Begone Melancholia (Albert Schweitzer)

My father always raved on about Schweitzer, so one day I decided to read up on him. Amazed at his care for creation, from monkeys and Pelicans, to say nothing of cats and dogs, even down to the minutae of humble ants. In his Congo hospital he kept a menagerie of animals.

Schweitzer was a well respected theologian, doctor and organist. Playing Bach on the piano was a salve for his depression.

PS. This poem was used as part of a Bach / Schweitzer special celebration in America a few years ago.


Begone, melancholia Begone, melancholia,

blessing beckons from Bach’s well-tempered world,

joyful odes recreated on a lead-lined piano.

His baroque progressions defiant,

heaven-grasping, hymnal harmonies;

mathematical joy, sacred chroma-chords

make almost-Olympian octave “leap”.


Did operatic parrot screech compete?

Did roguish pet monkeys press random keys,

or pick pocket as you played,

causing your overweight laugh?


Did Bach’s hope holistically heal

bewitched pagan hearts in Lambarene,

as your medical mind blessed broken bodies.


Far from cathedral concert audiences

reverentially listening to your recitals,

piano melodies sonically haloed

that rainforest Congo compound;

adulating applause from animal audience:

the lion not yet lying down with the lamb.*


Your piano playing passionate:

an oceanic sound-swell, baptising brains.

Your eternity-searching gaze

curtained by tousled, unkempt hair:

hard-won your cosmic uncertainties,

lauding an abstract, cosmic Creator.


*  “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.” – Isaiah 11:6

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