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Art and Culture

Symphonies and Sunflowers

Your love was bestowed upon me

Like the Fifth Symphony to the earless

Like the Starry Night to the eyeless

My head immersed in your being

Letters multiplied when distance divided

Here I stand, familiar with your fervor

A stranger to my soul.

 

How do I empty myself of you?

Cut my ear for the stars you sowed in me to come to light

Or go deaf with the noxious rhythm of your pique

Let me swallow colors to paint a sunflower in me

Fill myself with the melody of  ‘Song of Joy’

Tell me, my love, would you still call me your masterpiece?

 

Analysis: 

This is a poem depicting the relationship of a person with his lover through the successes and tragedies in the life of the world renowned artists – Beethoven and Vincent Van Gogh. The first seven lines show the above-the-clouds phase in the relationship compared with the successes of the personalities; whereas the rest of the poem deals with the heartache of the person when the lover leaves compared with the tragedies in the life of the personalities.

 

‘Your love was bestowed upon me

Like the Fifth Symphony to the earless

Like the Starry Night to the eyeless’

 

‘The Fifth Symphony’ by Beethoven and ‘Starry Night’ by Vincent Van Gogh is their masterpiece responsible for their shot to fame. (Though Vincent’s works were recognized long after he was cold in his grave.) In the poem, the person is nostalgic about his lover. He says that the love he was blessed with was something too magnificent for him to comprehend, not something he was used to.

 

‘My head immersed in your being

Letters multiplied when distance divided’

 

These lines are related to Beethoven’s life. To make the most of his time, Beethoven used to immerse his head in cold water to stay awake (which also played a role in his demise) while in the poem, the person is immersed in the very existence of his lover harming himself in the process. This also gives a hint of obsession.

Beethoven was hopeless in maths. All his life he could never learn multiplication or division. In the poem, the effort and commitment of the person is being portrayed. He is going to the farthest ends, doing things he isn’t used to or doesn’t know, to stay connected to his lover even when distance divided them.

 

‘Here I stand, familiar with your fervor

A stranger to my soul.’

 

These lines are related to Van Gogh’s life. It is believed that he fell somewhere along the autism spectrum. Not only were his sibling’s strangers to him but he was a stranger to himself. In the poem, the person is aware of the passions of his lover but doesn’t care for himself. This strengthens the indication of obsession.

 

‘How do I empty myself of you?

Cut my ear for the stars you sowed in me to come to light

Or go deaf with the noxious rhythm of your pique’

 

In the poem, he was filled with the very being of his lover now since she has left; he wants to empty himself of her existence. ‘Cut my ear’ refers to Van Gogh’s ear, which he cut off to gift it to a prostitute. ‘Go deaf’ refers to Beethoven going deaf probably due to poisonous (noxious) lead. These are the significant tragedies in the lives of these personalities which the person is comparing with his heartache.

 

‘Let me swallow colors to paint a sunflower in me

Fill myself with the melody of ‘Song of Joy’

Tell me, my love, would you still call me your masterpiece?’

 

. ‘Sunflowers’ is a masterpiece by Van Gogh and the ‘Song of Joy’ is my personal favorite. These works were made by the artists when they were depressed or were suffering from untreated mental illness. People ask how the world would be deprived of their masterpieces if it was not for their mental illness, thus valuing the art more than the sanity of the artist. The question is, were the artists content with what their mental illness lead to? Were they really happy about it?  Did they consider the work they did in distress, fighting a war with themselves, a ‘masterpiece’?

~NAIR ANANDHA LEKSHMI

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