There in the fringe of trees between
the upper field and the edge of the one
below it that runs above the valley
one time I heard in the early
days of summer the clear ringing
six notes that I knew were the opening
of the Fingal’s Cave Overture
I heard them again and again that year
and the next summer and the year
afterward those six descending
notes the same for all the changing
in my own life since the last time
I had heard them fall past me from
the bright air in the morning of a bird
and I believed that what I had heard
would always be there if I came again
to be overtaken by that season
in that place after the winter
and I would wonder again whether
Mendelssohn really had heard them somewhere
far to the north that many years ago
looking up from his youth to listen to
those six notes of an ancestor
spilling over from a presence neither
water nor human that led to the cave
in his mind the fluted cliffs and the wave
going out and the falling water
he thought those notes could be the music for
Mendelssohn is gone and Fingal is gone
all but his name for a cave and for one
piece of music and the black-capped warbler
as we called that bird that I remember
singing there those notes descending
from the age of the ice dripping
I have not heard again this year can it
be gone then will I not hear it
from now on will the overture begin
for a time and all those who listen
feel that falling in them but as always
without knowing what they recognize

Analysis, meaning and summary of W.S. Merwin's poem The Source

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