(Poem #520) A Lost Chord
Seated one day at the Organ, I was weary and ill at ease, And my fingers wandered idly Over the noisy keys. I do not know what I was playing, Or what I was dreaming then; But I struck one chord of music, Like the sound of a great Amen. It flooded the crimson twilight, Like the close of an Angel's Psalm, And it lay on my fevered spirit With a touch of infinite calm. It quieted pain and sorrow, Like love overcoming strife; It seemed the harmonious echo From our discordant life. It linked all perplexéd meanings Into one perfect peace, And trembled away into silence As if it were loth to cease. I have sought, but I seek it vainly, That one lost chord divine, Which came from the soul of the Organ, And entered into mine. It may be that Death's bright angel Will speak in that chord again, It may be that only in Heaven I shall hear that grand Amen.
Today's poem is built around a haunting and wonderfully compelling image. Nicely developed, too - the poem mirrors both the "attack, decay, sustain, release" envelope of an organ note and its deeply resonant sound. The theme itself is an old one - of something precious and magical, that may only be discovered by chance ('and never twice' is a reasonably common addition). Likewise, music has been attributed mystical powers for practically as long as it has existed. Nevertheless, Procter has managed to take these timeworn elements and merge them in a poem that is both good and original - and a poem that, if not 'great' is certainly immortal. Biography: Two biographies can be found at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12450b.htm http://www.bartleby.com/223/0626.html Quoting from the former: Her works were very popular; they were published in America and also translated into German. In 1877 her poems were in greater demand in England than those of any living writer except Tennyson. If her verses are unambitious, dealing with simple emotional themes, they have the merit of originality and give evidence of much culture. She appears perhaps to greatest advantage in her narrative poems, several of which, such as "The Angel's Story", "A Legend of Bregenz", "The Story of the Faithful Soul", and "A Legend of Provence", are well known in anthologies; but some of her lyrics, like "Cleansing Fires" and "A Lost Chord", have made a very wide appeal. Some of her poems, for example, "Per Pacem ad Lucem" and "Thankfulness" are so devotional that they are in use as hymns. Afterthought: This poem reminds me of a surprising number of sf/fantasy stories, particularly Hilton's 'Lost Horizon' (which introduced the Shangri-La legend) and Clarke's 'The Ultimate Melody'. -martin