Music has charms to soothe a savage beast.
The words, written in verse centuries ago, are quoted frequently, even today.
I don’t disagree.
I’m remembering a weekend, some time ago, when I reveled in the harmonious, percussive notes of a skillfully played hammered dulcimer, listened in awe to the sweet, mellow tones of my favorite trumpet player, and wiped away tears at the conclusion of an amazing vocal duet rendition of an aria from an opera (you read that right, an opera).
In between those numbers that weekend, I played and sang a bit myself, as well as heard several other artists who were skillfully adept at their craft.
This savage beast’s heart was soothed. For awhile. But, for some reason, I hear something else in my head tonight.
Well, it’s been a busy week in Lake Wobegon.
I can even hear the quiet, smooth tonality of Garrison Keillor’s baritone voice as I write this, although I’m not quite sure why those words come to mind.
I suppose I may have been a little down in the mouth recently. You know—the worries of life are starting to pile up here and there; the things I usually can control have gotten away from me a bit.
Instead of a perpetual grin, the corners of the mouth are turned down somewhat, and it’s harder than usual to work up to a smile.
Thus, the descriptive phrase down in the mouth seems to cover my attitude most appropriately.
Every time I ever heard Mr. Keillor utter the opening sentence to the story-telling session on his radio program, I was struck anew by the name of his fictitious town.
He avers that the name comes from an old Native American word meaning the place where we waited all day in the rain for you. It is not exactly the correct origin for the word it sounds like, woebegone, but it comes awfully close.
The idea of waiting in the rain for someone who never arrives just about describes the depth of the feeling of being woebegone, a word that really comes from the Middle English meaning beset by woe. Either way, an apt description for someone who is down in the mouth.
As I sat and listened that weekend to the jaw-droppingly beautiful tones that emanated from the young lady’s silver trumpet, my inner being was touched. And then, as mother and daughter sang their operatic duet in a language I will never understand, I ached for more.
But more of what?
I know by experience that I soon tire of the same music, played or sung again and again. A recording would not suffice, nor would simply attending recitals day after day to hear the artists ply their craft.
I am convinced beauty on earth is given to remind us there is more. Something more satisfying is to come.
What we have here, beautiful as it may be, is only a shadow of what is to be ours one day.
Many centuries ago, the writer of psalms understood that, even as he struggled with his own inner sadness. He was woebegone, down in the mouth, but still, he wrote deep calls unto deep, and told of his Creator’s unspeakable love and glory, evidenced by the world around him.
Like Job, the afflicted one, he outlined his troubles and then reiterated, for I will yet praise Him. (Psalm 42:7-11)
Some of us drown our sorrows with alcohol, some with work, some with denial. I listen for hours to music, reveling in the intrinsic beauty of the chords, and the harmonies, and the melodies.
For all, it is the same. The time comes when reality must be faced.
The music ends, the fat lady sings, if you will.
We who believe have a promise that will still keep us on the path. The knowledge, the certainty, that there is more is enough to give us strength and perseverance to go on through what lies ahead.
Not around and not under. Through.
I don’t know about you, but I’m going on.
The oases along the way—the music, the fellowship, the joy—those only lend credence to the promise that we’re just nomads, travelers in this world, on our way to a better place.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m enjoying the soundtrack while I’m here.
Even waiting in the rain.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
(Psalm 42:1,2 ~ NIV ~ Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.)
Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
(The Mourning Bride by William Congreve ~ English playwright and poet ~ 1670-1729)