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But One Had a Sorrow/That Never Was Said

So, when I started webmastering for Chizine, the real business was always CZP, and there was one book there that always had this aura of awesomeness about it. And it was "The World More Full of Weeping" which I have not read. Still not read. Shame on me.

But I think I already know this book. Because of Yeats. But also because of Loreena McKennitt. Back when I was a besotted youth, barely out of college, there was this fantastically talented and spooky young woman who played the harp and did interpretations of traditional music. And all of it was. so. beautiful. She did this song, based on Yeats, and I remember one very drunken knight, spending time with colleagues and talking about how I would much rather give unquiet dreams to trout than send faxes (a manifesto I still hold to, by the way). But that eerie feeling of the stolen child was so well captured, it haunts me still. Not something that over-familiarity with the music is likely to dispell.

But there's an eerier bit on the same album, one song earlier. It captures a very modern sense of horror so much better than most work before or since. The beauty of it is in the understatement. Listen to it, if you like. It's a marvellous short story in itself. Without saying anything, it leaves you with the tale of near-psychotic breakdown, where the young man sees his dead love, moving through the fair. And the differences in class between herself and him, she believes, will be dismissed. But were they? Why is she dead? Would her family rather have her killed than have her enter into this union that will shame them?

But none of this is spelled out. The young man simply sees his love. And records her promise that it will not be long until their wedding day—which can only be his own death.

Wonderful. Sad. Powerful. I'm probably over-interpreting, but so what? What a story!

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
asakiyume
Nov. 28th, 2010 04:56 am (UTC)
I'm probably over-interpreting

Not at all--songs and poems are the some of the best story fuel.

Loreena McKennitt is amazing. I had never heard those two songs before; they're beautiful. She picks the best poems to set to music, and then she does them perfect justice--what a gift.

What you say about class in "She Moved Through the Fair" calls to mind for me the Decemberists' "We Both Go Down Together." And another song that popped into my head--one in which the family does indeed come between the lovers (though by killing not their own but the outsider)-- is Natalie Merchant's "Diver Boy."
barry_king
Nov. 28th, 2010 07:13 pm (UTC)
They're off a very early album. 1985 in fact. "Elemental". I understand and enjoy the complexity of her new work, but sometimes the spartan furniture of the old stuff is where her talent really shines through.

I had not heard of the Decemberists. I've gone through some youtube offerings. Interesting stuff. I have not attuned to his voice, yet, so I'm missing some of the narrative. It will take time, I'm sure.

But Natalie Merchant—what a voice! I should really give her another listen-through. My mother became for a while obsessed for a while with her "Thank You" song, and I can see why. She reminds me of a cool, sophisticated version of Jan Arden, who has a true grip on the visceral emotions that carry us through the day. Ever heard of her? She's another one who carries short stories around in CD tracks, like she does in Unloved.
asakiyume
Nov. 29th, 2010 12:53 am (UTC)
I have not heard of Jan Arden! So I look forward to hearing "Unloved," but I will have to wait at least until I figure out how to make the speakers attached to this computer at my dad's house work. (I am away from home for these few days, and borrowing a computer...)

barry_king
Nov. 29th, 2010 01:24 pm (UTC)
Arden's often rough, but always genuine. Her interpretation of Leonard Cohen's "if it be your will" is one of the most moving things I've ever heard.
art_ungulate
Nov. 28th, 2010 01:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you for these. Loreena McKennitt always seems to rescue Yeats' poetry for me (after too much study of his work in college). I did not know about these pieces of McKennitt's--sounds like it's time I tracked down her latest material.

Your interpretation of 'She Moved Through The Fair' goes farther than mine--but makes more sense of it, I'd say. I got caught up in the emotion of it, without much thought for the circumstances.
barry_king
Nov. 28th, 2010 04:47 pm (UTC)
The traditional lyrics have a line "my dead love came in," which she cleverly changes to "my true love came in", leaving the moment of death ambiguous. I think it makes the story so much better.

But if you like what she does with Yeats, you should hear what she does with Blake on the same album.
birdhousefrog
Nov. 28th, 2010 02:27 pm (UTC)
Loreena McKennitt is one of the best things Canada has ever given to the rest of the world. (Not to downplay the McGarrigles or Leonard Cohen or...) She's unique.
barry_king
Nov. 28th, 2010 04:44 pm (UTC)
And seeing as it's the season... She also has the best Christmas album ever made: To Drive the Cold Winter Away.
lowly_scribe
Nov. 29th, 2010 05:49 am (UTC)
Thank you for reminding me I have one of her cds (the secrets one) somewhere here. The fair one - my interpretation is that she was alive at the fair, as he says it was the last time he saw her. She walked home alone in the moonlight (so something could have happened to her then, and of course who did it is a mystery). But that is the beauty of these old songs -- many ways to interpret them.

This is the first time I've heard this, but I see now it's been recorded by many as it's an old Irish ballad.

Found this tidbit: One Star Awake: Return of the Unknown Soldier is an allegorical gothic novel by Steven Cain that takes its title from the song and begins with a brief quotation.

Anyway, thank you for introducing this haunting song.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )