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Musica Universalis

MUSIC OF THE SPHERES

 There is geometry in the humming of the strings

There is music in the spacing of the spheres.

 

Pythagoras believed the world had been called forth out of Chaos by sound. He knew the stars to be arranged in relation to each other and to the sun in the progression of a musical scale, to be attached to crystal spheres revolving about the earth. These spheres – in eternal motion – produce harmonies just beyond the reach of our physical hearing, harmonies that nevertheless affect the design of our lives.

The Universe sings.

The music is in the diapason, the most perfect resonant interval between the earth and the seven classical planets – Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune – and the luminaries– the Sun and the Moon. The planets are daughters of the Sun, each of the them endowed with a piece of the solar soul, with a distinct character or song and influence on our destinies, their names identified by the ancient sages with those of the great gods who represent the divine faculties in action in the universe.

Catherine and Vincent listening to music beneath the bandshell, the image of a starry nebula in the background

Such harmony is in immortal souls.

Vincent and Catherine … they did have stars. And the music … 

Oh, yes. They could hear it.

The music is in the diapason, the most perfect resonant interval between the earth and the seven classical planets – Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune – and the luminaries– the Sun and the Moon. The planets are daughters of the Sun, each of the them endowed with a piece of the solar soul, with a distinct character or song and influence on our destinies, their names identified by the ancient sages with those of the great gods who represent the divine faculties in action in the universe.

Follow the footsteps of their cosmic dance through moments of disquiet and tranquility, from aloneness to love and light where the celestial anthem is sweetly audible.

an image of the planet Mars

MARS – THE BRINGER OF WAR

The internal war … Red is the color of Mars, of blood, of fire.

Not a conscious force, but a drive, an urge, passionate Mars is pure masculine instinct. Soldierly and upright. Violent, yet disciplined. Competitive. A taker of risks. Mars is the cosmic engine of growth, teaching through experience that sometimes we must tear down – or be torn apart – in order to build anew.

The Southern Pinwheel nebula in the background. Vincent in angst and agony, his hand on his racing heart. Text reads: I all alone beweep my outcast state

RESTLESSNESS

D. H. Lawrence

At the open door of the room I stand and look at the night,
Hold my hand to catch the raindrops, that slant into sight,
Arriving grey from the darkness above suddenly into the light of the room.
I will escape from the hollow room, the box of light,
And be out in the bewildering darkness, which is always fecund, which might
Mate my hungry soul with a germ of its womb.

I will go out to the night, as a man goes down to the shore
To draw his net through the surf’s thin line, at the dawn before
The sun warms the sea, little, lonely and sad, sifting the sobbing tide.
I will sift the surf that edges the night, with my net,
the four Strands of my eyes and my lips and my hands and my feet, sifting the store
Of flotsam until my soul is tired or satisfied.

I will catch in my eyes’ quick net
The faces of all the women as they go past,
Bend over them with my soul, to cherish the wet
Cheeks and wet hair a moment, saying: “Is it you?”
Looking earnestly under the dark umbrellas, held fast
Against the wind; and if, where the lamplight blew
Its rainy swill about us, she answered me
With a laugh and a merry wildness that it was she
Who was seeking me, and had found me at last to free
Me now from the stunting bonds of my chastity,
How glad I should be!

Moving along in the mysterious ebb of the night
Pass the men whose eyes are shut like anemones in a dark pool;
Why don’t they open with vision and speak to me, what have they in sight?
Why do I wander aimless among them, desirous fool?
I can always linger over the huddled books on the stalls,
Always gladden my amorous fingers with the touch of their leaves,
Always kneel in courtship to the shelves in the doorways, where falls
The shadow, always offer myself to one mistress, who always receives.

But oh, it is not enough, it is all no good.
There is something I want to feel in my running blood,
Something I want to touch; I must hold my face to the rain,
I must hold my face to the wind, and let it explain
Me its life as it hurries in secret.
I will trail my hands again through the drenched, cold leaves
Till my hands are full of the chillness and touch of leaves,
Till at length they induce me to sleep, and to forget.

an image of the planet Venus

VENUS – THE BRINGER OF PEACE

Entirely feminine, she creates harmony from discord, dispels the cold, tames the warring nature of Mars – his counterpoint. She is beauty and desire, sensual, nurturing. Through her influence we find balance. We bond; we are grateful. 

We find a life worth living.

Catherine's image, the long stem rosette nebula in the background. Text reads: For me, it was the end of my aloneness

SONNET LXIX

Pablo Neruda

Maybe nothingness is to be without your presence,
without you moving, slicing the noon
like a blue flower, without you walking
later through the fog and the cobbles, 

without the light you carry in your hand,
golden, which maybe others will not see,
which maybe no one knew was growing
like the red beginnings of a rose.

In short, without your presence: without your coming
suddenly, incitingly, to know my life,
gust of a rosebush, wheat of wind:

since then I am because you are,
since then you are, I am, we are,
and through love I will be, you will be, we’ll be. 

an image of the planet Mercury

MERCURY – THE WINGED MESSENGER

Quick and agile, curious, intense, Mercury is the god of the crossroads. One foot in the physical world, the other in the realm of the unseen, he bridges the everyday and the eternal. He counsels, delivers the divine message.

Silver, he reflects … remembers. He shepherds our thoughts, sees the words to our lips, to our pens …

The Tarantula nebula in the background, Vincent and Catherine in a grateful embrace. Text reads: We don't know what the limits are

VARIATION ON A THEME BY RILKE

Denise Levertov

A certain day became a presence to me;
there it was, confronting me – a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
from the height of noon, it leaned over
and struck my shoulder as if with
the flat of a sword, granting me
honor and a task. The day’s blow
rang out, metallic – or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.

 

 

(The Book of Hours, Book I, Poem 1, Stanza 1)

an image of the planet Jupiter

JUPITER – THE BRINGER OF JOLLITY

Jupiter is a giant, self-illuminating planet, radiating more energy than he receives.

He has no thunderbolts to hurtle down on us, only knowing smiles. With his massive gravity, he captures or expels dangers that might otherwise threaten those he loves. He encourages understanding, generosity and tolerance. He is the Uplifter; he is happiness and abundance, the prime of life. He risks. He protects. He trusts. He knows joy.

Vincent almost laughing, the Dark River nebula in the background. Text reads: There are some things worth risking everything for

YOUR LAUGHTER

Pablo Neruda

Take bread away from me, if you wish,
take air away, but
do not take from me your laughter.

Do not take away the rose,
the lance flower that you pluck,
the water that suddenly
bursts forth in joy,
the sudden wave
of silver born in you.

My struggle is harsh and I come back
with eyes tired
at times from having seen
the unchanging earth,
but when your laughter enters
it rises to the sky seeking me
and it opens for me all
the doors of life.

My love, in the darkest
hour your laughter
opens, and if suddenly
you see my blood staining
the stones of the street,
laugh, because your laughter
will be for my hands
like a fresh sword.

Next to the sea in the autumn,
your laughter must raise
its foamy cascade,
and in the spring, love,
I want your laughter like
the flower I was waiting for,
the blue flower, the rose
of my echoing country.

Laugh at the night,
at the day, at the moon,
laugh at the twisted
streets of the island,
laugh at this clumsy
boy who loves you,
but when I open
my eyes and close them,
when my steps go,
when my steps return,
deny me bread, air,
light, spring,
but never your laughter
for I would die.

an image of the planet Saturn

SATURN – THE BRINGER OF OLD AGE

What Jupiter expands, Saturn constricts. He is a dour governor of authority and discipline. His dust rings cast a cloud of self-doubt. He reminds us of our boundaries and responsibilities, tests our resolve, our commitments. His lessons require perseverance through these trials – the dark night of the soul.

But while Saturn delays, he does not deny. Truths must be faced, yes; choices made. We must recognize who and what we are, what we truly want, what we’re gladly willing to pay to have … everything.

The Light from the Heart nebula in the background, Vincent gazing pensively into the distance. Text reads: When all is said and done ...
Catherine looking pensive, the Antennae nebula in the background. Text reads: You've got to follow your heart

WINTER SOLSTICE

Jody Aliesan

when you startle awake in the dark morning
heart pounding breathing fast
sitting bolt upright staring into
dark whirlpool black hole
feeling its suction

get out of bed
knock at the door of your nearest friend
ask to lie down ask to be held

listen while whispered words
turn the hole into deep night sky
stars close together
winter moon rising over white fields
nearby wren rustling dry leaves
distant owl echoing
two people walking up the road laughing

let your soul laugh
let your heart sigh out
that long held breath so hollow in your stomach
so swollen in your throat

already light is returning pairs of wings
lift softly off your eyelids one by one
each feathered edge clearer between you
and the pearl veil of day

you have nothing to do but live.

from Grief Sweat
Broken Moon Press. Seattle, WA.1991.

 

an image of the planet Uranus

URANUS – THE MAGICIAN

Ah, the Awakener.

We find a comfortable routine; we tread the same daily path until we wear it to a rut and in it our vision, our lives are contained. But Uranus dances in with new ideas, change, even shocking revelations.

The gift of Uranus is to set us free, to make us feel more alive. He releases our spirit and free will to break with law and tradition and expectation.

Vincent and Catherine in a starry setting. Vincent looking at Catherine. Text reads: are we forever bound to accept a poem for a sunset?

SILENT NOON

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Your hands lie open in the long fresh grass,
The finger-points look through like rosy blooms:
Your eyes smile peace. The pasture gleams and glooms
‘Neath billowing skies that scatter and amass.
All round our nest, far as the eye can pass,
Are golden kingcup-fields with silver edge
Where the cow-parsley skirts the hawthorn-hedge.
The visible silence, still as the hour-glass. 

Deep in the sun-searched growths the dragon-fly
Hangs like a blue thread loosened from the sky:
So this wing’d hour is dropt to us from above.
Oh! clasp we to our hearts, for deathless dower,
This close-companioned inarticulate hour
When twofold silence was the song of love.

an image of the planet Neptune

NEPTUNE – THE MYSTIC

Neptune is divine compassion, the protector of the abandoned and oppressed. Its vibration neither of matter nor of this Earth, Neptune rules all that is mysterious – dreams, spirituality, psychic receptivity, the imagination. Guides us toward our spiritual destinies, nudges us to rise above the mundane existence to manifest our genius, provides the fitting end of a cycle of life that began with the rocky torment of Mars.

Unlimited possibilities … the reward for our travels and travails. We see it at last, know it ~ the illumination of the indwelling Love Presence – the Love that is Light. 

The Butterfly nebula, Catherine and Vincent, his arm around her waist, looking toward the stars. Text reads: With love, all things are possible

A WALK

Rainer Maria Rilke

My eyes already touch the sunny hill,
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has inner light, even from a distance –

and changes us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on
answering our own wave …
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.

an image of the Moon

THE MOON

The Moon represents our inner world of feelings and emotions, our self-concept. It is mysterious and cloaks our deepest personal needs. The moon animates us; we respond, receive, reflect. We ebb and flow with its pull. In balance to the other Luminary – the Sun – the Moon infuses the past into our lives through mood and memory. The Moon speaks of our night world, of the shadows, the unconscious, of our dreams. It is the private self, the unguarded you that acts on instinct, that manifests in a crisis.

And the Moon is of a dual nature, one face encouraging the imaginative, creative, intuitive, the protective; the other indulging moodiness, irrationality … retreat. Though considered a feminine body, the Moon is Vincent …

 

The Butterfly nebula, Catherine and Vincent, his arm around her waist, looking toward the stars. Text reads: With love, all things are possible

NIGHT

Rainer Maria Rilke

Night. O you whose countenance, dissolved
in deepness, hovers above my face.
You who are the heaviest counterweight
to my astoundin contemplation.

Night, that trembles as reflected in my eyes,
but in itself strong;
inexhaustible creation, dominant,
enduring beyond the earth’s endurance;

Night, full of newly created stars that leave
trails of fire streaming from their seams
as they soar in inaudible adventure
through interstellar space:

how, overshadowed by your all-embracing vastness,
I appear minute! –
Yet, being one with the ever more darkening earth,
I dare to be in you.

an image of the Sun

AND CATHERINE … THE SUN

Considered a masculine body, the Sun symbolizes consciousness, the strong will, the drive for significance, our individuality. The Sun is the star-center around which the Earth and all the other planets revolve.

The Sun’s glow is the vital life force; at its core is the divine spark of all living things. From it we draw courage, determination, the will to succeed. We find our life’s purpose in the Sun, our self … realized.

The Omega Swan nebula, Vincent and Catherine in an embrace. Text reads: Ever since that night, I'm reminded what a gift life is

THE GIVER OF STARS

Amy Lowell

Hold your soul open for my welcoming.
Let the quiet of your spirit bathe me
With its clear and rippled coolness,
That, loose-limbed and weary, I find rest,
Outstretched upon your peace, as on a bed of ivory.
Let the flickering flame of your soul play all about me,
That into my limbs may come the keenness of fire,
The life and joy of tongues of flame,
And, going out from you, tightly strung and in tune,
I may rouse the blear-eyed world,
And pour into it the beauty which you have begotten.

Vincent kneeling on the bridge at the Mirror Pool, gazing on the reflections of the stars

Author’s Note: This project was originally created for WFOL 2011 – the Poem of the Day. To hear the verses read aloud by participating fans, visit the 2011 Great Hall Library.

Inspirations

Gustav Holst described The Planets Op. 32, first performed in 1918, as a series of mood pictures based on the characters of the Roman gods after which the planets were named, interpretive of the progression of life. The poems are presented in the order of the seven movements of his orchestral suite and illustrate, with some poetic license, his titles and themes. The Planets Suite can be heard on YouTube.

Influenced by Holst, Mike Oldfield’s Music of the Spheres is an interpretation of the ancient theory of Musica Universalis. Said Oldfield, “Every planet and every star, even the whole universe has music within it that no-one can hear. This is what it would sound like if it were set free.”

And lovely it is, a performance surely enjoyed beneath the bandshell, just under the front row …

 

References

Thomas Stanley. The History of Philosophy. (c. 1660.)

William Shakespeare. The Merchant of Venice. 1598.

Dylan Thomas. And Death Shall Have No Dominion. 1933.

Gustav Holst ~ gustavholst.info

Mike Oldfield ~ mikeoldfieldofficial.com

The nebula and planet photographs were taken, not stolen, from NASA’s public-domain galleries –

www.nasa.gov and hubblesite.org

 

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