Here is another song by Sydney Carter, who also wrote Lord of the Dance.

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CANDLELIGHT

I am the candle light

I do not say there is a God

I only say hello.

Out of the nothingness

I have improbably come

and back again I go.

I am no messenger;

the thing I actually am

is all I ever show.

my fire is physical;

I have a body made of wax,

and soon it will be gone.

I am a miracle.

like you I contradict the night

and then I travel on.

 

Carter believed that in everything that comes into existence, God says, “Let there be light”. For him creation was never in the past tense. Dogma does not help people to live but only attention to what is being created in them and around them.

This tiny song celebrates the light of existence as communicating no message, because any message would be inadequate to express the miracle of existence. Being light is more important than any theory of light, being alive than any theory about life.

All creation is de nihilo, from nothingness, and as such improbable. And impermanent. Existence requires matter which does not last forever in the same form.

Every existence is a miracle which stands out from the nothingness, and does not return to nothingness, but moves on.

This morning I presided at the funeral of a stillborn child. I did not read this poem, but it was in my mind as I spoke of the perfection, individuality and brevity of the child’s earthly life, and his travelling on to God, who recreates us beyond death. I urged his family to appreciate him as a miracle, and as a contradiction of the night that seemed to have enveloped him.

I also urged them to see themselves as brief miracles, however long they might live, and to be themselves with joy and courage.

Because it is the 14th of February, I had asked the family to bring Valentine Cards for the child, expressing their love for him. They did so, and I read them out. This did not deny the fragility of life, or the dignity of mourning, but simply affirmed that our brief existence is encompassed by love.

Alleluia.

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Here’s another song by Sydney Carter (see foregoing blog)

Come holy harlequin
Shake the world and shock that hypocrite.
Rock, love, carry it away
Turn it upside down.
Let the people laugh and shout
Let them in and let them out.
Rock, love, carry it away
Turn it upside down.

Come holy harlequin
Shake that steeple, rock that synagogue.
Rock, love, carry it away
Turn it upside down.
Shock the scribe and pharisee
Shatter their monopoly.
Rock, love, carry it away
Turn it upside down.

Come holy harlequin
Shake that graveyard, split that sepulchre.
Rock, love, carry it away
Turn it upside down.
Crack that clock that’s killing me
Knock it to eternity.
Rock, love, carry it away
Turn it upside down.

Leap holy harlequin
Slap that stick and show your liberty.
Rock love carry it away
Turn it upside down.
Caper with your Columbine
Turn the water into wine.
Rock, love, carry it away
Turn it upside down.

Rock, love, carry it away
Lift the world up by your levity.
Rock, love carry it away
Turn it upside down.
Let the dead begin to live
Be forgiven and forgive.
Rock, love, carry it away
Turn it upside down.

Here he’s using two dancing characters from the Commedia del Arte tradition to stand for the Christ and his partners. In face of all that is solemn,static, religious and safe, the harlequin brings ecstasy, movement, holiness and adventure. If people respond they are not coralled into an institution but into a relationship which lets them come and go. Scribe and pharisee are symbols of authoritarianism whether religious or secular.

But the dance relationship also disrupts the march of time of which there is never enough. By its pattern and rhythm it links participants to the pulse of creation rather than the clock that kills. The slapstick comedy of harlequin is linked to his sexual partnership with Columbine which in turn is linked by Carter to the wedding at Cana blessed by Christ the bridegroom of the people.

Finally Harlequin/Christ brings levity, which is of course humour, fun, dance and sex, but also lightness, the capacity to rise above dullness and death to restore life.

Sydney Carter became so aware of this integration of the ordinary and the holy, the human and the divine,that he was able to represent it vividly without departing from language and music that everyone can understand.