Archived Story

Beautiful poetry found in beautiful music

Published 9:47am Thursday, February 13, 2014

Column: A Happy Medium, by Erin Murtaugh

Recently, I sang a few songs for choir that are poems turned into music. Two songs that really struck me are “Two Strings, But One Voice” and “May Night.”

Here they are:

How shall I hold on to my soul, so that

it does not touch yours? How shall I lift

it gently up over you on to other things?

I would so very much like to tuck it away

among long lost objects in the dark 

in some quiet unknown place, somewhere 

which remains motionless when your depths resound.

And yet everything which touches us, you and me,

takes us together like a single bow,

drawing out from two strings but one voice.

On which instrument are we strung?

And which violinist holds us in the hand?

O sweetest of songs.

— “Love Song” by Rainer Maria Rilke


When the silvery moon

Shines through the flutt’ring leaves,

When her pale, drowsy light

Over the field she throws,

And the nightingale warbles,

I go sadly o’er hill and vale.


Somewhere hid in the leaves

Two softly cooing doves fill my heart with delight.


Yet, do I turn away

Turn to shadows that are darker

In my eye is but one tear.


Where, O vision whose smile streams like the rosy dawn

Through the depths of my soul, where

On this earth are you?


In my eye is but one tear,

It burns me,

Burns upon my cheek. 

— “Die Mainacht” by Ludwig Heinrich Christoph Hölty


The way the lyrics fit into the music perfectly amazes me. I’ve never really taken the time to appreciate poetry until I noticed them in music.

The next time you’re listening to a song that isn’t one of the more recent pop pieces with meaningless lyrics, take a minute to enjoy the words. It’s amazing what beautiful words are hidden in beautiful music.


Albert Lea resident Erin Murtaugh is a senior at Albert Lea High School.