Adventures in Songwriting: Epiphany on the Jordan
I’m sitting here frustrated as can be. I have been considering, for awhile, that now might be the time to put some thoughts together for a book. I have a few months off from touring, and I am supposed to refrain from playing guitar to let a repetitive strain injury heal. So now is as good a time as ever. I’ve collected thoughts, laid out a framework and started to write several times. But everything I’ve written so far has the distinct odor of dung. “Not to worry!” I tell myself. Dung becomes good fertilizer. It’s just not to be mistaken for people-food.
About this time last year, I found myself secluded in a cabin in Ontario’s Whiteshell. I had been trying for several months to finish a song called Keening for the Dawn, but it was eluding me and I hoped that a few days by myself might be what I needed to get it done. After several days alone, and no progress, I was starting to think about scrapping the idea totally. Then, out of the blue my cell phone dinged. It was a message from Malcolm Guite in England saying he’d just posted a new sonnet for the Feast of Epiphany – a season the Church has traditionally set aside to reflect on various revelations of God that we find in the Gospels. Frustrated as I was by my own lack of progress, I decided to take a break and read Malcolm’s poem which reflects beautifully on the story of Christ’s baptism:
Beginning here we glimpse the Three-in-one;
The river runs, the clouds are torn apart,
The Father speaks, the Spirit and the Son
Reveal to us the single loving heart
That beats behind the being of all things
And calls and keeps and kindles us to light.
The dove descends, the spirit soars and sings
‘You are belovèd, you are my delight!’
In that quick light and life, as water spills
And streams around the Man like quickening rain,
The voice that made the universe reveals
The God in Man who makes it new again.
He calls us too, to step into that river
To die and rise and live and love forever. / Malcolm Guite
The verses penetrated as I found myself reading them over and over. Malcolm also provided a link to a sermon he had preached at St. Edwards, Cambridge on the story and the poem. I found myself listening to that repeatedly as well – again with the words piercing as I felt melody rising up, almost involuntarily, in response. Within a very short time a song was born.
It never ceases to astonish me how songs come. I went away in pursuit of one song, and found myself pursued by another. Honestly…who’s chasing who? And I didn’t know then that this would trigger a series of events that would eventually take me back to England where Malcolm and I would complete the song Keening for the Dawn together. I didn’t know that by the end of the year, there would be an entire new album of songs and a support tour that would span the country.
And I don’t know what this year will bring either. Or what will come from any efforts I am currently making. But I have a suspicion that what ever adventure does come, it’ll bear some sort of relationship to “that river”.
Here’s the song:
Epiphany on the Jordan
lyric Steve Bell/ Malcolm Guite music Steve Bell
The heavens split and the water spilled
And streamed around that man like a quickening rain
A quickening rain
The Word behind all worlds revealed
That God in man makes everything new again
This Word of God to his beloved
Has settled on me like a dove
He calls us too to step into that river
To die and rise to life and love forever
So graciously extends to me, a sinner
To tread the sacred waters of
This mystery of love
What can be said about a mystery
Except to say that the last word can never be said
Best leave that to poetry
Kindling words for quickening the dead
The living dead
Pure single heart behind all things
Each to the other by the spirit sings…
He calls us too…
Read Malcolm’s related blog and listen to his aforementioned sermon HERE…
Malcolm’s poem is included in his newly released collection of sonnets called Sounding the Seasons – Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year
The song Epiphany on the Jordan is found on Steve Bells recent release Keening for the Dawn