2001-04-07 - 11:49 p.m.
I finally switched Superdrag and His Name Is Alive out of the car stereo and replaced 'em with Alfred Deller's O Ravishing Delight which is a collection of gorgeously depressing Elizabethan airs. Well, there may be a happy one or two in there, but for the most part it's gloriously heartbreaking stuff like John Blow's "The Self-Banished":
It is not that I love you less than when before your feet I lay;
This is pretty enough, set to music, but it's the following track that I've been playing over and over - Jeremiah Clarke's "The glory of the Arcadian groves." When I first heard it, I mistook it for something from a Bach cantata - what with the double flute obbligato and the word "glory" warbled over and over, I automatically assumed it was a church piece and failed to pick up on the melancholy import of the song until I read the lyrics afterward:
The glory of the Arcadian groves
After which I played the song again, and oh, how the closing lines now haunt me with their delicate but heartrending finality:
The glory of the Arcadian groves is gone, gone, gone
I don't have the physical equivalent of vanished groves in my life - one of my college dormitories is going under the wrecking ball soon, and there's a certain motel in Lexington, Kentucky that was demolished many years ago, but I can't say I feel much nostalgia for the actual buildings. That said, I know whereof the singer speaks: I wouldn't call it "glory" myself - that word comes cheap, these days, and would sound overblown coming from my lips or my keyboard - but what shall I call it, that exultant, buoyant, radiant thrill of feeling utterly awake and alive? That is what I remember as I hear the singer's lament - it isn't absent from my present life, and it certainly wasn't omnipresent in my youth, but I can imagine that in Arcadia - Eden - it wasn't hard-won from the world that's so with us late and soon, but simply there. And exiled from Eden, the singer can be certain that it will never return - because it is the singer that cannot return to the unwary, untroubled grace that seemed a given so long ago.
And yet - here's irony for you - I felt most awake today as I was drifting off to sleep on the sofa this afternoon. I had been drinking tea and reading a magazine, and when I set both aside the cat settled herself into the crook of my arm, and I thought to myself how luxurious it was - how lucky I am - this moment of being able to set aside the world for what is here.
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