I seem to remember mentioning this before, but I couldn't find it, so maybe it was archived or I dreamed it.
Anyway, I'm not sure if anyone else is familiar with The Wanderer by Kahlil Gibran, but one of my favorite parables in it is called the Two Poems:
Many centuries ago, on a road to Athens, two poets met, and they were glad to see one another.
And one poet asked the other saying, "What have you composed of late, and how goes it with your lyre?"
And the other poet answered and said with pride, "I have but now finished the greatest of my poems, perchance the greatest poem yet written in Greek. It is an invocation to Zeus the Supreme."
Then he took from beneath his cloak a parchment, saying, "Here, behold, I have it with me, and I would fain read it to you. Come, let us sit in the shade of that white cypress."
And the poet read his poem. And it was a long poem.
And the other poet said in kindliness, "This is a great poem. It will live through the ages, and in it you shall be glorified."
And the first poet said calmly, "And what have you been writing these late days?"
And the other another, "I have written but little. Only eight lines in remembrance of a child playing in a garden." And he recited the lines.
The first poet said, "Not so bad; not so bad."
And they parted.
And now after two thousand years the eight lines of the one poet are read in every tongue, and are loved and cherished.
And though the other poem has indeed come down through the ages in libraries and in the cells of scholars, and though it is remembered, it is neither loved nor read.
It seems likely then that this could have been the inspiration for "Eight Line Poem." If it was, however, I think that Bowie failed. Eight Line Poem certainly isn't as well known or liked as some of his more epic songs.
Richard Cory went home last night and put a bullet through his head.
That's a really interesting observation.
The concept of an eight line poem may be being applied to the album rather than just the song. Musically, The Man who Sold the World was a much more intelligent album than Hunky Dory. TMWSTW peaked at #26 while Hunky Dory made it to #3.
But that's really just me throwing out ideas, I wouldn't put too much stock in it. The concept might make more sense had Bowie been consistently producing "higher" music in the days preceding Hunky Dory.
Shackle your minds and you're left on the cross
When ignorance reigns, life is lost
In reply to:
It seems likely then that this could have been the inspiration for "Eight Line Poem". If it was, however, I think that Bowie failed. Eight Line Poem certainly isn't as well known or liked as some of his more epic songs.
It depends on what his motivation was. If, as you seem to be suggesting, he was attempting to recreate the Eight Line Poem of old then, yes, he probably did fail, as his song is unlikely to be remembered in the same way.
However, it might just be that he took the idea purely as an inspiration and wrote his own Eight Line Poem, making it more of an artistic exercise. And, of course, it is highly likely that it is a reference to Kahlil Gibran, as he was a well-known figure at the time and the fact that he was also referred to in The Width Of A Circle demonstrates that he had not escaped Bowie's attention.
Well I wouldn't buy no merchandise
And I wouldn't go to war