Paramaecium’s “Within the Ancient Forest” Lyrics – Outlined, Explained, Analyzed – Part 4: Removed of the Grave

“Whitewashed relics enshrined
stole the eyes from the blind.”

– Circle of Dust, “Enshrined”

“Cleave a piece of wood, and I am there.
Lift up the stone, and you will find me.”

– from the Gospel of Thomas

within-the-ancient-forest-4-fossilized-forest

Image: “This Grave Hour” by Jan-Pieter ‘t Hart (jpthart.deviantart.com)

The song “The Grave, My Soul” captures a very iconic episode in the tale: The falcon Freawil has suddenly dropped dead do the ground in what seems at first to be a forest clearing, but turns out to be a “fossilized” part of the forest, in which the trees have long died, fallen over and turned to stone and crystal. Dé-nyl questions destiny about the nature of this place of stagnation and death, and she replies that “[t]he human condition, it seems, is to reduce all to tradition.”

The fossilized forest is a haunting and powerful image of spiritual stagnation. The trees that were meant to live and grow have fallen and become lifeless. This forest is not more than a mausoleum. Freawil, the externalized spirit of the seeker for truth and life, has fallen to his premature death in the poisonous atmosphere of this sylvan charnel-house. A striking image of a mental atmosphere which allows no free thinking. And yet, against all hopes and expectations, Dé-nyl finds a treasure in this unlikely place: Near to the place where his falcon has fallen, he discovers the legendary Garensword deeply encased in a crystallized tree trunk. This foreshadows Dé-nyl’s final lesson that “in death there is life.” It is quite an effort for him to remove the sword from its crystal grave, but at last he succeeds by the sweat and blood of his brow. With the help of the sword he restores his falcon’s life.

A lot could be said about this allegorical episode.

For all intents and purposes we might substitute “personal faith” or “spiritual awakening” for the Garensword and “formal religion” or “mere tradition” for the fossilized forest. For example, people who grow up within or close to the religious world, perhaps in a Christian home, often need to go through a real struggle to find their own personal response or relationship to what the religion entails. As G.K. Chesterton puts it in his book The Everlasting Man, the most important things are sometimes “too large and too close to be seen.” The obvious meaning of the episode is that the life-giving Gospel (which is what Garen’s Tale and the sword stand for) may be found in some places (churches?) that otherwise hold up “mere tradition” and thus breed stagnation and death. In an earlier Paramaecium track, “The Voyage of the Severed”, Andrew Tompkins has also written about a “church of corruption” whose rigorous religiosity is made up of “traditions and lies.”

At the same time, one could argue, the episode demonstrates that tradition does serve a purpose: The shiny sword has been conserved within the petrified tree trunk. Yes, it has been lying in a grave, but at least the coffin has preserved the sword within: Extreme conservatism might lead to petrifaction, but at least it is good for … well, conserving things. The danger is that tradition can cease to exist solely for this purpose, but start developing a life of its own and become its own purpose until “of all that was little remains,” as Destiny puts it in the song.

Now that he has found the sword, Dé-nyl is equipped, although not ready, to do what his teacher suggested – to live out the Book of Garen’s Tale. From the moment he set off on his journey, the story has seen a steady progression from him taking a step into the unknown, and meeting an actual Immortal, to now holding in his hands the legendary sword of Garen himself. Destiny feels highly uncomfortable in the fossilized forest, and the two quickly leave the place behind. However, even though the Garensword has given Dé-nyl a clearer sight of his surroundings, he is not quite ready for what he now sees: The forest is littered with the nameless graves of the living dead. (The book actually depicts the moment at which Dé-nyl’s strength and abilities are invigorated in a rather cheesy way that has the reader expect him to invoke the Power of Grayskull, so I will gladly pass it over here.) (In addition, the book also has Destiny explain that Dé-nyl himself had really lain in such a grave until his passage over the forest pool – he was indeed “not alive”! This adds another layer of meaning to the fact that the music album begins with the crossing of the pool…) So by the end of the song Dé-nyl is refreshed and feeling stronger and more alive than ever, and carrying a life-giving blade through a forest filled with graves. He has found life in death. Can he now resurrect those who are dead in life?


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