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Menings | Opinion > Briewe | Letters > SpeakEasy

Poetry and lyrics


De Waal Venter - 2008-06-25

Hello Music Lover

I read Bernard Odendaal's article and I think he covers the subject thoroughly. It is clear that lyrics vary in quality, just as poetry does. On the one hand one has Schiller's "Ode an die Freude" that Beethoven used in his ninth symphony, or a chanson like "Plaisir d'Amour", or in our times, the Watershed lyrics you mention. On the other hand the meaningless lyrics of so many pop songs.

Lyrics can be poetry, as in "An die Freude", but there is a tendency to adapt the poem to the nature of the music. "An die Freude" is not sung exactly as Schiller wrote it. On the other hand, good lyrics - written specifically for a piece of music - tend not to be good poetry that can stand on its own without the backing of the music. There may be exceptions to the rule.

To simplify: good lyrics complement the music they are associated with, and good poetry is meant to be appreciated independently.

A somewhat similar concept is seen when poetry is illustrated with images - drawings, paintings or photos. When a poem is accompanied by an image, it changes the perception of the reader. The image "interprets" the poem to a degree, and it may not always be what the poet had in mind. That is why most poetry nowadays is printed without images. Similarly, most poetry is published without musical accompaniment. The words need to be interpreted on their own.

De Waal Venter