he is referring to music in the audible sense. Instrumental music is unique in artistic expression because the tones communicate directly with the psyche and instill emotion without the use of words. But music is also a metaphor for poetry, and I think that Byron is claiming that there are actually two ways in which he can overcome his sorrow: by either listening to music or by opening up his soul through the composition of poetry. So in the final line, when Byron states that his heart will “break at once – or yield to song,” he is asserting that he can cure himself of his internal darkness is by opening his heart and expressing his deep emotion through poetry, which is essentially what he is doing in this poem.
I relate to this poem on a deep level. There have been many times in my life where playing music and writing poetry were the only ways that I was able to deal with my inner turmoil. I guess that’s why I have always related to the Romantic poets on a visceral level. Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts, and have a creative day.
10 responses to ““My Soul is Dark” by Lord Byron”
How I love this poem. Its expression echoes something deep inside me too, and on multiple levels.
I think if one is open at all to the soul with its ever-deepening sensitivities, a darkness that coincides, or is a correlation to that opening has a need for expression that becomes more apparent as time goes by.
There are several ways to think about this. One, soul must have beauty, perhaps because the sensitivity that soul has can see so much darkness that only beauty will spur us on to remain true to her and our expression.
Any expression in which we engage soul; writing, playing music, meditation, or even more mundane things that include soulfulness, are satisfying.
I am grateful to come to this understanding about writing and playing music in particular, because it allays the voice in me that says these endeavors are merely selfish.
Your posts remind me that I need to read more classics! Lately though, I feel much more inclined to play music than write. 🙂
I would like to reblog this post Jeff, if that’s okay? I think many of us here on WP that write and have other creative outlets will enjoy the poem and your thoughts about it.
Hi Debra. I would be honored if you reblogged this post. I am on my way out to play music right now, but when I get back from practice, I will write a proper response to your thoughtful comment.
Thanks, and blessings!
So for most people, if not all, an emotional outlet is necessary for spiritual and mental well being. By no means is this being selfish; it is imperative. For those of us who are artistic by nature, then it is only natural for us to express our inner emotions, thoughts, etc, through art, be it music, poetry, painting, or whatever.
I love how you include “mundane” activities that are practiced with soulfulness. I am reminded of Castaneda’s idea of impeccability, and Buddhist mindfulness. I was outside doing some yard work today, since it was so beautiful and warm out, and for me, it was a spiritual experience and I feel much more centered afterwards (although also a little sore and tired). I get the same experience from cooking too. So many things can achieve this, if done with the soulfulness you describe.
Anyway, I have some coffee ready, but I wanted to give you a reply that your comment deserved.
So glad I have gotten to know you through the blogosphere. Wishing you and yours all the best.
Thanks Jeff! Yes, cooking too. And what is it about being outside? I was just outside for a run and instantly feel refreshed from the cool air (It’s around 50 here today).
I very much enjoy getting to know you here too. Coffee sounds good right now…
Reblogged this on The Ptero Card and commented:
I love this poem and Jeff’s thoughts on soul and creativity. It’s timely for me, echoing hints that I have yet to fully understand. I hope you enjoy it too.
Thank you Debra. Your kind words mean a lot to me, and I’m glad I was able to offer some inspiration today. Cheers!
When I saw the title, I couldn’t help but think of My Body is A Cage, as covered by Peter Gabriel:
And somehow the two echo each other.
Very cool! I love Peter Gabriel. I was lucky enough to see him perform years back. One of the most amazing concerts I’ve seen. Cheers!
I enjoyed your personal note on the poem about how poetry is helpful for working through issues. I find that too, both writing and reading poetry. There’s something about the genre that lends itself well to healing…
Hi Christy! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. And I agree, poetry definitely has healing powers. Have a wonderful weekend!