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No real answer on "divine mockery" - but that's the point?

Posted by TheFallen on February 18, 2003

In Reply to: no real answer on divine mockery posted by R. Berg on February 18, 2003

: : I really didnt get a second on the divine mockery of words.Or resident mockery has claimed thee.What do ypu think he ment by that??

: You might have better luck at a site devoted to rock lyrics or that particular group. The regular participants here, me included, just don't seem to know the answer.

I'm not convinced by Jim Morrison's frequent elevation to the status of great modern poet by his admittedly numerous fans. I didn't know the song/poem "American Prayer" but, courtesy of a previous poster, found and read the lyrics/words on-line. To me, they look a little self-indulgent, the outpourings of a would-be T.S. Eliot set against a new age of despair and cynicism - it's worth remembering that, although the album containing the song wasn't released till 1978, Morrison died in mid-1971, so one can happily presuppose that the "poem" was written against the backdrop of the USA's involvement in the Vietnam war. Such nihilistic cynicism and angst is classic fertile ground for allegedly socially aware art-rock bands - compare and contrast many of Pink Floyd's Roger Waters' authored lyrics, with anything from "Wish You Were Here", "Animals" and especially "The Wall" springing to mind.

It's not easy to put a label or indeed a meaning on the lyrics of "American Prayer". There are equally strong arguments to claim that the piece is symbolist, expressionist (or stream of subsconsciousness, if you'd rather), or just the burblings of someone burning up on LSD and the whole psychedelic experience. It may have meant something to Morrison, but there's no guarantee that it'll mean the same thing to any listener/reader, just as there's no guarantee that the author even intended it to. It comes down to personal interpretation at the end - what, if anything, do *you* get out of it?

We have assembled inside this ancient and insane theatre
To propagate our lust for life and flee the swarming wisdom of the streets.
The barns are stormed, the windows kept,
And only one of all the rest
To dance and save us
With the divine mockery of words.
Music inflames temperament

If you want a quick opinion, the above verse seems to refer to a complete rejection of the spirit of the times - and this is backed up throughout the whole song, with its savage criticism of Government and mass media. The "swarming wisdom of the streets" is loathsome and corrupting, and the only way to save oneself from it is to give yourself over to your individuality, to express your inner self, rather than blindly be led by the nose by those in positions of power. Morrison seems to see himself as an example of redemption - I think he's being self-referential when he talks about "only one to dance and save us", himself fronting a gig, perhaps - and his phrase "the divine mockery of words" can be seen as alluding to a way to finding a more absolute or "divine" truth by mocking the generally accepted values of the time, or to a mockery *of* the divine (Morrison isn't big on faith in any sort of God), or indeed to a bitterly self-ironic admission that, no matter how revelationary and "divine" his words may be, they remain a mockery, because, in the face of the militaristic and controlling powers that be, they will in the end be utterly futile.

That's the great thing about dealing with symbolist poetry. You can come up with and justify just about any interpretation, a thing that I was most grateful for while at college.