Sunday, November 23, 2008

Wordsworth & Pink Floyd

Last night I was at a birthday party, which ended with a group of us having a sing-a-long. As I was leaving, the group was singing Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb." I love this song, and know every word.

It has long been on my mind how this song reminds me of the Romantic poets---Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, etc.

Long, long ago in college, I remember discussing the philosophy of the Romantic poets, which I was very intrigued with. Wordsworth (1770-1850) ardently believed in the sanctity of the natural world, as a pathway to a spiritual "oneness". If the material world "is too much with us," we get out of tune with the oneness, and become spiritually bereft. Wordsworth also believed that children were naturally closer to the 'oneness'.

Wordsworth also lived during the time of the impeding Industrial Revolution in England, which dramatically altered rural life, and encroached upon the natural world. I have often thought about how Pink Floyd's lyrics express Wordsworth's belief, about how children can see and feel the spiritual world, without even realizing.

In the case of Pink Floyd, however, it is drugs that bring you closer to this "oneness."

William Wordsworth, 1806
The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,

The winds that will be howling at all hours,

And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,

For this, for everything, we are out of tune;

It moves us not.--Great God!
I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;

Have sight of
Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old
Triton blow his wreathed horn.

Pink Floyd "Comfortably Numb" 1979

Hello? Is there anybody in there?
Just nod if you can hear me.

Is there anyone at home?

Come on, Come on, Come on, now,

I hear you're feeling down.

I can ease your pain

Get you on your feet again.

I'll need some information first.
Just the basic facts.
Can you show me where it hurts?

There is no pain you are receding

A distant ship's smoke on the horizon.

You are only coming through in waves.

Your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying.

When I was a child I had a FEVER
My hands felt just like two balloons.

Now I've got that feeling once again

I can't explain, you would not understand
This is not how I am.

I have become comfortably numb.
I have become comfortably numb.

Just a little pin prick.
There'll be no more aaaaaaaaah!

But you may feel a little sick.

Can you stand up?

I do believe it's working, good.
That'll keep you going through the show

Come on it's time to go.

There is no pain you are receding

A distant ship's smoke on the horizon.

You are only coming through in waves.

Your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying.

When I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye.

I turned to look but it was gone

I cannot put my finger on it now

The child is grown,

The dream is gone.

I have become comfortably numb.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

YEs, this oneness as Wordsworth describes sounds very much like the workings of the Higher Power discussed in certain circles. I know the feeling. When I'm deeply immersed in making art I feel that one-ness and it's the greatest feeling I know. I wish I could maintain it at all times.

Love the Floyd too, as you know. Actually the Floyd members weren't the big drug users their music suggested they were, but the character in The Wall who sang this song, certainly was.

Nice comparison. I believe that there is much poetry and spirituality in rock music if one is open to it.