Weekly Poem #6: A Certain Evening / Innocent When You Dream

One day late. I apologize. And I gotta admit that I didn’t have that much time to really think about a poem for this week, so I fall back on the one I had in mind for quite a while. It somehow fits the time of year, storywise it goes towards Gernhardt’s „Nacht der Nächte“, and it was one of those things you read and remember. Here goes: G.K. Chesterton’s „A Certain Evening“.

A Certain Evening

That night the whole world mingled,
The souls were babes at play,
And angel danced with devil.
And God cried, ‚Holiday!‘

The sea had climbed the mountain peaks,
And shouted to the stars
To come to play: and down they came
Splashing in happy wars.

The pine grew apples for a whim,
The cart-horse built a nest;
The oxen flew, the flowers sang,
The sun rose in the west.

And ’neath the load of many worlds,
The lowest life God made
Lifted his huge and heavy limbs
And into heaven strayed.

To where the highest life God made
Before His presence stands;
But God himself cried, ‚Holiday!‘
And she gave me both her hands.

(In: The Wild Knight and Other Poems.)

It’s one of the more interesting „nonsense-poems“ in that it describes, once again, the perfect night. Lots of miraculous things happen, even God himself (no matter if you believe he exists or not, in this text he does…) orders the moment to be a holiday. So it must REALLY be the perfect day, because normally, people make holidays for deities, not the other way round. And why is all that? Because „she gave me both her hands“ – only in the last line we learn that it’s about love. I like that.

What I also like about it, is that the lines are short, that the poem has a certain tight rhythm without becoming too hectic. That’s nicely crafted language. As you might have noticed, I am a rather musical person, listening to music a lot. And I constantly hear music „over my head“ (as Pinnick would put it). I mean, my mind makes connections from almost every sound or pattern I hear to songs I already have heard somewhere. My memory works very much along those lines.

So the first thing that struck me about Chesterton’s poem was its rhythmic similarity to Tom Waits‘ „Innocent When You Dream“ – you could easily sing along the one to the other.

This is maybe one of Waits‘ most beautiful songs – and one of his saddest. Just reading the lyrics here gives me goose bumps. I would be hard-pressed to find a connection between the two poems other than the rhythm – maybe „Innocent When You Dream“ is the continuation of „A Certain Evening“, proving that it doesn’t always stay the way it used to be. But that’s just a thought.

What’s interesting about this is, that once you connected the Chesterton poem with the music by Waits, it totally changes the poem’s tone – from overflowing joy to something else, something more melancholic.

I don’t mean to spoil the Chesterton for you, but see for yourselves…

Innocent When You Dream

The bats are in the belfry
The dew is on the moor
Where are the arms that held me
And pledged her love before
And pledged her love before

It’s such a sad old feeling
The fields are soft and green
It’s memories that I’m stealing
But you’re innocent when you dream
When you dream
You’re innocent when you dream

Running through the graveyard
We laughed my friends and I
We swore we’d be together
Until the day we died
Until the day we died

I made a golden promise
That we would never part
I gave my love a locket
And then I broke her heart
And then I broke her heart

(from: Frank’s Wild Years.)

So, there you go – I said I didn’t really have the time for a poem, and now you get two of them. And some music. What a Wednesday…

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