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 thoughts on “First notes on a phantasmology”

  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

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

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