The holidays are approaching, and Christmas carols are beginning to play, and I again experience the eerie feeling that I experience every year, when I hear the carol “Good King Wenceslas.” Here’s the song; here are the lyrics.
For reasons I’ve never fathomed, this carol affects me with uncanny strength. Every phrase, every note stirs me. My hair stands on end, tears prickle in my eyes. Why? I have no idea. This carol is of fairly recent vintage and apparently scoffed at by academics; doesn’t matter.
Sire, the night is darker now,
And the wind blows stronger;
Fails my heart I not how,
I can go no longer….
I do often experience this kind of reaction when I encounter examples of what I call “symbols beyond words” in writing. The lyrics of “Good King Wenceslas” also use symbols beyond words, but I don’t have this reaction to many other songs–though now that I think about it, as I write about in Happier at Home, I have the same reaction to “Raggle Taggle Gypsy.”
I thought I was the only one to experience this, so I was stuck by this passage from Carl Jung’s unforgettable memoir, Memories, Dreams, Reflections:
When I visited the stupas of Sanchi, where Buddha delivered his fire sermon, I was overcome by a strong emotion of the kind that frequently develops in me when I encounter a thing, person, or idea of whose significance I am still unconscious.
I love “Good King Wenceslas” so much that I included an allusion to it in the text of the book I wrote with a friend, Four to Llewelyn’s Edge.
Do you ever have this kind of reaction to something you hear, see, or look at?
I’ve listened to the song about thirty times while writing this post.