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Mr. Fox
02-28-2011, 02:56 AM
From the top of the flight
Of the wide, white stairs
Through the rest of my life
Do you wait for me there?

There's a bell in my ears
There's a wide white roar
Drop a bell down the stairs
Hear it fall forevermore

Hear it fall forevermore

Drop a bell off of the dock
Blot it out in the sea
Drowning mute as a rock;
And sounding mutiny

There's a light in the wings
Hits this system of strings
From the side while they swing;
See the wires, the wires, the wires

And the articulation
In our elbows and knees
Makes us buckle as we couple in endless increase
As the audience admires

And the little white dove
Made with love, made with love:
Made with glue, and a glove, and some pliers

Swings a low sickle arc
From its perch in the dark
Settle down
Settle down my desire

And the moment I slept I was swept up in a terrible tremor
Though no longer bereft, how I shook and I couldn't remember

Then the furthermost shake drove a murthering stake in
And cleft me right down through my center
And I shouldn't say so, but I know that it was then, or never

Push me back into a tree
Bind my buttons with salt
And fill my long ears with bees
Praying: please, please, please,
Love, you ought not!
No you ought not!

Then the system of strings tugs on the tip of my wings
(cut from cardboard and old magazines)
Makes me warble and rise like a sparrow
And in the place where I stood, there is a circle of wood
A cord or two, which you chop and you stack in your barrow

It is terribly good to carry water and chop wood
Streaked with soot, heavy booted and wild-eyed;
As I crash through the rafters
And the ropes and pulleys trail after
And the holiest belfry burns sky-high

Then the slow lip of fire moves across the prairie with precision
While, somewhere, with your pliers and glue you make your first incision
And in a moment of almost-unbearable vision
Doubled over with the hunger of lions
'Hold me close', cooed the dove
Who was stuffed, now, with sawdust and diamonds

I wanted to say: why the long face?
Sparrow, perch and play songs of long face
Burro, buck and bray songs of long face!
Sing: I will swallow your sadness and eat your cold clay
Just to lift your long face

And though it may be madness, I will take to the grave
Your precious longface
And though our bones they may break, and our souls separate
- why the long face?
And though our bodies recoil from the grip of the soil
- why the long face?

In the trough of the waves
Which are pawing like dogs
Pitch we, pale-faced and grave,
As I write in my log

Then I hear a noise from the hull
Seven days out to sea
And it is the damnable bell!

And it tolls - well, I believe, that it tolls - for me!
It tolls for me!

And though my wrists and my waist seemed so easy to break
Still, my dear, I would have walked you to the very edge of the water
And they will recognise all the lines of your face
In the face of the daughter of the daughter of my daughter

and darling, we will be fine, but what was yours and mine
Appears to be a sandcastle that the gibbering wave takes
But if it's all just the same, then will you say my name:
Say my name in the morning, so I know when the wave breaks?

I wasn't born of a whistle or milked from a thistle at twilight
No, I was all horns and thorns, sprung out fully formed, knock-kneed and upright
So: enough of this terror
We deserve to know light
And grow evermore lighter and lighter
You would have seen me through
But I could not undo that desire

Oh-oh, oh-oh-oh desire
Oh-oh, oh-oh-oh desire
Oh-oh, oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh desire

From the top of the flight
Of the wide, white stairs
Through the rest of my life
Do you wait for me there

I downloaded Ys on a whim, and, at the time, I wasn’t prepared for Joanna’s voice. For some reason, though, I kept the album on my iPod and would occasionally give Cosmia a cursory listen. After a few months, I started listening to the rest of the album; the next song I decided to listen to was Sawdust and Diamonds. It was absolutely breathtaking. Joanna’s harp stands well on its own, and it makes me want to have versions of the rest of the Ys songs without the orchestra.

It’s difficult to write about Sawdust and Diamonds because it confronts more than just the ending of a relationship. S&D, to me, is more about all the sacrifices she has had to undergo in order to yield to her need to create music, which is represented by the bell that haunts the narrator throughout the song. The dove seems to be her natural desire to settle down and live a normal life, but because she cannot mute the bell, she must kill the dove.


It is terribly good to carry water and chop wood
Streaked with soot, heavy booted and wild-eyed;
As I crash through the rafters
And the ropes and pulleys trail after
And the holiest belfry burns sky-high

The first line comes from a zen saying, “Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood carry water.” In Buddhism, a person must sacrifice their desires to reach Enlightenment, so within the context of the song, the narrator leaves the life she wishes she had by dying in order to reach the Enlightenment offered by the bell.


then the slow lip of fire moves across the prairie with precision
while, somewhere, with your pliers and glue you make your first incision
and in a moment of almost-unbearable vision
doubled over with the hunger of lions
"hold me close," cooed the dove
who was stuffed now with sawdust and diamonds

However, she keeps the dove rather than just letting it experience death naturally, as a reminder and also to experience that life because despite the fact that she chose to remove it, she could not “undo that desire”.

The next section is my 2nd favorite moment in all of Ys (1st being the climax of Only Skin):


I wanted to say: why the long face?
Sparrow, perch and play songs of long face
Burro, buck and bray songs of long face!
Sing: I will swallow your sadness and eat your cold clay
Just to lift your long face

And though it may be madness, I will take to the grave
Your precious longface
And though our bones they may break, and our souls separate
- why the long face?
And though our bodies recoil from the grip of the soil
- why the long face?

The intimacy of the lyrics and her delivery make the song abrasive, but it is in this moment that I lose it. The moment is devastating until the narrator is interrupted by the “damnable bell”, and the realization finally sets in that this particular relationship will not survive no matter how much effort is put into it:


and darling, we will be fine, but what was yours and mine
Appears to be a sandcastle that the gibbering wave takes

The song ends where it began, wondering if the opportunities offered to her in this life will be available in the afterlife when she can finally escape her calling and settle down.

Here is a wonderful performance from the Unitarian Church performance in 2006:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koEIfaZAvkw

ebby
03-01-2011, 01:41 PM
That's a brilliant write up. Definite food for thought there. It's making me relisten to the song and taking in the lyrics from that context.

(again, I'll always admit to getting lost in the music and sometimes not fully hearing what the lyrics are at all.. )

Hannah.
03-01-2011, 05:03 PM
^ Same here, ebby. Joanna's music just envelops you. I often listen to Ys when I just want to tune the world out. It's definitely one of those albums that transports you to another universe. Only recently have I started to really focus on the lyrics, and it's been incredibly rewarding. I just love the pliers and glue imagery in this song. "And it tolls - well, I believe, that it tolls - for me! It tolls for me!" - that part brings me to tears every time. This song is right up there for me with Only Skin. Even when I wasn't paying attention to the lyrics, these two songs were incredibly powerful and moving for me. Oh, and excellent interpretation, Mr. Fox :)

stillorbiting
03-01-2011, 08:16 PM
Thanks for this. S&D has always been my least favorite on Ys (blasphemy, I know, I know!), and your write-up helped me understand it a bit better. I mean, I say least favorite simply because I love the other four more and something has to be last on any list, not because I hate this song by any means. But it's never gotten into my heart in the same way as the others. I'll give it another try with your thoughts in mind tonight.

PoorMatty
03-01-2011, 11:51 PM
Your interpretation of the song is pretty much identical to mine: the bell representing her artistic calling (and her desire to "blot it out," though before song's end it comes back out of the sea and tolls for her), the relationship sacrifices she has to make to devote herself to that calling, and the makeshift dove representing the simple life she longs for. My second favorite song on Ys and some of my very favorite lyrics on the record.

Canoodlefish
03-02-2011, 06:11 AM
Thanks for this. S&D has always been my least favorite on Ys (blasphemy, I know, I know!), and your write-up helped me understand it a bit better. I mean, I say least favorite simply because I love the other four more and something has to be last on any list, not because I hate this song by any means. But it's never gotten into my heart in the same way as the others. I'll give it another try with your thoughts in mind tonight.

You're not alone! I've become endeared to the song after finding out what the song's about and especially after the performance where she forgot her lyrics:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G70PDHO9jUk

Nora
06-22-2011, 11:44 PM
I love Sawdust and Diamonds - the last 2 minutes are beyond beauty. <3

When I bought Ys, I downloaded it onto my iPod and headed downstairs, planning on listening to it as I stacked cords of wood we had thrown in the basement to heat the house for the winter. You can imagine my surprise and the simple surreality of the moment when I got to this song, particularly, And in the place where I stood, there is a circle of wood, a cord or two, which you chop and you stack in your barrow. It is terribly good to carry water and chop wood, streaked with soot, heavy booted and wild-eyed...