Lyrics: History And Geography |
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History And Geography

by Clive James and Pete Atkin

The history and geography of feeling less than wonderful is known to me
The dates of broken bubbles and the whereabouts of every lost belief
And from the Point of Tears I see how far away across the Sea of Troubles
The Pinnacles of Happiness are halfway hidden in the Clouds of Grief.

My common sense can tell me all it likes to count myself among the lucky
For pity's sake to draw a breath and take a look around me and compare
But all I seem to see and hear is something I'm unable to remember
The flowing speech that stuttered out, the pretty song that faded on the air.

When the jet returns me half awake and half asleep to what I call my homeland
I look down into the midnight city through the empty inkwell of the sky
And in that kit of instruments laid out across a velvet-covered table
I know that nothing lives which doesn't hold its place more worthily than I.

Without a home, without a name, a girl of whom to say 'this is my sister'
For I am all the daughters of my father's house and all the brothers too
I comb the rubble of a shattered world to find the bright face of an angel
And say again and say again that I have written this - this is for you.

The history and geography of feeling less than wonderful is known to me
When sunsets are unlovely and the dawns are coldly calculated light
And from the Heights of Arrogance across the steps that later I regretted
I see those angel faces flame their last and flicker out into the night.

Note (from Collected Poems)

The lines about ‘the daughters of my father’s house and all the brothers too’ are spoken by Viola to Orsino in Twelfth Night, Act II Scene 4. When we were first writing songs in Footlights, Shakespeare productions were going on all the time all around us, and some of the Footlights comedians were doubling as serious actors, thus giving themselves an enhanced opportunity to neglect the set books and come away with a ruinous degree. There were very few actors who ever got a First, but they all knew more about Shakespeare than the proper scholars did, and the proper scholars, to give them their due credit, were aware of the fact, and incorporated the thrill of the performances into their learning.