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August 28, 2010

All the Pretty Little Horses - Current 93


Even the most secular of non-believers will have hearts of stone and ears of cloth not to be profoundly moved by Nick Cave's closing recitation on Patripassian:

   The rivers of Babylon flow and fall and carry away.
   Jesus is alone on earth.
   Not merely with no one to feel and share His agony,
   But with no one even to know of it.
   Heaven and He are the only ones to know.

   Jesus is in a garden.
   Not of delight like the first Adam, who fell there and took with him all mankind,
   But of agony, where He has saved Himself and all mankind.

   He suffers this anguish and abandonment in the horror of the night.

   Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world.
   There must be no resting in the meantime.

   Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world.
   There must be no resting in the meantime.

David Tibet's poetry borrows from a section of Pascal's Pensées (lit. "thoughts") - a defence of Christianity by the 17th century philosopher. Patripassian refers to a doctrine considered heretical by the early church that God the Father was incarnate and co-suffered with the human Jesus on the cross. In classical theology it is possible for Christ to suffer only because of his human nature. The poem then is a perfectly pitched denouement to All The Pretty Little Horses, revisiting and invoking the preceding themes: suffering, abandonment, innocence blighted, mystical Passion. What we have here is the most profound and coherent expression of David Tibet's Christian mysticism "phase".

 [See comments for a translated extract and further comment on Tibet's use of Pensées].

The title track, a traditional lullaby - sung once by Tibet and later by Cave in refined Murder Ballads tones - is the leitmotif. ATPLH originally gives voice to an African American slave who cannot take care of her baby because she is too busy taking care of her master's child to whom she sings the song:

   Way down yonder, down in the meadow,
   There's a poor wee little lamby.
   The bees and the butterflies pickin' at its eyes,
   The poor wee thing cried for her mammy.

   Hush-a-bye, don't you cry,
   Go to sleepy little baby.
   When you wake, you shall have cake,
   And all the pretty little horses.


And so, poor wee little lamby. Tibet binds the southern gothic of child's rhyme with heavy ontological debate. Impressive stuff. Consonance extends to the cover art that is both kitsch and Blakean innocence lost.

Incidentally, readers of master prose stylist Cormac McCarthy will be familiar with his borrowing resonances from the same lullaby and for similar thematic ends in his novel All The Pretty Horses:

   ...it was good that God kept the truths of life from the young as they were starting out or else they'd  have no heart to start at all.

Musically, Tibet makes use of eerie and desolate reverberant loops of early choral music aiming for what sounds like a digital facsimile of that liturgicial chorale effect heard on the 70s mellotron. The electrics are blended nicely with the organic, the latter mostly acoustic guitar.

Oddi wrth y brawd


3 comments:

Y Brawd said...

Relevant extract from Pensees below. You'll see that Tibet's closing lines can be read as something of a plea not to ignore Christ's suffering as his disciples did in the garden.

The Mystery of Jesus

Jesus suffers in His passions the torments which men inflict upon Him; but in His agony He suffers the torments which He inflicts on himself. This is a suffering from no human, but an almighty hand, for He must be almighty to bear it.

Jesus seeks some comfort at least in His three dearest friends, and
they are asleep. He prays them to bear with Him for a little, and they leave Him with entire indifference, having so little compassion that it could not prevent their sleeping even for a moment. And thus Jesus was left alone to the wrath of God.

Jesus is alone on the earth, without any one not only to feel and share His suffering, but even to know of it; He and Heaven were alone in that knowledge.

Jesus is in a garden, not of delight as the first Adam, where he lost himself and the whole human race, but in one of agony, where He saved himself and the whole human race.

He suffers this affliction and this desertion in the horror of night.

I believe that Jesus never complained but on this single occasion; but then He complained as if he could no longer bear His extreme suffering.

"My soul is sorrowful, even unto death."

Jesus seeks companionship and comfort from men. This is the sole
occasion in all His life, as it seems to me. But He receives it not, for His disciples are asleep. Jesus will be in agony even to the end of the world. We must not sleep during that time.

Pastaman Vibration (ye-ah!) said...

Tibet for Pope!

Wonder what name he'd take for hisself? Me, I'd call meself "Pope Richard Dawkins the Anal" and see if the eponymous mutha sues.

Yeah I regret blowing out those Forum gigs in May but at the time it seemed like too much of a good thing. Who was it said "it's better to regret something you did than something you didn't so"?

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