e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Archive for the tag “Infant Joy”

Odes to Joy

Having looked at laments, I thought I’d investigate the opposite – poems, songs and music celebrating joy. A quick surf around the web shows there are a lot of them.

Dictionaries define joy in terms of intense gladness, happiness or rapture. ‘Rapture’ is closest to what I understand by it – for me it includes a feeling of being uplifted. I don’t find it surprising that many of the poems applauding it are religious and that it’s often described as one of the benefits of meditation.

Several websites give long lists of poems and songs about joy and related emotions. Fabulous – so many people familiar with and inspired by this wonderful feeling.

In the West, one of the most famous pieces of music is Beethoven’s Ode to Joy from the Ninth Symphony. It’s a setting of a poem of the same name by Friedrich Schiller, about the possibility that all men may become brothers.

The music has been adopted as the European Anthem by both the Council of Europe and the European Union. In theory the anthem has no lyrics, but there are in fact a number of verses in various languages. They express joy in the idea that Europe’s unity in diversity will last forever and contribute to world peace – all very worthy but not leading to great poetry IMHO.

On a more intimate scale I’d like to share one of my favourite poems by William Blake.

Infant Joy
‘I have no name:
I am but two days old.’
What shall I call thee?
‘I happy am,
Joy is my name.’
Sweet joy befall thee!

Pretty joy!
Sweet joy but two days old,
Sweet joy I call thee:
Thou dost smile,
I sing the while,
Sweet joy befall thee!

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