Larry was writing rhyme at the age of six; by 1910 [age 15], he’d been christened “Shakespeare” by friends. [He had] a passion for Shakespeare, a delight in wordplay, and a fondness for anachronistic juxtaposition. Not for nothing was Hart known as “Shakespeare.” –Dominick Symonds, author of WE’LL HAVE MANHATTAN (subtitled THE EARLY WORK OF RODGERS & HART)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

My previous post featured the words and music of Richard Rodgers and Larry Hart, which — along with the above — conveniently serve as segue into Shakespearean speculation:


What would William
have done with jazz?
Would he take jazz
where no one has?

Would jazz-you-like-
it, he accost?
Would he find jazz
love’s labor lost?

Would he have played
jazz instrument
measure for meas-
ure, or hell bent?

Or would he have,
a jazz voice, been —
the ‘King of Sing’
of noted men?

No! Peerless bard,
writer of wrongs —
if you dug jazz….
you’d write the songs.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


is an itty-bitty city in my neighboring state of Kentucky, voted “Most Beautiful Small Town in America” and noted for its annual KENTUCKY BOURBON FESTIVAL, MUSEUM OF WHISKEY, and MY OLD KENTUCKY HOME STATE PARK, site of the farm which inspired Stephen Foster to write “My Old Kentucky Home” (the state song of Kentucky).

I find the story of Stephen Foster most interesting, starting with the date of his birth: July 4, 1826 — the same day that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died hours apart. Foster was a dreamer whose love of music trumped more profitable ways of earning a living. Though he composed almost 200 songs (many of them popular in his own time), his last years were marked by poverty, a craving for liquor, and suffering from what may have been tuberculosis, dying 153 years and one week ago today (Jan. 13, 1864).

Foster can truly be considered the original bard of American music, as this 1946 quote by the late American composer and music critic, Deems Taylor, suggests:

What quality have they [Foster’s songs] that gives them such tremendous staying power? After all, other men in his day wrote songs that were as popular as his, possibly more so. What was his secret? It was, I think, that he helped fill a gap that had always existed in our musical culture. Our ancestors, coming here from all quarters of the globe, brought with them the folk songs of their native lands, but they were not peculiarly ours. It is ironic that the only race that developed a folksong literature in this country is the race that was brought here against its will, and was and has been the most brutally exploited of all — the Negro. The Negro spirituals and Stephen Foster’s songs are the nearest to completely indigenous folksongs that we have. Nor is it a coincidence that most of the best of his songs are in Negro dialect and sing the woes of the Negro. 

But I will close, in keeping with the theme of recent posts, with one of Foster’s love songs:



15 comments on “THIS POST IS FOR THE BARDS

  1. I love your articles – and always learn something new. (the tunes ain’t bad either) 🙂
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    Liked by 3 people

    • mistermuse says:

      Thank you, mgh. It’s too bad that more people don’t have the willingness to “always learn something new.” It is said that “curiosity killed the cat,” but, for humans, curiosity should be “the spice of life.” You (and other readers like you) are much appreciated!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. scifihammy says:

    Nice poem and interesting post. 🙂
    I’m sure Shakespeare would still be coming up with brand new words, if he was here today.
    Now to look for the song on Youtube, as your clip won’t play for me here.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Don Frankel says:

    Love that poem Muse.

    Sometimes Rap music or its many different types sound like iambic pentameter to me. So perhaps the Bard would be rappin’ for Jay Z. Which of course made me think of the Bob Dylan line. “Shakespeare he’s in the alley with his pointy shoes and his bells. Talkin to some French girl who says she knows me well.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. mistermuse says:

    Thanks, Don. I’m not into Rap music, so I’ll have to take your word that perhaps he “would be rappin’ for Jay Z” (whoever he is)….but your Bob Dylan comment is more up my alley (or at least not down my dead-end street).


  5. arekhill1 says:

    From the top of the charts to the bottom of the barrel…the more things change, etc. But enough cliches for one comment.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. BroadBlogs says:

    Ha ha!

    What would William
    have done with jazz?
    Would he take jazz
    where no one has?

    Ah, so Shakespearian. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Moony says:

    I find the paradox in Taylor’s appraisal of spirituals really intriguing, actually. Maybe acts of displacement inspire ever more concerted attempts to create meaning and identity? Definitely gives me a lot to think about. But who knows what sort of lyrics Shakespeare would have spun if he was alive in our time!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. mistermuse says:

    To a large extent, we are creatures — even captives — of the culture in which we grew up or in which we live. Perhaps equally as interesting as the speculation about Shakespeare in our time is how differently would each of us think if we were alive in his time.


  9. eths says:

    I truly enjoyed this song. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. mistermuse says:

    You’re welcome. It’s a beautiful song, beautifully sung.

    Liked by 1 person

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