Green, I love you, green | Inquirer News

Green, I love you, green

/ 08:02 AM June 12, 2011

In one of his television lectures, the American conductor Leonard Bernstein spoke of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, or Pathetique. He pointed to the second theme of the first movement, which in the 1940s became a popular song, “The Story of a Starry Night,” made popular by Glenn Miller.

Bernstein remarked that the third line of the second theme of  first movement was an incredible flight of inspiration.

Tchaikovsky considered Pathetique as among the best in his ouvre, and those who had heard it performed agreed. But at one time Tchaikovsky tore up the manuscript of the first drafts, and explained his action in a letter to his nephew: “The symphony is only a work written by dint of sheer will on the part of the composer; it contains nothing that is interesting or sympathetic. It should be cast aside and forgotten.”


But Tchaikovsky changed his mind and soon was passionately engrossed in his project. In a letter he told his brother: “I am now wholly occupied with the new work . . . and it is hard for me to tear myself away from it. I believe it comes into being as the best of my works… I told you that I had completed a symphony which suddenly displeased me, and I tore it up. Now I have composed a new symphony which I certainly shall not tear up.”


As an aspiring poet, I understand what Tchaikovsky meant. I often find myself laboring on an idea unable to see myself through to the finished work. I might spend hours, days, weeks, months and even years trying various approaches and still see no lead that I can latch on to, and that will take me, wherever it goes in the deep, to the pearl that we call a poem.

And yet that pearl can drop in one’s lap out of a sudden, when least expected. It happened to me recently when I was trying to write a poem about a clutch of roses, which I put on a ledge, across which fell a ray of sun. In an instant it dawned on me that the light was like a hand stealing the flowers, and I realized that there was the poem. And it just took me downwards of an hour inside a coffee shop in a busy mall to  complete it.

Inspiration is a gift, in this there is no quarrel. Reference books describe it as “an unconscious burst of creativity,” and claim that etymologically it means “being breathed upon.”

This perfectly jibes with my personal faith, that inspiration comes from the Holy Spirit, who is called “ruach,” the Hebrew word for breath.

After his Resurrection, Jesus gave that breath to his disciples. John writes of this in his Gospel, “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’”

In reference to the Holy Spirit, Hildegard of Bingen used the term “viriditas” or “the greening power of God”—the force in Creation that awakens, nurtures, preserves life.


She exclaimed, addressing the Holy Spirit, “From you clouds flow, air flies, rocks have their humors, rivers spring forth from the waters and earth wears her green vigor.”

She might well have been describing the season of spring, which inspired James Wright to write the poem “Spring Images,” which for me has the sweep and evocations of such as the third line of the second theme of the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony:

Two athletes

Are dancing in the cathedral

Of the wind.

A butterfly lights on the branch

Of your green voice.

Small antelopes

Fall asleep in the ashes

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Of the moon.

TAGS: belief, faith, religiom

© Copyright 1997-2024 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.