I dreaded having to move. The fact is that I’ve never really done it. Not properly. My parents never moved (or “flitted” as we call it in my part of Yorkshire) and when I came to Canada with a suitcase, a banjo and a backpack I thought I was only coming for an extended visit. l never imagined this visit would last for 28 years and counting. I had a couple of minor moves in the early years, when life was simple and belongings were few, but the bulk of what I own: the instruments, books, paperwork, tools, clothes, souvenirs and other paraphernalia have accumulated over two decades in various closets and storage cupboards to become a volume, a weight and a density that I never knew was silently growing in the background. A tumour of baggage if you will.
In downsizing to a slightly smaller place but with far less storage I knew I was going to have to purge. And so I got rid of what I thought was a lot of unnecessary stuff. And I really did think I’d done a pretty good job of attacking the ugly growth of belongings. Ha ha, more fool me! The move being now over I realize my suffering has really only just begun. I’ve simply gone from packing hell to unpacking purgatory.
Each time I open another box I find a new assortment of items that I rarely use but can’t bear to part with. And, somewhere in the middle of the move, Bob, my father-in-law passed away and there was suddenly a funeral to arrange. After the funeral his belongings also needed to be dealt with. And this, as you may imagine, has done nothing to help with the problem of having more stuff than places in which to put it.
As time has gone on other problems with the move, like the “leaky roof issue”, the “mysteriously disconnecting phone issue” and the “furniture too large to shove into the new place issue” has simply added to the pile of grief.
In times of stress and mental overload some people turn in varying degrees to sources of solace such as meditation, exercise, booze, food and prayer. At various times in my life I’ve been known to turn to those too but the best is when I turn to music.
When life is overwhelming and the mounds of concerns pile up around me I’ll take a mental health break by picking up an instrument and working on something new. It’s funny how playing a familiar song does not work nearly as well for me as learning a new song.
There’s a tingle of excitement that comes from getting to grips with a fresh piece that is like a drug to my brain. It cheers me in a way that I find hard to explain. Maybe there’s something about a new song that gives me a feeling of hope for the future: the possibility of future performances, new and different venues, a time when current concerns will be left behind – I’m really not sure what’s going on – all I know is that it helps.
And this is somewhat surprising to me because I usually think of music as something that I do to improve the mood of others rather than myself. When I’m playing my local outdoor performances and I see the smiles appearing on the faces of my audience I often think of the incorrectly quoted, Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast.
So I looked that up. Did you think it was a Shakespeare quote, like I did? It isn’t, it’s actually from a 1697 tragedy written by William Congreve called The Mourning Bride.
The original quote goes like this: “Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast.”
Notice there is no hath and no beast. By the way, you may be interested to learn that the same play also contains:
“Heaven has no rage, like love to hatred turned,
Nor hell a fury, like a woman scorned.”
This is usually paraphrased as Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
It seems to me that people tend to like putting the word hath into their quotations, maybe to give them more gravitas or to make themselves look smarter. Jeff, a singer in the Vancouver Thunderbirds Barbershop Chorus, made me laugh when he refused to sing the song Love at Home which contains the line, Time doth softly sweetly glide, firmly saying, “I don’t say the word doth”.
But what I really find interesting (now that I’ve gone and Googled the thing) is that when you read the whole speech (copied for you below) the speaker is saying the opposite of what we generally suppose the phrase means.
The speaker is saying that if music has the power to calm human hearts, turn rocks to jello and make knotted oak into soft putty how come it has no effect on me?
To that speaker I can only suggest they maybe try playing music instead of just listening. Perhaps that will work better.
by William Congreve, in The Mourning Bride, 1697:
Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
I’ve read, that things inanimate have mov’d,
And, as with living Souls, have been inform’d,
By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound.
What then am I? Am I more senseless grown
Than Trees, or Flint? O force of constant Woe!
‘Tis not in Harmony to calm my Griefs.
Anselmo sleeps, and is at Peace; last Night
The silent Tomb receiv’d the good Old King;
He and his Sorrows now are safely lodg’d
Within its cold, but hospitable Bosom.
Why am not I at Peace?
© Ralph Shaw 2016