Begone Melancholia (Albert Schweitzer)

My father always raved on about Schweitzer, so one day i decided to read up on him. I was amazed at his care for creation, even down to the humble ant. In his Congo hospital he kept a menagerie of local animals, as well as cats and dogs. Schweitzer was a well respected theologian, doctor and organist. Playing Bach on the piano was a salve for his depression.

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


Begone, melancholia, blessing beckons

from Bach’s well-tempered world,

recreated on a lead-lined piano.


Baroque progressions defiantly declare

mathematical joy, chroma chords,

almost-eternal that octave “leap”.


Did operatic parrot screech compete?

Did roguish monkeys press random keys,

pick through pockets as you played,

causing your generous laugh?


Did Bach’s hope holistically heal

bewitched hearts in Lambarene?

Piano melodies musically haloed

that Congo jungle compound;

your medical mind blessed broken bodies.


You empathised with fallen creation:

the lion not yet lying down with the lamb.

No adulating applause, no ovation required;

a far cry from cathedral concert audiences,

reverentially listening to your recitals.


Your eternal-searching eyes curtained

by long, tousled, unkempt hair.

Your piano playing passionate:

an oceanic sound-swell, baptising,

heaven-grasping harmonies,

hymnal, hard-won uncertainties,

lauding your cosmic Creator.


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