The Soul Knows Its Own
by Holly Tannen
Tune: "Banks of the Bann," traditional Irish
I rediscovered the writings and life of Rimbaud in August of 1998. His poetry sent me into states of ecstatic bliss; his life, into deep mourning. All winter I struggled with it. When I tried to explain what I was going through, I could only weep. Meridian Green and Debra Dawson listened and helped me find the clarity to turn it into "Practical Alchemy." This song is for them.
They stood on my doorstep on a windy spring day
Bearing wild rhododendrons to welcome the May
Their long hair flowing, they smile as they they sing
"Come down to the river and dance in the spring.
"All the dark season, the hard winter rain
You sat at your window and stared through the pane
Starlight and moonlight, till clear light of day
Mourning a soul that was stolen away."
But I still hear his voice singing low in my ear
His hand on my shoulder as if he were here
I taste the green bitter smoke of his breath
And though I fear dying I no longer fear death.
I'll light one more candle, I'll say one more prayer
Then I'll gather wild roses to bind round my hair
He lives in my blood and he lives in my bone
For the soul grows in sorrow and the soul knows its own.
The last line comes from a story recorded by William Butler Yeats about a man taken by the sidhe (pronounced "she"), the fairies. He lived a life of perpetual bliss, but did not grow spiritually, as "the soul does not grow without sorrow."
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Mistress of Folklore
Holly Tannen teaches folklore and anthropology, and has lectured on contemporary magic at U.C. Berkeley and at Yale University. Her recordings include "Invocation", "Between the Worlds", and "Rime of the Ancient Matriarch"
updated 10 December 2002 : 10:05 Caspar (Pacific) time