The week has been bookended by two storm systems. Storm Ciara wailed away last weekend. Storm Dennis is huffing and puffing in a kind of toddler tantrum way as I type the Sunday weekly poem post. A little turlough was forming from the overflow of our drainage ditch yesterday. Today’s high winds seem to be evaporating some of that local flooding. By all accounts, it has been a week to stay in and write. I have three new ones in the works and some more from past weeks that could have another look to see if there is some life in them. But the one I have chosen to share is hot off the notebook this morning.
I subscribe to the marvellous Maria Popova’s Brainpickings blog, a source of great information and cogitation. The poem today was sparked by a stray line she quotes from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “insistence on the moral obligation of happiness.” For more of that bracing stuff I refer you to https://www.brainpickings.org/2018/03/05/elizabeth-barrett-browning-happiness/?mc_cid=966870fe8e&mc_eid=54fa9531a9.
The ensuing poem is a mash up with memories from a childhood nurtured on winter Saturday television, entranced by the black and white films of the 1930s and the choreography of Busby Berkeley. In 1930, in the wake of the world economic crash and before the New Deal that began to address social welfare, Fred Koehler penned the lyrics of “Get Happy”, which Harold Arlen put to a tune that any evangelical revivalist meeting would find familiar. Its emergence at that particular point of social history is pertinent. Just like Gold Diggers of 1933 could end with the show’s ultimate Forgotten Man number that has”Brother Can You Spare Me A Dime” interleaved after all the lavish choreography of “We’re in the Money,” there is a lot of popular zeitgeist packed into the cultural artefacts of any period. But so, too, is a morality transmitted in those same artefacts. Elizabeth Barratt Browning would have seen a moral imperative in Koehler’s lyrics.
Get Happy Happiness vaccinates, even in the most homeopathic of doses. There is quiet joy in a bunch of tulips- pink, white, mauve and deep purple – presented while winter storms howl and wail. Consider, too, the resilience of garden croci and snowdrops, their white blooms piercing a glum day clouded, shadowed, grimly darkening. Be happy. Sing and dance the day away, even if it is only worth just the ten cents. Keep it up. In the intervals massage your crushed toes and drink a long glass of water. Keep it up. Raise your voice no matter if you think it’s out of tune. You can speak, so keep it up. Rise and rise, like the sun. You know how to make your own fun. Get happy! Copyright © 2020 Bee Smith
If you want to check out the original inspiration of the poem and listen to Arlen and Koehler’s “Get Happy”, You Tube has a great Judy Garland version from 1950. https://youtu.be/2U-rBZREQMw.
For more thoughts to provoke removing the obstacles to happiness I refer you to the original Popova article https://www.brainpickings.org/2020/02/12/anne-gilchrist-walt-whitman-happiness/?mc_cid=966870fe8e&mc_eid=54fa9531a9