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First notes on a phantasmology

Movie star – heroine – icon – legend – as well as a symbol of another time

This is a special photograph; it casts me into a particular and somewhat indescribable mood. The photograph stills the soul. It, the photograph, was taken in a church in Paris. Its subject must surely be that of Joan of Arc. It has the profound aura of religious or spiritual transcendence. How do I ‘see’ it? How does it ‘work’ on me? These are the questions I want to begin to answer. It presents itself as a phantom – a phantom from history now in the present. But when I look at this photograph and think of its subject I also think of something outside the statue – outside the photograph: I think of the song ‘Joan of Arc’. It was first released as a single in 1971. I first heard it on Leonard Cohen’s LP which was entitled ‘Songs of love and hate’. The years have gone by and I still listen to that LP and I still hear the spectral echoes of ‘Joan of Arc’. The song last for 6 minutes and 29 seconds. Here are the words of the first two stanzas which take the form of a dialogue between Joan and the fire that will consume her as she burns at the stake: 

‘Now the flames they followed Joan of Arc

As she came riding through the dark

No moon to keep her armour bright

No man to get her through this darkest very smoky night

She said, “I’m tired of the war

I want the kind of work I had before

A wedding dress or something white

To wear upon my swollen appetite”

Well, I’m glad to to hear you talk this way

You see I’ve watched you riding almost every single day

And there’s something in me, that yearns to win

Such a very cold, such a very lonesome heroine

“Well then, who are you?” she sternly spoke

To the one beneath the smoke

“Why, I’m fire” he replied

“And I love your solitude, how I love your sense of pride”

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hi Rob Clearly Joan Look at the armour and the symbols Leonard Cohen was a great man! I quoted one of his poems at a friend’s funeral When we were allowed to have funerals… Keep up the good work I am taking on a very different project About two artists who lived together in this area and left their work to the local art gallery Poems, paintings, book covers… I think we need a revival! Best wishes Peter

    March 16, 2021
  2. Good work, Rob
    Well done

    March 16, 2021
  3. lucybevinart #

    I have really enjoyed your First Notes on a Phantasmology and this verse, lyric, all horrific, haunting and matter-of-fact. Very Leonard Cohen.

    March 31, 2021

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