Prospero’s Song (Rounded With a Sleep)

Welcome to week five of The Accidental Novelist’s “Free Tune Friday” feature! (You can check out previous entries HERE.) This week’s tune taps into my literary background with a look at one of my favorite characters…

So after several weeks of pop-punk and rock-anthem intensity, I’m taking a break this Friday to introduce a somewhat mellower song with a literary bent. This tune comes from the tail-end of my collection, a time when I started placing a little more emphasis on my lyrics. For a long time, I saw vocals as just another instrument. Lyrics were verbal sounds meant to convey the melody and compliment all the other instruments in a song. Oddly enough, for being a writer and “language” person, I paid little attention to many of the lyrics I heard in songs (unless they were just plain bad–which many are), which is one of the reasons I suspect I was drawn to Guided By Voices, whose lyrics–while weird and wonderful–are often abstract, cryptic. You can get away with it more in a song because the words are coming at you and through you–they’re moving, rather than static like poems that lie passive on the page, at the mercy of our eyes.

Musically, there is little to say. Compared with most of my recordings, the song is spare and quiet, heavy on the bass and low tones, with verses that shift from discordant to harmonious. There is some guitar threading in the later verses, which I always liked, reminding me in some off-beat way of Archers of Loaf, one of the more underrated guitar bands of the last couple decades.

This song draws from one of my all-time favorites–Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Shakespeare’s last play captured me from the start with its magical themes, characters, and verses, with its comedic conversion of revenge into forgiveness, and with its wisdom in letting go of hatred and giving in to fate and time with a grace that’s so difficult for us to achieve as flawed human beings. The lyrics are sung in my voice, but the words are Prospero’s–a meditation on his daughter Miranda’s fate and his own as he prepares to take leave of his island. Call it my effort to crystallize what, for me, this play is really about.

I suppose it’s odd that I, a younger man at the time, would have been so drawn to Prospero, an aging father who willingly relinquishes everything he holds dear. (Like many, I’ve never been able to help not seeing him as an alter-ego for the retiring Shakespeare, taking his final leave from London and the stage.) Maybe it’s because, for better or for worse, I’ve got “an old soul,” as my friend Bill once told me. Regardless, when the time comes I hope I can accept my own eventual diminishment with as much poise and grace as Prospero does.


Prospero’s Song (Rounded With a Sleep )

Though the waves rule the shore,
They do because I sway them,
Wanting everything restored;
The moment is my making.
Men feel terror as the breaking
Shakes the ships, while beside me
My art trembles and mercy moves her lips.

She is tender, she is bright,
With the beauty of the pure:
Still a child, soon a wife.
I do not have the right
To contain her in my own
Sequestered world, desecrated
By the failures she doesn’t know are mine.

So I’m going home for her,
Where she’ll no longer need me,
Leaving golems, freeing sprites
Once held within my orbit.
Though I gain a loss, I’ll eat it
With a smile, and in returning
I will close the book and start to fade away.

To listen to this tune, click HERE. To download, right-click on the link and select “Save Link As.” For best results, apply headphones. Thanks for listening! Be sure to come back for next Friday’s installment…

(Written, performed, and recorded by David Stahler Jr. All rights reserved.)