Thursday, April 15, 2010

Influence and Originality

When I first heard "Galileo (Someone Like You)" by Declan O'Rourke, I assumed it was a 1950s ballad: it has that decade's self-conscious awareness of earlier poetic traditions--the sonnet, the pastoral. In fact, the song was released in 2006.

It immediately attracted critical acclaim, including from Paul Weller, who says it's the song he most wishes that he'd written himself.

I can see why. It has an aching melody, but it's also such a wonderfully influenced work. The originality of the song lies in its debt to all the other star-gazers in poetry, from "Astrophel and Stella" through to pre-rock crooners.

In fact, it seems that the "murthering boy" (of Sonnet 20) visited Galileo (d. 1642) not too long after he'd hounded Sidney (d. 1586).

Galileo fell in love as a Galilean boy,
And he wondered what in heaven who invented such a joy.
But the question got the better of his scientific mind,
And to his blind and dying gaze,
He looked up high and often sighed,
And sometimes cried,

Who puts the rainbow in the sky?
Who lights the stars at night?
Who dreamt up someone so divine?
Someone like you and made them mine?

A live recording of the song is available here.