And the Words of the Prophets Are Written on the Subway Wall — Songwriters & Writers As Prophets

In 1969, Joni Mitchell’s song Both Sides Now was released. She was only 26-years old at that time; yet, like an aged crone, she sang about cloud’s illusions and the games played in love and about dreams and schemes and circus crowds. At the age of 26, none of us have looked at life from both sides. In fact, we have only begun to experience, but somehow, those prophetic words came to Joni Mitchell when she was very young.

In 2000, I watched a televised tribute to Joni Mitchell, and in my opinion, no songwriter ever deserved a tribute more than she. Joni Mitchell is one of the greatest poets of my generation. In 2000,  Joni Mitchell was 57-years old, and by that time, she had loved and lost and had even given birth to a child that she did not rear. By the time that Joni Mitchell was 57-years-old, she no doubt had looked at life from many, many angles; and the tone of her song at that age had decidedly changed.

Both Sides Now
by Joni Mitchell

Bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air
and feather canyons everywhere, I’ve looked at clouds that way.
But now they only block the sun, they rain and snow on everyone.
So many things I would have done but clouds got in my way.

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now,
from up and down, and still somehow
it’s cloud illusions I recall.
I really don’t know clouds at all.

Although it took the living of life to sober Joni Mitchell’s singing of her own words, like a prophet, she somehow knew the words to write and sing long before that time.

Joni Mitchell wrote and performed music at a time of prophecy. Many songwriters sang then about truths that they could not have fully experienced yet. In 1970, the Cat Stevens song On the Road to Find Out was released. He was 22-years-old; yet, he was already able to write about leaving home and beginning a journey that requires a lifetime to begin to comprehend.

On the Road to Find Out
by Cat Stevens

Well I left my happy home to see what I could find
I left my folk and friends with the aim to clear my mind out
Well I hit the rowdy road and many kinds I met there
Many stories told me of the way to get there….

 

I listen to the wind come howl, telling me I have to hurry
I listen to the robin’s song saying not to worry….

Then I found myself alone, hopin’ someone would miss me
Thinking about my home, and the last woman to kiss me, kiss me…

 

Yes the answer lies within, so why not take a look now?
Kick out the devil’s sin, pick up, pick up a good book now.

I was 20-years-old when I first heard Cat Stevens sing On the Road to Find Out. I had left my home in rural Southeast Missouri two years before then, and I already thought that I had “found out.” During that same year, however, I was nearly killed by a drunk driver, and I was left with innumerable scars, both inside and out. That is when I truly began to find out. That is when “I listened to the wind come howl, telling me I had to hurry, and I listened to the robin’s song saying not to worry,” but I did worry.

I am 66-years-old now, and I realize that although long ago, I “left my home to find out,” I have still not arrived at the finding-out spot. Again, only a prophet could write about that journey at the age of 22.

In 1965, the Simon and Garfunkel song Sounds of Silence was released. Paul Simon was 24-years old. It was a time when young people around the world had begun to think about life in ways that were unique to the 1960’s, “and the words of the prophets” were written by many and they were exchanged all over the place–“even on the subway walls.” Prophecy was part of the culture of my youth. In 1965, when Sounds of Silence was released, I was 15-years-old. “Time it was and what a time it was…a time of innocence…..”

Bookends
by Simon and Garfunkel

Time it was,
And what a time it was
It was . . .
A time of innocence
A time of confidences

Long ago . . . it must be . . .
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left yo

In many ways, I have always been an old soul–in many ways, an innocent, old soul. Before I was even a teen, I was a fan of Peter, Paul, & Mary, and I got a ukelele and began to sing their songs. Later, I got a guitar, and I continued. From the moment that I first heard them sing, I identified with Peter, Paul, & Mary, and their music has spoken to me during much of my life.

When I first heard the song If I Had A Hammer, I was only 12-years-old, and yet, I got it. In fact, I immediately took the pledge, jumped on board and began hammering out justice and ringing the bell of freedom myself. In my own way, I became a part of the Peter, Paul, & Mary movement that swept the country, and along with them, I cried out against racism and war. Although I never became a full hippie–although I never got into drugs and free love–I was fully invested in the peace movement, and from an early age, I learned to identify racism and to stand against it. I did this because of Peter, Paul, & Mary. They were the earliest of the songwriting prophets who connected with me, and they did so with many, many others around the world. Peter, Paul, & Mary were prophets who did much to change the United States of America.

Peter, Paul, & Mary Civil Rights March in 1963 [I was 13-years-old in 1963]

Peter, Paul, & Mary became a prophetic compass for my life.

A couple of days ago, I watched the movie Pride & Prejudice again, and yesterday, I read the book again. Jane Austen wrote Pride & Prejudice 200 years ago. When I was watching the movie, I was struck by the things that Elizabeth said in the movie. I thought about the fact that 200 years ago, ladies were not typically as brazen as Elizabeth was depicted in the movie.

My primary goal in reading the book was to see if Jane Austen had actually created Elizabeth with the fresh mouth that she has in the movie, and I discovered that she did.

Chapter 29

[In Chapter 29, Elizabeth joins the Collins, as they visit Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

“Lady Catherine was a tall, large woman, with strongly-marked features, which might once have been handsome. Her air was not conciliating, nor was her manner of receiving them such as to make her visitors forget their inferior rank. She was not rendered formidable by silence; but whatever she said was spoken in so authoritative a tone, as marked her self-importance….

“The party did not supply much conversation. Elizabeth was ready to speak whenever there was an opening, but she was seated between Charlotte and Miss de Bourgh—the former of whom was engaged in listening to Lady Catherine, and the latter said not a word to her all dinner-time…..

“When the ladies returned to the drawing-room, there was little to be done but to hear Lady Catherine talk, which she did without any intermission till coffee came in, delivering her opinion on every subject in so decisive a manner, as proved that she was not used to have her judgement controverted. She inquired into Charlotte’s domestic concerns familiarly and minutely, gave her a great deal of advice as to the management of them all; told her how everything ought to be regulated in so small a family as hers, and instructed her as to the care of her cows and her poultry. ….Elizabeth found that nothing was beneath this great lady’s attention, which could furnish her with an occasion of dictating to others. …Elizabeth felt all the impertinence of her questions but answered them very composedly…

[This scene is very much like the movie.]

“Do you play and sing, Miss Bennet?”

“A little.”

“Oh! then—some time or other we shall be happy to hear you. Our instrument is a capital one, probably superior to——You shall try it some day. Do your sisters play and sing?”

“One of them does.”

“Why did not you all learn? You ought all to have learned. The Miss Webbs all play, and their father has not so good an income as yours. Do you draw?”

“No, not at all.”

“What, none of you?”

“Not one.”

“That is very strange. But I suppose you had no opportunity. Your mother should have taken you to town every spring for the benefit of masters.”

“My mother would have had no objection, but my father hates London.”

“Has your governess left you?”

“We never had any governess.”

“No governess! How was that possible? Five daughters brought up at home without a governess! I never heard of such a thing. Your mother must have been quite a slave to your education.”

Elizabeth could hardly help smiling as she assured her that had not been the case.

“Then, who taught you? who attended to you? Without a governess, you must have been neglected.”

“Compared with some families, I believe we were; but such of us as wished to learn never wanted the means. We were always encouraged to read, and had all the masters that were necessary. Those who chose to be idle, certainly might.”

“Aye, no doubt; but that is what a governess will prevent, and if I had known your mother, I should have advised her most strenuously to engage one. I always say that nothing is to be done in education without steady and regular instruction, and nobody but a governess can give it. It is wonderful how many families I have been the means of supplying in that way. I am always glad to get a young person well placed out. Four nieces of Mrs. Jenkinson are most delightfully situated through my means; and it was but the other day that I recommended another young person, who was merely accidentally mentioned to me, and the family are quite delighted with her. Mrs. Collins, did I tell you of Lady Metcalf’s calling yesterday to thank me? She finds Miss Pope a treasure. ‘Lady Catherine,’ said she, ‘you have given me a treasure.’ Are any of your younger sisters out, Miss Bennet?”

“Yes, ma’am, all.”

“All! What, all five out at once? Very odd! And you only the second. The younger ones out before the elder ones are married! Your younger sisters must be very young?”

“Yes, my youngest is not sixteen. Perhaps she is full young to be much in company. But really, ma’am, I think it would be very hard upon younger sisters, that they should not have their share of society and amusement, because the elder may not have the means or inclination to marry early. The last-born has as good a right to the pleasures of youth as the first. And to be kept back on such a motive! I think it would not be very likely to promote sisterly affection or delicacy of mind.”

“Upon my word,” said her ladyship, “you give your opinion very decidedly for so young a person. Pray, what is your age?”

“With three younger sisters grown up,” replied Elizabeth, smiling, “your ladyship can hardly expect me to own it.”

Lady Catherine seemed quite astonished at not receiving a direct answer; and Elizabeth suspected herself to be the first creature who had ever dared to trifle with so much dignified impertinence.

“You cannot be more than twenty, I am sure, therefore you need not conceal your age.”

Chapter 56

[Chapter 56 is the scene where Lady Catherine comes to the Bennet home and tries to intimidate and bully Elizabeth into distancing herself from Darcy. When I watched the movie, I could not believe that Jane Austen would have written the dialogue that was used in the movie, but that is not the case. In the book, Elizabeth’s response was very much the same as it was in the movie.]

 “One morning, about a week after Bingley’s engagement with Jane had been formed, as he and the females of the family were sitting together in the dining-room, their attention was suddenly drawn to the window, by the sound of a carriage; and they perceived a chaise and four driving up the lawn. It was too early in the morning for visitors, and besides, the equipage did not answer to that of any of their neighbours. The horses were post; and neither the carriage, nor the livery of the servant who preceded it, were familiar to them. As it was certain, however, that somebody was coming, Bingley instantly prevailed on Miss Bennet to avoid the confinement of such an intrusion, and walk away with him into the shrubbery. They both set off, and the conjectures of the remaining three continued, though with little satisfaction, till the door was thrown open and their visitor entered. It was Lady Catherine de Bourgh….“”She entered the room with an air more than usually ungracious, made no other reply to Elizabeth’s salutation than a slight inclination of the head, and sat down without saying a word. Elizabeth had mentioned her name to her mother on her ladyship’s entrance, though no request of introduction had been made.

Mrs. Bennet, all amazement, though flattered by having a guest of such high importance, received her with the utmost politeness. After sitting for a moment in silence, she said very stiffly to Elizabeth,

“I hope you are well, Miss Bennet. That lady, I suppose, is your mother.”

Elizabeth replied very concisely that she was.

“And that I suppose is one of your sisters.”

“Yes, madam,” said Mrs. Bennet, delighted to speak to Lady Catherine. “She is my youngest girl but one. My youngest of all is lately married, and my eldest is somewhere about the grounds, walking with a young man who, I believe, will soon become a part of the family.” …

“Mrs. Bennet, with great civility, begged her ladyship to take some refreshment; but Lady Catherine very resolutely, and not very politely, declined eating anything; and then, rising up, said to Elizabeth,

“Miss Bennet, there seemed to be a prettyish kind of a little wilderness on one side of your lawn. I should be glad to take a turn in it, if you will favour me with your company.”

“Go, my dear,” cried her mother, “and show her ladyship about the different walks. I think she will be pleased with the hermitage.”

“Elizabeth obeyed, and running into her own room for her parasol, attended her noble guest downstairs. As they passed through the hall, Lady Catherine opened the doors into the dining-parlour and drawing-room, and pronouncing them, after a short survey, to be decent looking rooms, walked on.

“Her carriage remained at the door, and Elizabeth saw that her waiting-woman was in it. They proceeded in silence along the gravel walk that led to the copse; Elizabeth was determined to make no effort for conversation with a woman who was now more than usually insolent and disagreeable.

“How could I ever think her like her nephew?” said she, as she looked in her face.

As soon as they entered the copse, Lady Catherine began in the following manner:—

“You can be at no loss, Miss Bennet, to understand the reason of my journey hither. Your own heart, your own conscience, must tell you why I come.”

Elizabeth looked with unaffected astonishment.

“Indeed, you are mistaken, Madam. I have not been at all able to account for the honour of seeing you here.”

“Miss Bennet,” replied her ladyship, in an angry tone, “you ought to know, that I am not to be trifled with. But however insincere you may choose to be, you shall not find me so. My character has ever been celebrated for its sincerity and frankness, and in a cause of such moment as this, I shall certainly not depart from it. A report of a most alarming nature reached me two days ago. I was told that not only your sister was on the point of being most advantageously married, but that you, that Miss Elizabeth Bennet, would, in all likelihood, be soon afterwards united to my nephew, my own nephew, Mr. Darcy. Though I know it must be a scandalous falsehood, though I would not injure him so much as to suppose the truth of it possible, I instantly resolved on setting off for this place, that I might make my sentiments known to you.”

“If you believed it impossible to be true,” said Elizabeth, colouring with astonishment and disdain, “I wonder you took the trouble of coming so far. What could your ladyship propose by it?”

“At once to insist upon having such a report universally contradicted.”

“Your coming to Longbourn, to see me and my family,” said Elizabeth coolly, “will be rather a confirmation of it; if, indeed, such a report is in existence.”

“If! Do you then pretend to be ignorant of it? Has it not been industriously circulated by yourselves? Do you not know that such a report is spread abroad?”

“I never heard that it was.”

“And can you likewise declare, that there is no foundation for it?”

“I do not pretend to possess equal frankness with your ladyship. You may ask questions which I shall not choose to answer.”

“This is not to be borne. Miss Bennet, I insist on being satisfied. Has he, has my nephew, made you an offer of marriage?”

“Your ladyship has declared it to be impossible.”

“It ought to be so; it must be so, while he retains the use of his reason. But your arts and allurements may, in a moment of infatuation, have made him forget what he owes to himself and to all his family. You may have drawn him in.”

“If I have, I shall be the last person to confess it.”

“Miss Bennet, do you know who I am? I have not been accustomed to such language as this. I am almost the nearest relation he has in the world, and am entitled to know all his dearest concerns.”

“But you are not entitled to know mine; nor will such behaviour as this, ever induce me to be explicit.”

“Let me be rightly understood. This match, to which you have the presumption to aspire, can never take place. No, never. Mr. Darcy is engaged to my daughter. Now what have you to say?”

“Only this; that if he is so, you can have no reason to suppose he will make an offer to me.”

Lady Catherine hesitated for a moment, and then replied:

“The engagement between them is of a peculiar kind. From their infancy, they have been intended for each other. It was the favourite wish of his mother, as well as of hers. While in their cradles, we planned the union: and now, at the moment when the wishes of both sisters would be accomplished in their marriage, to be prevented by a young woman of inferior birth, of no importance in the world, and wholly unallied to the family! Do you pay no regard to the wishes of his friends? To his tacit engagement with Miss de Bourgh? Are you lost to every feeling of propriety and delicacy? Have you not heard me say that from his earliest hours he was destined for his cousin?”

“Yes, and I had heard it before. But what is that to me? If there is no other objection to my marrying your nephew, I shall certainly not be kept from it by knowing that his mother and aunt wished him to marry Miss de Bourgh. You both did as much as you could in planning the marriage. Its completion depended on others. If Mr. Darcy is neither by honour nor inclination confined to his cousin, why is not he to make another choice? And if I am that choice, why may not I accept him?”

“Because honour, decorum, prudence, nay, interest, forbid it. Yes, Miss Bennet, interest; for do not expect to be noticed by his family or friends, if you wilfully act against the inclinations of all. You will be censured, slighted, and despised, by everyone connected with him. Your alliance will be a disgrace; your name will never even be mentioned by any of us.”

“These are heavy misfortunes,” replied Elizabeth. “But the wife of Mr. Darcy must have such extraordinary sources of happiness necessarily attached to her situation, that she could, upon the whole, have no cause to repine.”

“Obstinate, headstrong girl! I am ashamed of you! Is this your gratitude for my attentions to you last spring? Is nothing due to me on that score? Let us sit down. You are to understand, Miss Bennet, that I came here with the determined resolution of carrying my purpose; nor will I be dissuaded from it. I have not been used to submit to any person’s whims. I have not been in the habit of brooking disappointment.”

That will make your ladyship’s situation at present more pitiable; but it will have no effect on me.”

“I will not be interrupted. Hear me in silence. My daughter and my nephew are formed for each other. They are descended, on the maternal side, from the same noble line; and, on the father’s, from respectable, honourable, and ancient—though untitled—families. Their fortune on both sides is splendid. They are destined for each other by the voice of every member of their respective houses; and what is to divide them? The upstart pretensions of a young woman without family, connections, or fortune. Is this to be endured! But it must not, shall not be. If you were sensible of your own good, you would not wish to quit the sphere in which you have been brought up.”

“In marrying your nephew, I should not consider myself as quitting that sphere. He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman’s daughter; so far we are equal.”

“True. You are a gentleman’s daughter. But who was your mother? Who are your uncles and aunts? Do not imagine me ignorant of their condition.”

“Whatever my connections may be,” said Elizabeth, “if your nephew does not object to them, they can be nothing to you.”

“Tell me once for all, are you engaged to him?”

Though Elizabeth would not, for the mere purpose of obliging Lady Catherine, have answered this question, she could not but say, after a moment’s deliberation:

“I am not.”

Lady Catherine seemed pleased.

“And will you promise me, never to enter into such an engagement?”

“I will make no promise of the kind.”

“Miss Bennet I am shocked and astonished. I expected to find a more reasonable young woman. But do not deceive yourself into a belief that I will ever recede. I shall not go away till you have given me the assurance I require.”

“And I certainly never shall give it. I am not to be intimidated into anything so wholly unreasonable. Your ladyship wants Mr. Darcy to marry your daughter; but would my giving you the wished-for promise make their marriage at all more probable? Supposing him to be attached to me, would my refusing to accept his hand make him wish to bestow it on his cousin? Allow me to say, Lady Catherine, that the arguments with which you have supported this extraordinary application have been as frivolous as the application was ill-judged. You have widely mistaken my character, if you think I can be worked on by such persuasions as these. How far your nephew might approve of your interference in his affairs, I cannot tell; but you have certainly no right to concern yourself in mine. I must beg, therefore, to be importuned no farther on the subject.”

“Not so hasty, if you please. I have by no means done. To all the objections I have already urged, I have still another to add. I am no stranger to the particulars of your youngest sister’s infamous elopement. I know it all; that the young man’s marrying her was a patched-up business, at the expence of your father and uncles. And is such a girl to be my nephew’s sister? Is her husband, is the son of his late father’s steward, to be his brother? Heaven and earth!—of what are you thinking? Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?”

“You can now have nothing further to say,” she resentfully answered. “You have insulted me in every possible method. I must beg to return to the house.”

And she rose as she spoke. Lady Catherine rose also, and they turned back. Her ladyship was highly incensed.

“You have no regard, then, for the honour and credit of my nephew! Unfeeling, selfish girl! Do you not consider that a connection with you must disgrace him in the eyes of everybody?”

“Lady Catherine, I have nothing further to say. You know my sentiments.”

“You are then resolved to have him?”

“I have said no such thing. I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me.”

“It is well. You refuse, then, to oblige me. You refuse to obey the claims of duty, honour, and gratitude. You are determined to ruin him in the opinion of all his friends, and make him the contempt of the world.”

“Neither duty, nor honour, nor gratitude,” replied Elizabeth, “have any possible claim on me, in the present instance. No principle of either would be violated by my marriage with Mr. Darcy. And with regard to the resentment of his family, or the indignation of the world, if the former were excited by his marrying me, it would not give me one moment’s concern—and the world in general would have too much sense to join in the scorn.”

“And this is your real opinion! This is your final resolve! Very well. I shall now know how to act. Do not imagine, Miss Bennet, that your ambition will ever be gratified. I came to try you. I hoped to find you reasonable; but, depend upon it, I will carry my point.”

In this manner Lady Catherine talked on, till they were at the door of the carriage, when, turning hastily round, she added, “I take no leave of you, Miss Bennet. I send no compliments to your mother. You deserve no such attention. I am most seriously displeased.”

Elizabeth made no answer; and without attempting to persuade her ladyship to return into the house, walked quietly into it herself. She heard the carriage drive away as she proceeded up stairs. Her mother impatiently met her at the door of the dressing-room, to ask why Lady Catherine would not come in again and rest herself.

“She did not choose it,” said her daughter, “she would go.”

“She is a very fine-looking woman! and her calling here was prodigiously civil! for she only came, I suppose, to tell us the Collinses were well. She is on her road somewhere, I dare say, and so, passing through Meryton, thought she might as well call on you. I suppose she had nothing particular to say to you, Lizzy?”

Elizabeth was forced to give into a little falsehood here; for to acknowledge the substance of their conversation was impossible.

When I closely

As I compared the book Pride & Prejudice to the movie, I discovered time and again that the Elizabeth of the movie is very much the same Elizabeth of Jane Austen’s book that was written in 1813; yet, I feel quite sure that ladies of that time did not behave as Elizabeth did. Since 1813, the behavior of women has totally changed. Women have become more like Elizabeth. Again, sheer prophecy played a part in the creating the Elizabeth of Pride & Prejudice. 

At the end of the book, Elizabeth asked Darcy why she loved him, and we are able to see that Jane Austen’s characterization of Elizabeth was very deliberate. Jane Austen wanted Elizabeth to speak prophetically–even if she did not even know it herself.

Chapter 60

“Elizabeth’s spirits soon rising to playfulness again, she wanted Mr. Darcy to account for his having ever fallen in love with her….

“For the liveliness of your mind, I did.”

“You may as well call it impertinence at once. It was very little less. The fact is, that you were sick of civility, of deference, of officious attention. You were disgusted with the women who were always speaking, and looking, and thinking for your approbation alone. I roused, and interested you, because I was so unlike them.”

I have provided a fairly complete comparison ob the book Pride & Prejudice to the movie Here. 

At the beginning of this post, I wrote about some of the songwriters who I consider to be among the prophets of the 1960’s; but in truth, writers have probably always been prophets; and the greatest of the prophecies survive the test of time. No doubt, it is in the reading and listening of these prophecies that we discover ourselves; and no doubt, that is why we keep reading and keep listening time and again.

©Jacki Kellum June 25, 2016

Prophecy

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