Thinking about Art. Part 2: A Song, a Painting, and a Poem

When I was younger (in my early to mid teens) I spent quite a bit of time at concerts. Because I lived in the Adirondacks I became extremely fond of the area’s folk music especially Dan Duggan and Peggy Lynn. One of my favorite songs that they played was Crossing the Bar which can be found on their Jamcrackers CD with Dan Berggren, another north country musician.

[After some recent research in an attempt to find a recording of this to show others, I determined that the music was written by Rani Arbo of the group “Salamander Crossing” in 1998. Here is a recording of Salamander Crossing performing this song with the lyrics displayed.]

But wait, you say. Isn’t that a Tennyson poem?

Bear with me here.

A few years later I was in an art museum and found this painting.

Lumber Schooners at Evening on Penobscot Bay (1863) by Fitz Henry Lane. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons. Located at the National Gallery of Art.

Lumber Schooners at Evening on Penobscot Bay (1863) by Fitz Henry Lane. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons. Located at the National Gallery of Art.

It struck me as the physical manifestation of the song that I knew so well.

It didn’t click until years later that it was a Tennyson poem. (Retrieved from the Poetry Foundation.)

It also didn’t click until I was much older what this poem was really about. As a young naïve child I merely thought this was a poem about someone going on a long journey. It didn’t occur to me that this poem discussed that ultimate journey. To this day I think that it is the most beautiful depiction of death I have come across. And I still think the painting depicts the words perfectly, even with my updated understanding of the song’s contents.

Life means so little without the beauty of art. It evokes emotions felt and lives lived hard yet well. Art comes in many forms and genres and can be viewed differently by each person who comes upon it. Art can be intertwined with other, seemingly unrelated, pieces. It connects people across time and space, and across social and economical divides. Take the time to appreciate art in all it’s mediums, from a song on an iPod to a painting in a museum, to a painted rock in a park.

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