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On Verdi Cries by 10,000 Maniacs, as Threatened

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On Verdi Cries by 10,000 Maniacs, as Threatened

The man in one-nineteen takes his tea all alone

Mornings we all rise to wireless

Verdi cries

I’m hearing opera through the door

 

The souls of men and women impassioned all

Their voices climb and fall

Battle trumpets call

I fill the bath and climb inside

Singing

 

He will not touch their pastry

But every day they bring him more

Gold from the breakfast tray

I steal them all away

And then go eat them on the shore

 

I draw a jackal-headed woman in the sand

Sing of a lover’s fate

Sealed by jealous hate

Then wash my hands in the sea

 

With just three days more

I’d have just about learned the entire score

To Aida

 

Holidays must end as you know

All these memories

Taken home with me

The opera, the stolen tea

The sand drawing, the verging sea

All years ago

 

 

(Natalie Merchant, 1987)

 

 

This floors me utterly. Always has done, and I first heard it twenty years ago and haven’t exactly gone easy on it since. Seriously, it was all I could do not to burst into tears while typing out those words. (And I’m not even gay. At least, that’s what my analyst tells me, for £60 an hour. My girlfriend says she’ll get back to me on it.) It is without doubt my favourite pop song that’s ostensibly set in a hospice. I think what’s so heartbreaking about it is that these deaths – or soon to be deaths – are pretty much the most dignified and comfortable deaths available to any human being who ever existed, but they are still curtailments of those impassioned souls, they’re still stuff that curious minds and curious bodies would have liked to have got around to but were denied the time. The world’s foremost expert on the philosopher Epicurus will kill me for this, but Epicurus, helpfully translated into the modern vernacular, says that, for you personally (and sod the weepy relatives and friends you never liked anyway) death is no biggie cos, fuck it, you’re dead, innit. But he’s wrong, cos he’s forgotten about all the stuff you could have been doing if it wasn’t for the whole being dead palaver. QED. Fuck you, Epicurus.

 

posted on Monday 2nd March, 2009

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