You may not know today’s poem, but there are some lines here you’ve definitely heard. This one’s another of my favorites, but then again, these are all my favorites. 🙂 Enjoy!
by Arthur O’Shaughnessy
We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
With wonderful deathless ditties,
We build up the world’s cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample an empire down.
We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Ninevah with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.
Arthur O’Shaughnessy died at 37.
After losing two infants and his wife, the English poet died of a chill. He left these beautiful words behind, along with an entire collection.
Through the years, other artists have quoted him often. Even Willy Wonka said, “We are the music-makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.”
Haven’t we all grown up using the phrase, movers and shakers?
This poem reminds me that we have so much power to shake up the world with our words and our music and our art.
We can move people to action, with our own ability to dream and create. Every period of human history has been changed by human contribution.
But artists, writers, painters, and poets all understand it can be a lonely occupation, especially if you push against the status quo.
In O’Shaughnessy’s day, artists lived extremely difficult lives. They were “World-losers and world-forsakers.” Can this be said of us today? It’s precisely what draws me to poets of old. They had a vision, and they put words to it. They lived in a world of imagination.
They imagined something better for the world, and this they shared.
They built up “the world’s cities, And out of a fabulous story” They “fashion[ed] and empire’s glory.”
In order to achieve something great with their art–to be both movers and shakers–they had to first be world-losers and world-forsakers.
But sometimes building the world’s cities takes a different direction. In the end of these 3 stanzas, the poet speaks of Babel and Ninevah. These two biblical cities shared this in common–deep-seated pride and defiance of God.
Babel: “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves…” (Genesis 11:4)
Ninevah: “Whatever they plot against the Lord He will bring to an end.” (Nahum 1:9)
We can say for certain that generations will come and go. People will still make music, dream dreams, and share recycled visions.
In every age, there will be movers and shakers.
But I wonder, of what kind?
Who will go where God tells her to go and say what He tells her to say?
Who will move away from towers and stages and enterprises and reign in human pride?
Who will rally a city to make a name for God rather than a name for ourselves?
After all, we are the music-makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.
Write about a dream that is coming to birth.