I do enjoy it when I follow a trail and it leads to a quite unexpected quarry, with links and surprises worthy of some of the writings of Kate Shrewsday.
This evening I learnt that my publisher and friend has been called upon to take the place of an orchestra’s lost/stolen/strayed violinist for an upcoming performance. She mentioned that one of the pieces was ‘We are the Music Makers’ by Peter Klotsow. Well, I couldn’t find the latter composer at all, but was reminded of some music by Elgar set to a poem of that name. I found a ‘Proms’ recording and listened entranced, but noted that the words were (implicitly) attributed to Elgar, and I knew that to be wrong. Further research unearthed that the actual writer of this charming tribute to all artists, writers and musicians was Arthur O’Shaughnessy. The full Ode is as follows:
We are the music-makers,
aAnd we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
aAnd sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
aOn whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
oOf the world for ever, it seems.
With wonderful deathless ditties
aWe build up the world’s great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
wWe fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
aShall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample an empire down.
We, in the ages lying
iIn the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
aAnd Babel itself with our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
tTo the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
oOr one that is coming to birth.
I’m sure that the last two lines of the first stanza will leap out at you, as they did at me. Surely, ‘Movers and Shakers of the World’ is modern and most likely Our Merry Kin Big Business in origin? Not so. Arthur was an ever-so British – of all things – herpetologist. Also, he was born in 1844 and died in 1881.
He is, indeed, credited as being the inventor of that term – which has therefore been wriggling around with his snakes and lizards for far longer than I ever would have thought possible.