Sunday, February 12, 2012

Eleanor Rigby


Friday evening's "Love Your Local Artist" event at the Superior Library included the musical accompaniment of a string quartet, adding a perfect accent to the evening. One song the performers played was Eleanor Rigby, and a range of memories passed briefly through my mind.

First, I saw the manner in which the song was illustrated in the animated 1968 film Yellow Submarine. The song first appeared on The Beatles' Revolver album, though, in 1966. There were no guitars and no drums, only a haunting double string quartet arrangement by George Martin.

Then I recalled Mr. Harris' English class in high school where were used contemporary lyrics as a basis for studying poetic form and content. Simon & Garfunkel's "Leaves That Are Green" and The Beatles' "She's Leaving Home" come to mind.

"Ah, look at all the lonely people..."

This refrain evokes so many considerations. What would famous people like John Lennon and Paul McCartney know about loneliness? Ah, but you know their stories, their personal histories. Digging into these personal pain-pits is one of the wellsprings of great art. Then again, adolescence is precisely about loneliness, feeling outside, striving to find our fit in a world that often makes no sense.

Existentialism, too, is about loneliness, about alienation because we can never fully convey our inner selves, in part because we're still striving to understand those depths and in part because of our fear of rejection. Hence the appeal of writers like Herman Hesse whose characters often depict loneliness and alienation as they struggle for meaning in a sometimes indifferent world.

The song Eleanor Rigby brings it full circle, to the doorstep of the church itself, the place where hope and meaning are meant to be found. But instead of revealing themselves, the people, like Eleanor Rigby herself, wear masks. She keeps hers in a jar by the door. Who was it for?

Eleanor Rigby

Ah, look at all the lonely people
Ah, look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Father McKenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear
No one comes near.
Look at him working. Darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there
What does he care?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Ah, look at all the lonely people
Ah, look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

I've known loneliness. You can catch a glimpse of it in my poem Hitchhiking Across Antarctica. But as I write these words I can only express gratefulness to having been enriched by many friends, family and loved ones. Your heart can only be healed when you allow someone else to touch it.

1 comment:

ENNYMAN said...

As soon as I posted this I saw the following Tweet in response to Whitney Houston's passing yesterday:
"You have big houses, millions of fans but you die alone in a hotel room...the life of a lonely star"

We begin our lives in loneliness, but it can also be lonely at the top.