DAY ONE-HUNDRED AND FORTY-EIGHT
I had ideas and intention for accompaniment for this song, and I may still add it, but there is something very intriguing about a capella. For me, it creates endless possibilities for color and harmony change without telling you “This IS as it’s supposed to sound!” There are obvious choices one might make, but hearing only a skeleton makes the ear reach for what is only implied, not given to it so easily. I can hear strings for sure, maybe even brass…and you? It’s a healthy exercise for ears.
Writing: I found the first three notes of the opening melody by laying in my bed just plucking my uke (some of my most fulfilling ideas came while I was laying down: it works. Try it.). I went to the fancy library on 5th and 42nd not realizing that the fanciness of the library is because it’s a reference only library: you can’t check anything out. I went there to check out some W.B Yeats, but, upon walking across the street to the library where you can walk out with stuff, I got T.S. Eliot. As a girl we had his cat poetry in my house, which I liked, but never went further into his work. Upon reading “Portrait of a Lady” and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, I’m really enjoying myself. It’s really beautiful.
The lyrics, partially inspired-partially quoted, come from Eliot’s poem “The Hollow Men – A Penny for the Old Guy”. I used a healthy portion of his words (a few are used in a different order, line-for-line). It became an exercise in working with someone else’s work, attempting to intertwine, but not totally quote line-for-line, fitting them into a different intention.
Recording: This is the first take. I constructed the lyrics in conjunction with the melody. I would write a line, put melody to it, record it quickly and move on. The take you’re hearing is the first pass of putting it together. In the poem, the last line of section IV is “The hope only of empty men.” I intended to use this whole line, but accidentally said “lonely”. I also intended to use the line, “In death’s only twilight kingdom” as a reoccurring line or a more subtle chorus even.
Death’s Only Twilight Kingdom (The Hollow Men)
Cactus thin, thin like my good hand Once to live, here on deadened land Here they receive, in death’s other kingdom Lips to kiss, as a broken motion Dying star, as a broken stone Those who have crossed, in death’s other kingdom Glimpse another sun, burning across revolutions Trembling tenderness leading to no one Sightless, sunless the eyes reappear so… Leave it here my love, death’s only twilight kingdom The hope, only love, Of lonely men.
The Hollow Men – T.S. Eliot
I We are the hollow men We are the stuffed men Leaning together Headpiece filled with straw. Alas! Our dried voices, when We whisper together Are quiet and meaningless As wind in dry grass Or rats’ feet over broken glass In our dry cellar Shape without form, shade without colour, Paralysed force, gesture without motion; Those who have crossed With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom Remember us—if at all—not as lost Violent souls, but only As the hollow men The stuffed men. II Eyes I dare not meet in dreams In death’s dream kingdom These do not appear: There, the eyes are Sunlight on a broken column There, is a tree swinging And voices are In the wind’s singing More distant and more solemn Than a fading star. Let me be no nearer In death’s dream kingdom Let me also wear Such deliberate disguises Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves In a field Behaving as the wind behaves No nearer— Not that final meeting In the twilight kingdom III This is the dead land This is cactus land Here the stone images Are raised, here they receive The supplication of a dead man’s hand Under the twinkle of a fading star. Is it like this In death’s other kingdom Waking alone At the hour when we are Trembling with tenderness Lips that would kiss Form prayers to broken stone. IV The eyes are not here There are no eyes here In this valley of dying stars In this hollow valley This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms In this last of meeting places We grope together And avoid speech Gathered on this beach of the tumid river Sightless, unless The eyes reappear As the perpetual star Multifoliate rose Of death’s twilight kingdom The hope only Of empty men. V Here we go round the prickly pear Prickly pear prickly pear Here we go round the prickly pear At five o’clock in the morning. Between the idea And the reality Between the motion And the act Falls the Shadow For Thine is the Kingdom Between the conception And the creation Between the emotion And the response Falls the Shadow Life is very long Between the desire And the spasm Between the potency And the existence Between the essence And the descent Falls the Shadow For Thine is the Kingdom For Thine is Life is For Thine is the This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends Not with a bang but a whimper.