Beethoven's vision of God



What is it about his music that appeals?
The humour is cruel, or very bad form,
The lyricism is, well, really a little forced.

Which leaves the anger and the hurt
And perhaps the vision of a god.
Is that enough to keep us enthralled?

There is no other way out. We are drawn in
By the very obstinacy of the man.
Oh yes, he was deaf as a lamppost in the end

So that he never heard a note of it,
We listen still, and we hear the sound
Of what it was like to be alone.

We are surrounded. After all these years
We have to believe that god was important.
That music was important and that Beethoven

Somehow heard all the motives in us.
We are forbidden to weep
But we have learned to rejoice. All things

Shall be given to us. Like it or not
We are in his company and the gift
Takes us out of this world and puts us in it.


If there were no birds would we invent them?
Certainly we dream of flight
But would our imagination stretch to them?

And what else is beyond our capacity
To visualise? We dream so many things
Although there are limitations. Some things defy us.

Birds not only have wings, they make movement,
Something to surprise us each time.
They make us rejoice whenever they come.

We are stuck to the ground and to the ground
We eventually come, even though we invented
A sort of flight. We kid ourselves.

We are permitted to dream but our dreams are half-hearted.
There are some things we are able to know
And there are things beyond us. We invented gunpowder.

The flight of kingfishers

I was always too willing to claim for myself
The right of vision, as if only I
Saw the magic flight of kingfishers

Or the view from the top of the mountain.
Others had been there before me
And at that very moment were left wondering.

The only thing I could really claim
Was a way of getting it down
Which was more or less authentic

Give or take a tendency to exaggeration
Or an inclination towards what rhetoric could do.
I was a liar from the start.

Except that I did see these things
And felt them. What use are they now?
I close my eyes. There is nothing more to see.

The kingfisher still plunges from a branch
And the moment is immortal. The top of the mountain
Invites even an impartial eye to look and to wonder. 

Thomas ShapcottThomas Shapcott is a writer, orginially from Queensland. He was director of the Literature Board of the Australia Council 1983–1990, and executive director of the National Book Council 1991
–1997. More recently he was professor of creative writing at the University of Adelaide. He has written poetry, novels, dramas, reviews and short stories.

Topic tags: New Australian poems, Thomas Shapcott, Beethoven, Birds, the Flight of the Kingfishers



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Existing comments

john frawley | 14 June 2011

Deaf as a lamppost, not stone deaf.
. . .
Oh the wonders of the different gifts & talents we all have. Thanks TS.
Suzbat | 17 June 2011


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