Paramaecium’s “Within the Ancient Forest” Lyrics – Outlined, Explained, Analyzed – Part 6: Far from the Sky

“There’s always a siren
Singing you to shipwreck.”

– Radiohead, “There There (The Boney King of Nowhere)”

“I have earned my sin,
Nearly spent my soul.
I’ve lost my way
– until now.
On the world’s edge
I have found a door…”

– Jeff Johnson, “Navigatio”

within-the-ancient-forest-6-far-from-the-sky

Image: Jean Delville, “Les trésors de Satan” (1895, public domain)

 

Dé-nyl is now at the deepest point of his journey, literally and figuratively, although he has gone from reading legends, to finding them true, to living them out, even to the point of fulfilling the prophecy that “man shall wield the two edged blade once more.” From the very beginning, his quest has been “to behold both truth and life,” as his old teacher had put it. But first, he now finds he must wander through his own personal hell of lies, lust and death.

The penultimate song “Of My Darkest Hour” is based on the tenth chapter of the book, although the lyrics really refer to the action only fragmentally. So let me first recapitulate what happens in the book: Dé-nyl follows his femme fatale Dé-syr deeper into the subterranean caverns, and at last enters a huge cave which houses a dragon and an army of black warriors – needless to say, this cave is the allegorical world’s absolute Heart of Darkness. This is the first (and only) real dragon that Dé-nyl, the avid reader of legends, ever sees, and he is fascinated with it. In his own words, he becomes “enamored” of the dragon that he refers to as “fatherly” despite its fangs and smoking nostrils. It has somehow won Dé-nyl over simply by being a dragon. In a scene that doesn’t work well as fantasy though it does work as an allegory, Dé-nyl and his new “soul mate” Dé-syr begin to get physical in the presence of the grinning dragon and its black horde, when suddenly she turns into a repelling reptile and he makes up his mind to go from lover to fighter. He wounds her with the sword but leaves her alive, and hopelessly turns to face the surrounding black warriors. His cry of desperation is answered by one of the boldest deus ex machina devices ever: A door miraculously appears in the solid rock behind him. He and his falcon escape and, much like Dante after his journey through the Inferno and his encounter with Satan, he begins his long journey upwards through a narrow passage to the surface, where Destiny is waiting. He falls to her feet and repents.

The journey through the underworld is a central motif in many ancient myths. The mythological hero typically undergoes his greatest ordeal under the ground. His journey down is a journey back to some kind of source: He often meets with and overcomes a mother or father figure, rescues his soul mate, gains his ‘boon’ in the terminology of Joseph Campbell – usually his bride, or at least returns with some kind of treasure. In the novelette, Dé-nyl does meet a kind of evil father figure – the dragon, who is also the king (and possibly the source) of all evil. His underground adventure, however, only half satisfies the requirements of a myth. He does kill off a few black soldiers with the Garensword (once he remembers that he has it), but the scene is overshadowed by the disappointing bride-turned-reptilian and the huge grinning dragon and its nihilist philosophy (represented in the lyrics by the lines “thine is the hour but mine is the day” and “life is a moment and death the eternity”). Dé-nyl is actually ineffective as a hero. The only things he gains in this episode are more enemies – and a scar from the battle. This is his Song of Experience. Thus, the underground episode does not “work” as a story in itself – Dé-nyl fails miserably in the dragon-slaying business. The episode is much rather a sort of allegory of failure, or sin. It is the culmination of the wrong turn he took when he ran away from Destiny.

In “Gone Is My Former Resolve”, Dé-nyl learned the lesson that others do not necessarily long for truth and life (“they like to rot forever”). Now that he is farthest from the sky, he learns that he himself does not necessarily always long for the truth (“my thoughts are waning”) or even for life (having gone to where “my life is draining”). His Freawil has taken the wings of the morning to dwell in the nethermost parts of the earth, and found that darkness and light are both alike to the door of Destiny. As the interpretive voice puts it, the final moments of his subterranean struggle have served “to reinforce [his] confidence in power” – namely, not his own power but the Garensword’s and Destiny’s – the strength that is made perfect in his weakness, as St. Paul put it.

The song closes with a clean-vocal chorus beginning with the words, “far from the sky,” which is very lyrical and only loosely connected to the narrative, similar to the “sorrow” chorus of the preceding track. It appears that these choruses are written more from the perspective of the Dé-nyl persona introduced in “In Exordium” as the “youth of sad temper,” the typical doom metal protagonist, much rather than the intellectual-spiritual traveler of the book/album story line.

Interestingly, the line “ever the nightfall kills the sun” entails a paradox: Nightfall can obscure, but never kill the sun, since nights don’t last forever, and every sunset is a promise of the dawn. In other words, the sun’s radiant existence is really more permanent than the alternation of night and day, which are subjective and temporary. Dé-nyl has given up hope, but only for a season. Whenever the sun blushes and sets, it is really the earth that has temporarily turned its face away. And it has something new to look forward to. The light of dawn is near, even as Dé-nyl is making his way up the long hard road out of hell.


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