The great Amy Morrison (that link isn’t working right now, but it might start again so I’m including it anyway), two decades ago, in the context of an Honours Seminar at Eckerd College, reminded me of the classic Schoolhouse Rock quatrain,
As your body grows bigger
Your mind grows flowered
It’s great to learn
Cause Knowledge is Power!
I bring that up today partly because it}s fun to remember Amy, and partly because the other day someone on a Mountain Goats webforum asked what I had to say about John Darnielle’s bonus track “Enoch 18:14,” which he played several times on last year’s tour (and in the movie/DVD of his play-through of the songs from The Life Of The World To Come), though it wasn’t included on the main CD release. Darnielle has said any number of times that the song grows from a line in the concluding cut-scene of the game Odin Sphere, in which one of the characters speaks the line that forms the refrain of the song: “You and your brother, you both escaped the curse. You can’t comprehend what that’s like.”
I hadn’t written about “Enoch 18:14” — “The angel said: ‘This place is the end of heaven and earth: this has become a prison for the stars and the [rebellious] host of heaven.’ ” — in my article, so I gave a rough overview of the verse in its literary context and history and observed,
I take it that the point of reference is “the curse,” which with reference to Enoch would refer to the damned angels and stars, and with reference to Odin Sphere to the game-curse, and the interpretation of the song as a whole with the sense that some people (the song’s spokesperson) have been afflicted in unchosen, arbitrary ways, whereas others go about unaffected by “the curse.” Too often, perhaps always, people who have escaped the curse figure that the afflicted are just gloomy, negative personality types. They can’t understand what it’s like, so they treat the accursed as though they were really just the same, only insufficiently optimistic. JD knows, and the accursed character knows, that there’s a real curse, that there’s no just opting out of it by being perky and glib (cf Romans 10:9 or Philippians 3:20-21), and the pain of the curse is only intensified when people like you and your brother try to reach beyond the green-grass sunlit world into the dry-ground, black-sun world to say, “Cheer up!”
But the reason to post this all here, in the context of Amy’s Schoolhouse Rock quotation, is that while I was poking around the interwebs for research material on the pseudepigraphal passage, I learned much more. For instance, I had assumed that Enoch was venerated as a saint (as numerous other Old Testament figures are), and it turns out that he is indeed venerated by Armenian Christians. I didn’t know, though, that he is customarily given the name Idris in Arabic; that intrigued me because the previous Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway is named Idris Jones. Moreover, in Glasgow (where Idris/Enoch was bishop), there’s an subway stop named St Enoch Station on St Enoch Square, adjacent to a very posh shopping mall, the St Enoch Centre.
But — this is not the same Enoch after which the song, the saint, and maybe even the bishop are named. Contrariwise, this St Enoch is not even male! It turns out that the St Enoch of Glasgow was in orthographical actuality the mother of St Kentigern (a/k/a St Mungo), St Teneu. (We have friends named “Tenev,” but it would just be too eerily uncanny if they were somehow connected to Glasgow and St Enoch.) In years of transcription, her name apparently went from being “Saintteneu” to “Saintenoch”; improbable as that may sound, I’ve marked enough student papers to find it quite within the bounds of my imagination.
Anyway, that’s a whole planter of mind flowers, all come from looking into the background of one simple pseudo-biblical verse.
1 comment / Add your comment below