Friday, August 1, 2014

Boisterous Devotion to the Sun, Not as a God but as a God Might Be

Jerry Garcia was born 72 years ago today. Something else I say once a year: that 4/12/78 Durham show, one of the five best nights of my life, the buzz, the girl and that week, the intimacy of the venue, the Dead on. Saw dozens of dozens of shows, others who have can vouch too, there were stinkers, there were the many meh minus to meh plus shows (though, with few exceptions, BLAST was had), then there were the shows when the band clicked, as infrequent as a come-from-behind walk-off home run home game, and made all the mehs and stinkers worth it.

Here, my favorite Dead song and favorite song the Dead covered in my favorite song meld/transformation from my favorite Dead album:


Wallace Stevens


Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
And the green freedom of a cockatoo
Upon a rug mingle to dissipate
The holy hush of ancient sacrifice.
She dreams a little, and she feels the dark
Encroachment of that old catastrophe,
As a calm darkens among water-lights.
The pungent oranges and bright, green wings
Seem things in some procession of the dead,
Winding across wide water, without sound.
The day is like wide water, without sound,
Stilled for the passing of her dreaming feet
Over the seas, to silent Palestine,
Dominion of the blood and sepulchre.


Why should she give her bounty to the dead?
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright, green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measures destined for her soul.


Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth.
No mother suckled him, no sweet land gave
Large-mannered motions to his mythy mind.
He moved among us, as a muttering king,
Magnificent, would move among his hinds,
Until our blood, commingling, virginal,
With heaven, brought such requital to desire
The very hinds discerned it, in a star.
Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be
The blood of paradise? And shall the earth
Seem all of paradise that we shall know?
The sky will be much friendlier then than now,
A part of labor and a part of pain,
And next in glory to enduring love,
Not this dividing and indifferent blue.


She says, “I am content when wakened birds,
Before they fly, test the reality
Of misty fields, by their sweet questionings;
But when the birds are gone, and their warm fields
Return no more, where, then, is paradise?”
There is not any haunt of prophecy,
Nor any old chimera of the grave,
Neither the golden underground, nor isle
Melodious, where spirits gat them home,
Nor visionary south, nor cloudy palm
Remote on heaven’s hill, that has endured
As April’s green endures; or will endure
Like her remembrance of awakened birds,
Or her desire for June and evening, tipped
By the consummation of the swallow’s wings.


She says, “But in contentment I still feel
The need of some imperishable bliss.”
Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her,
Alone, shall come fulfilment to our dreams
And our desires. Although she strews the leaves
Of sure obliteration on our paths,
The path sick sorrow took, the many paths
Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love
Whispered a little out of tenderness,
She makes the willow shiver in the sun
For maidens who were wont to sit and gaze
Upon the grass, relinquished to their feet.
She causes boys to pile new plums and pears
On disregarded plate. The maidens taste
And stray impassioned in the littering leaves.


Is there no change of death in paradise?
Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
Hang always heavy in that perfect sky,
Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
With rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receding shores
That never touch with inarticulate pang?
Why set the pear upon those river banks
Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
The silken weavings of our afternoons,
And pick the strings of our insipid lutes!
Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,
Within whose burning bosom we devise
Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.


Supple and turbulent, a ring of men
Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn
Their boisterous devotion to the sun,
Not as a god, but as a god might be,
Naked among them, like a savage source.
Their chant shall be a chant of paradise,
Out of their blood, returning to the sky;
And in their chant shall enter, voice by voice,
The windy lake wherein their lord delights,
The trees, like serafin, and echoing hills,
That choir among themselves long afterward.
They shall know well the heavenly fellowship
Of men that perish and of summer morn.
And whence they came and whither they shall go
The dew upon their feet shall manifest.


She hears, upon that water without sound,
A voice that cries, “The tomb in Palestine
Is not the porch of spirits lingering.
It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.”
We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.
Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail
Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Ambiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.

1 comment:

  1. speaking of devotion to the sun, a simpler and perhaps more exuberant example can be found in utopia's 'communion with the sun', from the album ra - of solar-centered songs on that album, i actually preferred 'sunburst finish', and was pleased to learn this morning that a 45 rpm record with both on it had been issued

    Communion with the Sun

    Ra, climbing the horizon
    Rising up the mountain, lighting up the valley below
    Ra, giver without measure
    Beacon of compassion, shining through the spectrum of life
    Day is born, night is gone
    One in all, all is one
    Communion with the sun

    Ra, ruler of all nature
    Burning on forever, melting all together in one
    Ra, holy synthesizer
    Inspiration showers green and growing gardens of love
    Voices rise to the song
    One in all, all is one
    Communion with the sun, with the sun

    Ra, Ra, Ra, Ra, Ra, Ra, Ra, Ra

    Ra, climbing the horizon
    Waves of light come rolling across the floor of the valley
    Ra, Ra, Ra, Ra, Ra
    Lift your eyes to the dawn
    One in all, all is one
    Communion with the sun



    Ritual dancer spins away
    Lost in a whirling dervish ballet
    Musicians playing out of tune
    In perfect harmony

    Traveling down the sandy track
    Compass in hand, guitar on my back
    Trying to find the secret truth
    Inside the pyramid

    Foxy pharaoh knows all, won't tell
    Dangerous knowledge locked in a cell
    Method in madness ancient logic
    Never ending mystery

    Anticipation fills the air
    As the natives gather 'round
    Watching the fiery sun go down
    In the Technicolor sky

    Exploding mandala of light
    Disappearing into darkness
    A stunning sunburst finish
    Shatters the horizon

    Eye of the sphinx now winks at you
    What is he thinking? I wish I knew
    Wonder of wisdom
    Far above this mortal comedy

    Wind of the desert blowing strong
    Mist of the ocean kissed by the sun
    Tropical splendor
    Paradise is calling you away

    Make up your mind, don't make a scene
    Wake up to find your garden is green
    Please take your seat on board
    The destination is Utopia

    Anticipation fills the air
    As the natives gather 'round
    Watching the fiery sun go down
    In the Technicolor sky

    Exploding mandala of light
    Disappearing into darkness
    A stunning sunburst finish
    Shatters the horizon

    Echoing across the canyon
    Hear the song of the gypsy caravan
    Magical voices in flight

    Looking for the next oasis
    Below the silver shadow moon
    Radiant princess of night

    Stay forever, stay for a while
    Hypnotized by sight and sound
    Empty feelings bring a frown
    Only love can make you smile