Love (Pt. 6), or, The Affectionate Voyeurism of the Devoted Pervert

Toilet Guppies returns on a Sunday with another installment in a series closely scrutinising feelings of love in modern song. This time, it's the turn of songwriter Michael Gira's vehicle the Angels Of Light:

The narrator in «Evangeline» doesn't promise the object of his desire anything; doesn't proclaim lofty ideals, intentions, feelings. And the lyrics don't offer any short and sweet couplets that easily lend themselves to being quoted by people in love—nor is the word «love» (or any of its literary surrogates, such as «heart») ever mentioned in them. Yet «Evangeline» may be the ultimate love song.

For years this was simply a beautiful piece of music to me, a vague rather than subtle love song, so deceptively unassuming is the sentiment contained in the lyrics. But when all the clichés have been expressed, yet again, in lists of reasons for loving whoever it is you love, and you have announced to your lover or to the world just how they make you feel, there is something that remains. Something that—provided your dedicated affection is true—no word will ever be able to capture or convey. This is the essence of what you're feeling, and the only thing words can do is to surround and close in on it, letting you follow the progress of sentences as they lead you, as if into a spiral, towards the ineffable. Then, just as you're there, the words let go and the grasp you thought you had dissolves with your focus, and the feelings return to a state of warm fuzziness enveloping your consciousness, yet never penetrating it. But for a moment, at least, you were closer.

And to do that you need words less loaded, overly used or distracting than the familiar, four-letter L- and H-words. You need words such as these, capturing not the feelings felt but describing the situation in which they arise. Did you ever watch on as your lover slept?
There's a silver stream laid across the sky
And this city lifts up its arms to it
As I wait for you, Evangeline
Yes, my eyes have seen your unselfishness
And my fingers touched your two sleeping lips
As the echoes passed just above our heads
As the city flashed just beneath the clouds
That concealed the stars and reflected sound
But protected us from an emptiness
And then drifted down in a diamond mist
As I watched you breathe, as I watched you dream

And your tenderness and your innocence
You were far away with your secret bliss
You were far away with your perfect god
You were far away in a silent field
Where the yellow dust traced your naked skin
Where the gentle flame kissed your hollow lung
Like an acid stream
Like a shining vein
With your moonlight chain
With your open gate
With your steel door dreams

I can feel it now
Feel it now

Then it's gone
With this song, M. Gira proves that it's only by saying nothing that you can say everything about something. It's one of few love songs that don't stoop to expressing the inexpressible, but rather set the scene for the unutterable to play out. Perhaps only fools rush in, but at least this romantic doesn't make even more of a fool of himself by chasing the ineffable with words that can never deliver what they're meant to mean.

And on that note.

[A hi-fi studio version of «Evangeline» can be purchased on the exquisite Angels Of Light album How I Loved You.]

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