Violin poems

April 9, 2007 at 11:14 PM · Here is my pick, Open Strings by Jan Zwicky (a philosopher, poet, violinist, Canadian)

"E, laser of the ear, ear's

vinegar, bagpipes

in a tux, the sky's blue, pointed;

A, youngest of the four, cocksure

and vulnerable, the white kid

on the basketball team — immature,

ambitious, charming,

indispensable; apprenticed

to desire;

D is the tailor

who sewed the note "I shall always love you"

into the hem of the village belle's wedding dress,

a note not discovered until ten years later in New York

where, poor and abandoned, she was ripping up the skirt

for curtains, and he came,

and he married her;

G, cathedral of the breastbone,

oak-light, earth;


Replies (31)

April 9, 2007 at 11:23 PM · Don't recall the author(ess) but it was about Sherlock Holmes:

Coin of ours can never ransom

Years now prisoner to time.

Roars the bus, where once the hansom

Trotted on the trail of crime.

etc. etc. etc. and then the final stanza:

When, as fog through pane and curtain,

Softly grey comes creeping in,

Wise, immortal, strange and certain,

Sherlock plays his violin.

April 10, 2007 at 12:12 AM · Donna Hebert has some nice violin and fiddle poetry and stories on her page:

April 10, 2007 at 01:47 AM · Yeats: From "The Wind Among The Reeds" 1899, is "The Fiddler of Dooney".

April 10, 2007 at 04:38 AM · Greetings,

That fiddle's got the devil in it!

Scott Emmons


Paganini, Paganini,

Mortal, demon, witch or genie,

Mephistophelean maestro

Of the mystic violin!

With the sting of your staccato

And your prickly pizzicato,

When you'd diddle on your fiddle,

It was little short of sin.

Paganini, Paganini,

Lean and lanky like linguine,

With a manner that was manically

Satanic when you played,

How your haunting hint of Hades

Would inflame the local ladies.

You were fiery, you were wiry,

You were very often laid!

Paganini, Paganini,

You're the fiddler's own Houdini,

A magician-cum-musician,

Be you devil, be you man.

Give the opera buffs Rossini,

Give 'em Verdi and Puccini.

Call me geek or call me weenie,

I'm a Paganini fan!

Er, cheers,


April 10, 2007 at 06:40 AM · I, too, thought immediately of Fiddler of Dooney by WB Yeats. I absolutely love it. Here is the text.

The Fiddler of Dooney

WHEN I play on my fiddle in Dooney,

Folk dance like a wave of the sea;

My cousin is priest in Kilvarnet,

My brother in Moharabuiee.

I passed my brother and cousin:

They read in their books of prayer;

I read in my book of songs

I bought at the Sligo fair.

When we come at the end of time,

To Peter sitting in state,

He will smile on the three old spirits,

But call me first through the gate;

For the good are always the merry,

Save by an evil chance,

And the merry love the fiddle

And the merry love to dance:

And when the folk there spy me,

They will all come up to me,

With ‘Here is the fiddler of Dooney!’

And dance like a wave of the sea.

April 10, 2007 at 06:56 AM · Here is another one I love. It is not about the violin per se, but about music makers.

Arthur O'Shaughnessy. 1844–1881

6. Ode

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 great 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 Nineveh 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.

April 10, 2007 at 06:58 AM · Lyrics to a song can be considered poetry, I believe. I find this one very moving.

The Touch Of The Master's Hand

By Myra Brooks Welch

'Twas battered and scarred and the auctioneer

Thought it scarcely worth his while

To waste much time on the old violin

But he held it up with a smile.

”What am I bidden, good folks,” he cried

”Who will start bidding for me?

A dollar, a dollar” - then “Two! Only two?

Two dollars, and who'll make it three?

Three dollars, once; three dollars, twice;

Going for three” - But no

From the room far back a gray haired man

Came forward and picked up the bow;

Then wiping the dust from the old violin

And tightening the loose strings

He played a melody pure and sweet

As sweet as a caroling angel sings.

The music ceased and the auctioneer

With a voice that was quiet and low

Said, “What am I bidden for the old violin?”

And he held it up with the bow.

”A thousand dollars, and who'll make it two?

Two thousand! And who'll make it three?

Three thousand once; three thousand, twice;

And going, and gone!” said he.

The people cheered and some of them cried,

”We do not understand. What changed its worth?”

Swift came the reply:

”The touch of the master's hand.”

And many a man with life out of tune

And battered and scattered with sin

Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd

Much like the old violin.

A mess of pottage a glass of wine;

A game - and he travels on.

He's going once and going twice

He's going and almost gone.

But the Master comes and the foolish crowd

Never can quite understand

The worth of a soul and the change that's wrought

By the touch of the Master's hand.

April 10, 2007 at 12:56 PM · All that's there is varnish and glue

On a box of wood and strings.

Yet with hairs on a stick, a select few

Manipulate these ordinary things,

For composers beyond compare.

Both impelled by an inner goal

To pluck sounds from the air,

And give voice to the human soul.

Sandy Marcus

April 10, 2007 at 05:34 PM · The Touch of the Master's Hand was originally a poem that someone put to a tune not the other way around. I think it is just about the most beautiful thing ever written.

April 10, 2007 at 09:00 PM · Here's something from the 16th century:

Sherlock had his Conan Doyle,

Showing music and great books don’t spoil.

But oft comes the time when a fiddler can’t play,

When minor culinary crime doesn’t pay,

Put fiddle down – prunes rampant-run in one’s intestine –

Dash then to the room that you’d do best in,

Crapping what feels like a ’72 Datsun

Proves music’s alimentary, my dear Watson.

April 11, 2007 at 01:06 AM · from Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)

(his bibliography is unclear to me-- this may be from a book called "Lyrics of Love and Laughter", or it may simply appear in a section so-titled in collections of his complete poems...)(I've been very careful in copying correctly all details within the poem:)


W'en de clouds is hangin' heavy in de sky,

An' de win's a-taihin' moughty vig'rous by,

I don' go a-sighin' all erlong de way;

I des' wo'k a-waitin' fu' de close o' day.

Case I knows w'en evenin' draps huh shadders down,

I won' care a smidgeon fu' de weathah's frown;

Let de rain go splashin', let de thundah raih,

Dey's a happy sheltah, an' I's goin' daih.

Down in my ol' cabin wa'm ez mammy's toas',

'Taters in de fiah layin' daih' to roas';

No one daih to cross me, got no talkin' pal,

But I's got de comp'ny o' my sweet brown gal.

So I spen's my evenin' listenin' to huh sing,

Lak a blessid angel; how huh voice do ring!

Sweetah den a bluebird flutterin' erroun',

W'en he sees de steamin' o' de new ploughed groun'.

Den I hugs huh closah, closah to my breas'.

Need n't sing, my da'lin', tek you' hones' res'.

Does I mean Malindy, Mandy, Lize, er Sal?

No, I means my fiddle-- dat's my sweet brown gal!

April 10, 2007 at 10:44 PM · The Old Violin

Maurice Francis Egan

Though tuneless, stringless, it lies there in dust,

Like some great thought on a forgotten page;

The soul of music cannot fade or rust, -

The voice within it stronger grows with age;

Its strings and bow are only trifling things -

A master-touch! - its sweet soul wakes and sings.

April 11, 2007 at 01:43 AM · I'm going to be sick. Or fade. Or rust in the dust.

April 11, 2007 at 02:08 AM · The following is an opening comment set alone in a space reserved ahead of the main text in a book of mine, Guitarmaking - Tradition and Technology...





I was alive in the forest

I was cut by the cruel axe

In life I was silent

In death I sweetly sing

This is an inscription on the face frets of an Elizabethan lute. And, yes it has nothing to do with the violin as it is, but of course such words apply to the violin as well.

April 11, 2007 at 02:57 AM · You beast! You lovely sexy intoxicating beast! Release me, no don't!

April 11, 2007 at 04:21 AM · Two more poems by Jan Zwicky:


Small Song

What are you thinking, little violin?

What do your clear strings dream?

"Brown rivers have gold depths. The sprightly

softness in the current of the bow."

What are you singing, my little violin?

Who are you calling now? "Truths

the trees, my parents, taught me.

The sky above your childhood home."


Small Song: Anger

I open my books

but they are closed to me.

While I slept, an iron gate

descended, and in one night

was seized with rust an thorns.

Like magic, then,

the notes of the violin

drift through the broken stones, dissolving

the knotted vines, the stems,

the hinges and the bars.


April 11, 2007 at 01:35 PM · (with apologies to Lewis Carroll)

How doth the little violin

Improve its image prudent;

And pour the notes of Bach Sonatas

O'er every golden student.

How cheerfully it seems to grin.

How neatly glisten its blings;

And welcomes little children in,

With gently smiling strings.


A violinist's prayer -

Oh, Lord, may I never impune

Your wish that I stay in tune.

Keep me from sin and trouble

And purify my stops double.

And with hope I fervently pray

That I practice 4 hours a day.

Grant that my brain and dura

Avoid any scordatura.

And be sure I will never falter

To pray at the Heifetz altar.

:) Sandy

April 11, 2007 at 04:13 PM · Posting the poems

In their entirety a

Copyright no-no?

(Just curious...)


By the way, Sander,

When you pass into Heaven,

Please leave me your mind!

(Because you are a genius!)

April 11, 2007 at 04:28 PM · Anne: Thank you, but - believe me - I'm no genius. Although...I did say to my wife the other day, "Honey, I just want you to continue to think of me as an ordinary person." She replied, "Oh, you don't have to worry about THAT."

Cheers, Sandy

April 11, 2007 at 07:22 PM · Anne,

Depends how old they are. If the author (composer, painter) of something has been dead for at least 75 years, his/her work is in the public domain. Otherwise, just be sure you attribute it.

April 11, 2007 at 07:30 PM · The reason I asked is that my Yeats collected poetry, published by Scribner, states "All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form". I didn't want to do any harm.

April 11, 2007 at 08:03 PM · Ooch. Then again, my Complete Works of Shakespeare also says "Copyright:" with the name of the publishing house below it (strangely, it was printed in Romania), and if anything is old enough to be public domain, it's Shakespeare.

I dislike copyrights in general though, and I think they should expire as soon as the artist/writer/composer, well, expires. They are only useful during the artist's life, so the artist can make a living. But after that...?

Anyway, Anna, I don't think the FBI will come charging in here anytime soon, we're probably fine.

April 11, 2007 at 09:18 PM · Maura and Anne: The copyright issues on the Internet is a brave new world. I don't know how possible it is to truly control or monitor. Also, I believe that for educational purposes, there are situations where you can copy otherwise copy-protected material. But maybe someone on this website can check that out.


April 11, 2007 at 09:47 PM · I didn't mean to spoil everybody's poetry party. I also was worried that someone could get into trouble. How about if Sandy just makes up some new ones?

April 11, 2007 at 10:58 PM · greetings,

A Study In Feeling

Ellis Parker Butler

To be a great musician you must be a man of moods,

You have to be, to understand sonatas and etudes.

To execute pianos and to fiddle with success,

With sympathy and feeling you must fairly effervesce;

It was so with Paganini, Remenzi and Cho-pang,

And so it was with Peterkin Von Gabriel O'Lang.

Monsieur O'Lang had sympathy to such a great degree.

No virtuoso ever lived was quite so great as he;

He was either very happy or very, very sad;

He was always feeling heavenly or oppositely bad;

In fact, so sympathetic that he either must enthuse

Or have the dumps; feel ecstacy or flounder in the blues.

So all agreed that Peterkin Von Gabriel O'Lang

Was the greatest violinist in the virtuoso gang.

The ladies bought his photographs and put them on the shelves

In the place of greatest honor, right beside those of themselves;

They gladly gave ten dollars for a stiff backed parquette chair.

And sat in mouth-wide happiness a-looking at his hair.

I say "a looking at his hair," I mean just what I say,

For no one ever had a chance to hear P. O'Lang play;

So subtle was his sympathy, so highly strung was he,

His moods were barometric to the very last degree;

The slightest change of weather would react upon his brain,

And fill his soul with joyousness or murder it with pain.

And when his soul was troubled he had not the heart to play.

But let his head droop sadly down in such a soulful way,

That every one that saw him declared it was worth twice

(And some there were said three times) the large admission price;

And all were quite unanimous and said it would be crude

For such a man to fiddle when he wasn't in the mood.

But when his soul was filled with joy he tossed his flowing hair

And waved his violin-bow in great circles in the air;

Ecstaticly he flourished it, for so his spirit thrilled,

Thus only could he show the joy with which his heart was filled;

And so he waved it up and down and 'round and out and in, -

But he never, never, NEVER touched it to his violin!



April 12, 2007 at 02:58 AM · LOL Buri! :)

April 13, 2007 at 03:10 AM · Maura and Anne,

I agree with Sandy that Internet copyright issues are particularly problematic (such as jurisdictional difficulties and lack of jurisprudence). Generally speaking, copyright law is in very complex and the answer has to be case by case based. Statutes and applicable common law doctrines are different among US, Canada and other commonwealth countries. There are exceptions to the copyright and the doctrine of fair dealing is often used as a defence. You may want to take a look at the following sites if you haven’t dozed off by now:

Any IP lawyer here?

April 13, 2007 at 02:53 AM · I can’t find any ancient Chinese poems on Erhu but here is one about lute and lute playing, which is pretty scary looking:^)

On Listening to Someone Play the Lute

byHo Ching-ming

A beautiful woman sets down her lute, seated here in my hall;

As the banquet ends she prepares to perform just three or four refrains.

Her lamp is alone, the moon is bright, the guests do not depart;

The strings are grieving, the melody swift, it is Autumn Night So Long.

This jeweled lute in our household has long remained unplayed,

Golden frets and pegs of jade without the look of life.

I am touched that you approach it as though with affection;

As soon as you play I cannot help but heave a string of sighs.

The songs of woodsmen echo and answer to the still of a mountain glen;

The songs of Chu are grave and grieving with the pain of a cloudy night.

The Hsiao and Hsiang and Admiring Orchids turn gradually even and free;

All in the room are only aware of the flow of the pure shang tones.

And now I hear white snow begin to settle on dark bamboo,

A raging tempest blowing against my hut beside the creek.

All of a sudden it turns into a visit to the vast and wintry,

And I know that this is the Song of Rainbow Skirts and Feather Robes.

The kung restrained and the ya stir, how they sound and respond!

Pure and cool, ten thousand glens with murmuring breeze-blown pines.

On a hazy crag all evening long, a sadly crying crane;

Where between the river and heaven, a startled coiling dragon?

From the very first my love of music has been a love of this;

The transverse flute and treble pipes only jangle in my ears.

All my life I have always cherished the longings of Chung Tzu-chi,

But in this world it is hard to meet a man like Po Ya-tzu.

And now tonight, or any night, it is this I would not forego;

Just for you I beat the measure as tears drop on my robe.

A lofty song, refined and calm, rare in the world of men;

Though the River revolves and the stars turn round do not go back home!

April 13, 2007 at 03:40 AM · Hafiz, "The Violin"

When the violin can forgive the past

it starts singing.

When the violin can stop worrying

About the future

You will become such a drunk laughing nuisance

That God will then lean down

And start combing you into His hair.

When the viloin can forgive

Every wound caused by others

The heart starts singing.

We have not come here to take prisoners,

But to surrender ever more deeply

To freedom and joy.

We have not come into this exquisite world

To hold ourselves hostage from love.

April 13, 2007 at 03:02 PM · WOW David. Thank You. You cannot underestimate how much I needed to read that poem today.

April 14, 2007 at 05:13 PM · Great! The notation is is off, but when I posted I did not have time to revise it. Hafiz had some beautiful things to say :)

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