After Crystal Gayle

A Clockwork Orange









Over on More about the song Rachel responded to Totalfeckineejit’s Monday challenge to write a poem about a song that means a lot to you. She chose Crystal Gayle singing  ‘Don’t it make your brown eyes green’ (which I like too). I said I didn’t think I could write a poem about a song, but that the music which means most to me is probably Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Like the anti-hero in Anthony Burgess’ novel A Clockwork Orange, I’m obsessed by it (I’ve never seen the film though, fearing it wouldn’t live up to the book). I really do think it’s the finest piece of music ever written. I’ll even listen to bad versions. At one point I thought about asking for the last movement to be played at my funeral, but that was just a bit too pretentious, even for moi. So here’s the first draft of the poem, dashed off rather hastily last night.

The magnificent Ninth

Mostly, the band gets it right;
sometimes it goes better;
you notice passages overlooked
in other versions.

 I’ve got four or five, all different,
listened to many more.
The technical side aside,
now I’m tuned to nuance.

Maybe a phrase gets stretched,
or softened, emphasised; maybe
it’s ensemble playing, or the strength
of a lusty choir.

 But I don’t know I really like it
until the soloists come in.
I hate wobbly tenors
where vibrato chokes the tune.

I’ve heard too many sopranos
lose control in canyon cleavages,
and we all know how wayward
waffly bearded basses sound.

 Sometimes though – just sometimes –
it all sounds good and right, and I’m moved,
without knowing how, to tears
of unbearable joy. Freude! Freude!


About sunnydunny

Poet, publisher, gardener
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5 Responses to After Crystal Gayle

  1. Rachel Fox says:

    The challenge doesn’t come from Titus though Colin (though hers is a fab blog). All these Monday Projects come from an Irish blogger called Total Feckin Eejit.
    Your last verse here is very stirring. I like ‘without knowing how’.

  2. sunnydunny says:

    Apologiess to you and TFE. I’ve fixed the link.

  3. Rachel Fox says:

    If you leave a comment at his post he will add your link to the list over there. I don’t know how long the Monday poems will continue but it’s been a great project so far (a right mix…not too serious and then all of a sudden deathly serious too).

  4. swiss says:


    you’re entirely right to avoid the film tho. the book – work of genius. the film. not.

  5. Do you know, Colin, it is a small and strange world we live in.I am ignorant of many many things and classical music is one of them.I have but one classical record(s) a boxed set I bought at a junk shop because they looked like a bargain at £4.They have never been played,especially not by me, but that will change tomorrow coz rather spookily of all the millions of clasical records in the world, they happen to be the Beethoven symphonies.I’m curious now to play the 9th and see what I think.Might let you know tomorrow.
    The set I have says it is by the concertgebouw-orchester (orchestra?) Amsterdam conducted by Eugen Jochum.
    Great poem by the way thanks for joining in!

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