Beneath a Phrygian Sky – Loreena Mckennitt

Loreena McKennitt’s commentary on the song, taken from the transcript of an audio interview:

There’s a piece called “Beneath A Phrygian Sky” that was inspired by my visit to an archaeological site near Gordion just outside of Ankara in Turkey, in Anatolia.

And as with various archaeological sites that I visited, I’d be standing there looking at stones — and on one level they’re just stones but you can’t help but feel that these stones have been witness to extraordinary periods of history.

And in this archaeological site near Gordion they had uncovered some Celtic ruins but it appears that they weren’t quite sure whether, in fact, this was a permanent Celtic settlement or if indeed that this was a contingency of mercenaries. For the Celts were well known to be very, very fearsome warriors and that often were off battling other people’s wars.

And so this theme of stones, this theme of wars, why people go to war, but also the reflection that surely there’s enough history behind us, and embodied in that history enough lessons in it, that we should be able to be learning and improving and not making the same mistakes over and over again. So this song is as much a rumination of these threads as it is any definitive statement. But it reaches towards — if there is one thing that can and should carry us forward, it is a concept of love.

The moonlight it was dancing
On the waves, out on the sea
The stars of heaven hovered
In a shimmering galaxy

A voice from down the ages
So in haunting in its song
These ancient stones will tell us
Our love must make us strong

The breeze it wrapped around me
As I stood there on the shore
And listened to this voice
Like I never heard before

Our battles they may find us
No choice may ours to be
But hold the banner proudly
The truth will set us free

My mind was called across the years
Of rages and of strife
Of all the human misery
And all the waste of life

We wondered where our God was
In the face of so much pain
I looked up to the stars above
To find you once again

We travelled the wide oceans
Heard many call your name
With sword and gun and hatred
It all seemed much the same

Some used your name for glory
Some used it for their gain
Yet when liberty lay wanting
No lives were lost in vain

Is it not our place to wonder
As the sky does weep with tears
And all the living creatures
Look on with mortal fear

It is ours to hold the banner
Is ours to hold it long
It is ours to carry forward
Our love must make us strong

And as the warm wind carried
Its song into the night
I closed my eyes and tarried
Until the morning light

As the last star it shimmered
And the new sun’s day gave birth
It was in this magic moment
Came this prayer for mother earth

Reprise:

The moonlight it was dancing
On the waves, out on the sea
The stars of heaven hovered
In a shimmering galaxy

A voice from down the ages
So in haunting in its song
The ancient stones will tell us
Our love will make us strong

Dark Night of the Soul -Loreena Mckennitt

May, 1993 – Stratford … have been reading through the poetry of 15th century Spain, and I find myself drawn to one by the mystic writer and visionary St. John of the Cross; the untitled work is an exquisite, richly metaphoric love poem between himself and his god. It could pass as a love poem between any two at any time … His approach seems more akin to early Islamic or Judaic works in its more direct route to communication to his god … I have gone over three different translations of the poem, and am struck by how much a translation can alter our interpretation. Am reminded that most holy scriptures come to us in translation, resulting in a diversity of views.

Upon a darkened night
the flame of love was burning in my breast
And by a lantern bright
I fled my house while all in quiet rest

Shrouded by the night
and by the secret stair I quickly fled
The veil concealed my eyes
while all within lay quiet as the dead

Chorus
Oh night thou was my guide
oh night more loving than the rising sun
Oh night that joined the lover
to the beloved one
transforming each of them into the other

Upon that misty night  [ longer version ]
in secrecy, beyond such mortal sight
Without a guide or light
than that which burned so deeply in my heart

That fire t’was led me on
and shone more bright than of the midday sun
To where he waited still
it was a place where no one else could come

Chorus

Within my pounding heart
which kept itself entirely for him
He fell into his sleep
beneath the cedars all my love I gave
And by the fortress walls
the wind would brush his hair against his brow
And with its smoothest hand
caressed my every sense it would allow

Chorus

I lost myself to him
and laid my face upon my lovers breast
And care and grief grew dim
as in the mornings mist became the light
There they dimmed amongst the lilies fair
There they dimmed amongst the lilies fair
There they dimmed amongst the lilies fair

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