Friday, 21 August 2009

But is it literature?

Something a bit deeper today, I think we all know the definition of literature, and just to nudge the memory the Webster definition is below.

Literature Lit"er*a*ture, n. F. litt'erature, L. litteratura,
literatura, learning, grammar, writing, fr. littera, litera, letter. See Letter.

Learning; acquaintance with letters or books.

The collective body of literary productions, embracing the entire
results of knowledge and fancy preserved in writing; also, the whole body of
literary productions or writings upon a given subject, or in reference to a
particular science or branch of knowledge, or of a given country or period; as,
the literature of Biblical criticism; the literature of chemistry.

The class of writings distinguished for beauty of style or
expression, as poetry, essays, or history, in distinction from scientific
treatises and works which contain positive knowledge; belles-lettres.

The occupation, profession, or business of doing literary work.

Literature, in its widest sense, embraces all compositions in
writing or print which preserve the results of observation, thought, or fancy;
but those upon the positive sciences (mathematics, etc.) are usually excluded.

It is often confined, however, to belles-lettres, or works of taste and
sentiment, as poetry, eloquence, history, etc., excluding abstract discussions
and mere erudition.

A man of literature (in this narrowest sense) is one who is versed in
belles-lettres; a man of learning excels in what is taught in the schools, and
has a wide extent of knowledge, especially, in respect to the past; a man of
erudition is one who is skilled in the more recondite branches of learned

This got me thinking, are song lyrics literature? They have to be written down, they “preserve the results of observation, thought, or fancy” and meet the “The class of writings distinguished for beauty of style or expression, as poetry, essays, or history” definition, they only become songs when added to music.

Just a few examples, from my past, as being an old fart I don’t quite understand today’s “music”, ten minutes of noise about Um-ber-ellas doesn’t really do it for me, although the visual aspect is quite appealing.

The first two are Simon and Garfunkel, and the last two Bob Dylan, some in full and some extracts, personally I think they stand alone as “poetry” and therefore literature, below each “poem” is the musical version, just click on the link.


What a dream I had
Pressed in organdy
Clothed in crinoline Of smoky burgundy
Softer than the rain
I wandered empty streets
down Past the shop displays
I heard cathedral bells
Tripping down the alleyways
As I walked on
And when you ran to me,
your Cheeks flushed with the night
We walked on frosted fields Of juniper and lamplight
I held your hand
And when I awoke
And felt you warm and near
I kissed your honey hair
With my grateful tears
Oh, I love you girl Oh, I love you

Kathy’s song

All that I once held as true
I stand alone without beliefs
The only truth I know is you
And as I watch the drops of rain
Weave their weary paths and die
I know that I am like the rain
There but for the grace of you go I

Times they are a changin

Come mothers and fathersThroughout the land
And don't criticizeWhat you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road isRapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

The Times They Are A-Changin'

Hard rain

Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin',
Heard ten thousand whisperin' and nobody listenin',
Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin',
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter,
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley,
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.
Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony,
I met a white man who walked a black dog,
I met a young woman whose body was burning,
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow,
I met one man who was wounded in love,
I met another man who was wounded with hatred,
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (1976)

But could it be done with the “classic” poems?

"Daffodils" (1804)

I WANDER'D lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thoughtWhat wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,And dances with the daffodils.

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