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Tuesday, January 08, 2013

"The Wanderer" 5.0: circa 597, 1817, 1954, 1993 and 2005

I went out walking through streets paved with gold
Lifted some stones
Saw the skin and bones of a city without a soul
I went out walking under an atomic sky
Where the ground won't turn and the rain
It burns like the tears when I said goodbye

Yeah, I went with nothing
Nothing but the thought of you
I went wandering

I went drifting through the capitals of tin
Where men can't walk or freely talk 
And sons turn their fathers in
I stopped outside a church house 
Where the citizens like to sit
They say they want the kingdom 
But they don't want God in it

I went out with nothing
Nothing but the thought of you
I went wandering


I went out riding down that old eight lane
I passed by a thousand signs 
Looking for my own name

I went with nothing 
But the thought you'd be there too
Looking for you

I went out there in search of experience
To taste and to touch and to feel 
As much as a man can before he repents

I went out searching, looking for one good man
A spirit who would not bend or break
Who would sit at his father's right hand
I went out walking with a Bbible and a gun
The word of God lay heavy on my heart
I was sure I was the one
Now Jesus, don't you wait up
Jesus I'll be home soon
Yeah, I went out for the papers
Told her I'd be back by noon

Yeah, I left with nothing 
But the thought you'd be there too
Looking for you
Yeah, I left with nothing
Nothing but the thought of you
I went wandering

If one is to engage in revisionist history, at least do it with your own history/art.

Dylan of course, is the master.

U2 has often "updated" songs from their ironic, pomo 90's to add a nicer and tidier "Christianized" ending.
(See  "The First Time" ; and "I have cursed MY rod and staff," for "I have cursed Thy rod and staff," in U22's "Love Rescue Me etc.)

But when called upon to perform "The Wanderer" after Johnny Cash's death, the band of course had to deal with Bono singing/playing the part Johnny had played (the title character).  So  to mix it up, they brilliantly intertexted some vocals from yet another song, a very different (?) song by that name for Edge to sing falsetto to.
Butt with Bono singing lines written for Johnny, taking on the persona of  a character (Bono's no stranger to doing that) who is an "unreliable (?) narrator"  ironically and counterintuitively makes the song  even more chilling (or a chilling in a different vein."

The song itself may have been victim of revisionism:

Originally called "the Preacher" (a nod to Ecclesisates).

May be  namechecking/spoundchecking  the  1817 painting,"The Wanderer above the Mists" by Caspar David Friedrich, 

Of course, one wanders/wonders about a 1954 "Lord of the Rings" connection:





But what many don't realize is that the entire song is a postmodern paraphrase of a very old poem; retooled into a post-apocalyptic landscape/soundscape.


The Wanderer is an Old English poem preserved only in an anthology known as the Exeter Book, a manuscript dating from the late 10th century. It counts 115 lines of alliterative verse. As often the case in Anglo Saxon verse, the composer and compiler are anonymous, and within the manuscript the poem is untitled...
..The poem may predate the manuscript by hundreds of years. Some scholars believe that the poem was composed around the time the Anglo-Saxonswere making the conversion to Christianity, sometime around 597, though some would date it as much as several centuries later. The inclusion of a number of Norse-influenced words, such as the compound hrimceald (ice-cold, from the Old Norse word hrimkaldr), and some unusual spelling forms, has encouraged others to date the poem to the late 9th or early 10th century.[1]
...The Wanderer conveys the meditations of a solitary exile on his past glories as a warrior in his lord's band of retainers, his present hardships and the values of forbearance and faith in the heavenly Lord. The warrior is identified as eardstapa (line 6a), usually translated as "wanderer", who roams the cold seas and walks "paths of exile" (wræclastas). He remembers the days when he served his lord, feasted together with comrades, and received precious gifts from the lord. Yet fate (wyrd) turned against him when he lost his lord, kinsmen and comrades in battle and was driven into exile. Within the poem the wanderer undergoes three phases, he starts out as the anhoga (the solitary man), then progresses to modcearig (troubled in thought), and finally becomes the snotter on mod (the wise in state of mind). As the anhoga, he dwells on the deaths of other warriors and the funeral of his lord, the modcearig meditates on past hardships, and the snotter comes to understand that life is full of hardships and these are governed by God.
However, the speaker reflects upon life while spending years in exile, and to some extent has gone beyond his personal sorrow. In this respect, the poem is a "wisdom poem." The degeneration of “earthly glory” is presented as inevitable in the poem, contrasting with the theme of salvation through faith in God.
The wanderer vividly describes his loneliness and yearning for the bright days past, and concludes with an admonition to put faith in God, "in whom all stability dwells". It has been argued by some scholars that this admonition is a later addition, as it lies at the end of a poem that some would say is otherwise entirely secular in its concerns. Opponents of this interpretation have argued that because many of the words in the poem have both secular and spiritual or religious meanings, the foundation of this argument is not on firm ground.
The psychological or spiritual progress of the wanderer has been described as an "act of courage of one sitting alone in meditation", who through embracing the values of Christianity seeks "a meaning beyond the temporary and transitory meaning of earthly values".[2]  
        -Wikipedia


And the original poem itself may have been tampered with:

.
The wanderer vividly describes his loneliness and yearning for the bright days past, and concludes with an admonition to put faith in God, "in whom all stability dwells". It has been argued by some scholars that this admonition is a later addition, as it lies at the end of a poem that some would say is otherwise entirely secular in its concerns. Opponents of this interpretation have argued that because many of the words in the poem have both secular and spiritual or religious meanings, the foundation of this argument is not on firm ground.
The psychological or spiritual progress of the wanderer has been described as an "act of courage of one sitting alone in meditation", who through embracing the values of Christianity seeks "a meaning beyond the temporary and transitory meaning of earthly values".[2] -
         -  -Wikipedia

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See also

Song Meanings, "The Wanderer" 


U2 Sermons: Original verses to "The Wanderer"

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