Saturday, 18 October 2008

Dante's prayer

I was reading Ari's LJ, where she'd done a meme involving an ipod shuffle, 10 songs and writing a coherent paragraph with one sentence from each of the lyrics in order. I was alternately amused and impressed by her paragraphs, then one song and artist caught my eye.

I have loved Loreena McKennitt for years, and somehow, perhaps because of her song "All Souls' Night", I always think of her as the leaves turn colour, the nights draw in and my spiritual life shifts up a gear or several - though not always in the most orthodox fashion.

The song's title, "Dante's Prayer", arrested my attention - most obviously because of my Catholicism and the fact that I've always wanted to read the Divine Comedy (and need to stop wanting and start DOING). Less obviously, I wondered, "What does she think Dante would pray?"

So I went to look at the lyrics and found that she had somehow captured my life in the last fortnight - the intense melancholy of early October, which lingers; the sense of groundlessness, of a falling into the unknown; of moving into the welcome darkness of a long, moonlit night; the sense of reaching towards a world I know, a place that is home, that is somehow always just out of reach. And, as ever, my yearning for the mountains and the sea - I've often joked that I need to live where I can turn one way to face the mountains and the other to face an endless sea.

And, of course, love. First, last and always, love:

When the dark wood fell before me
And all the paths were overgrown
When the priests of pride say there is no other way
I tilled the sorrows of stone

I did not believe because I could not see
Though you came to me in the night
When the dawn seemed forever lost
You showed me your love in the light of the stars

Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me

Then the mountain rose before me
By the deep well of desire
From the fountain of forgiveness
Beyond the ice and the fire


Though we share this humble path, alone
How fragile is the heart:
Oh, give these clay feet wings to fly
To touch the face of the stars

Breathe life into this feeble heart
Lift this mortal veil of fear
Take these crumbled hopes, etched with tears
We'll rise above these earthly cares


Please remember me
Please remember me...

And so, as bonfires dot the rolling hillside this season of cocooning, cloaks and cocoa in the lengthening darkness, I wish you much yearning, introspection, mystery and growth. It is truly my favourite time of year. I only wish All Souls' mass wasn't trumped by a Sunday this year; I could do with black vestments, unbleached candles and a requiem mass as ritual.

And as I leave you, I offer you another question via Loreena McKennitt in this time of spiritual darkness and rebirth:

Would you like my mask?
would you like my mirror?
cries the man in the shadowing hood:
You can look at yourself,
you can look at each other,
or you can look at the face, the face of your god.

May you make the choice that brings you love and finally brings you home.

Blessed be, and Amen.

1 comment:

Ariel said...

"Dante's Prayer" is easily my favourite Loreena McKennitt song, for much the reasons you say. And "Marrakesh Night Market" is somewhere in the top five.