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Ian Chippett
MV Fellow

In the clear at over fifty-five

Posts: 332
Midnight Voices
« : 24.02.05 at 07:54 »

Did we ever discuss where the expression Midnight Voices came from originally? I ask because I just found this while searching on the Web. Not absolutely sure about the category but there have been a few moments...
Ian C
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Ian Chippett
MV Fellow

In the clear at over fifty-five

Posts: 332
Re: Midnight Voices
« Reply #1: 24.02.05 at 13:36 »

I suppose this could count as horror, too...
Ian C
Writing to himself in Sèvres (92)
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MV Fellow

Posts: 312
Re: Midnight Voices
« Reply #2: 07.04.05 at 00:01 »

I asked about the origins of Midnight Voices way back in December 2000 complete with misquotation  Embarassed (and its taken me a me a month and a half to check out the archives).
Dave Jones replied:
Neither "Midnight Voices" or "softer than a dove" gets an obvious hit apart from Smash Flops itself, but re-trying "local habitation" at Yahoo led me to www.bartleby.com , and there you can do more searching.   Curiously, both phrases get their best match in Keats
("Ode to Psyche" and "I stood tip-toe upon a little hill") but neither is an exact match.   There's also a "voice at midnight" quote from a somber piece by the American black writer W.E.B. duBois.
This is all English language, of course.  For all we know, this is Rilke translated and transformed, as with "The Hollow and the Fluted Night".
'In Midnight Voices, softer than a dove
We shall talk superbly of our lost love'
All in all, the lyric forms a curious and contradictory tag to the lonely lament of the rest of "Payday Evening".  It's like the first verse of a completely different song.  Maybe that's
what it once was, but Clive decided to use it to uplift the tone at the end, saying goodbye to the London cafe on his way to Cambridge.
Steve wrote:
>'In Midnight Voices, softer than a dove
>We shall talk superbly of our lost love'
In this form the meaning is shifted from the version as I have it -
"In midnight voices, softer than a dove's
 We shall talk superbly of our lost loves"
In the former, the narrator seems to imagine a future in which 'we', himself and his absent friend, who is by then (if not yet) his ex-lover, discuss their own relationship. In the latter he dreams of sharing reminiscences of other loves.
Cary wrote:
The best literary reference I could come up with is this from a poem by Anne Radcliff from The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) called To The Winds  
"And, awful! seems to say---some God is near! I love to  
list' your midnight voices float In the dread storm that o'er the  
ocean rolls,"  
For the full poem see:-  
Simon wrote:
I'm with Steve here - it's definitely sung as 'lost loves', a more poignant and moving line.  The source appears to be Flaubert's 'Madame Bovary'.  The original 'Je reviendrai ; et peut-être que, plus tard, nous causerons ensemble très froidement de nos anciennes amours.
Adieu!' is available (as an extract) at http://www.educnet.education.fr/lettres/form/gtfruit.htm .  An English translation of the complete novel is available, and the particular chapter is athttp://www.litrix.com/madameb/madam023.htm where the relevant section is given as 'I shall come back, and perhaps some day, later on, we shall talk together, quite dispassionately, of the days when we were lovers. Adieu.'.  I didn't say it was a *good*
Mel discusses this, far better than I could, in MV2159 (yes, I do still have all 5000-odd MV messages bar the first 85 on-line - sad, eh?) on Wed, 13 Jan 1999 22:44:11.  She expertly dissects much of the poem, but in particular she says of this last couplet:
>He probably thinks at this point about how other writers have
>tackled the difficult task of the goodbye letter. Perhaps he
>even thinks of the paperback edition of Madame Bovary he's got
>in his pocket, because in it is a good example of an unsuccessful
>goodbye letter: the one Rudolphe writes to Emma to tell her they
>won't be running off together to travel the world together after
>all, because he's decided it would be too silly, especially with
>her daughter in tow. The final sentence Rudolphe uses, in his
>attempt to soften the blow - which also may be losing something
>in translation - is:
>"I shall come back; and then, perhaps, we can reminisce together,
>prosaically, of our obsolete amours. Adieu!"
>I think our poet thinks about that goodbye line when he's mentally
>composing his letter. His intentions are good: after all, he's in the
>process of forgetting how hurt he feels and starting to think about
>forgiveness. Most of all, he knows Rudolphe got it badly wrong. He
>was trying to let Emma down gently, but reading what he wrote nearly
>killed her. Our poet is determined to do better.
I'm sure there is more about the song in the archives, I don't think we ever did track down "sad arcades".  
I think I'll just wander off and play that clip from the website recorded at Buxton, now why does the song work better on guitar than keyboard?
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Mike Walters
MV Moderator

Posts: 127
Re: Midnight Voices
« Reply #3: 07.04.05 at 19:23 »

Reading Jan's wonderful summary reminded me of the level of discussion that used to take place in the old mailing list.  Echoing Pete's comment in the last newsletter, I'm not quite sure why the Forum doesn't seem to generate the same kind of debate - maybe it's the lack of immediacy.  In the old days, there used to be a sense that if you didn't add your two pennyworth immediately, the debate would have moved on.  Now it's possible to return to the topic much later, but of course one rarely does.  
Interesting about 'Payday Evening', though.  I was intrigued that the correspondent to Rocking Vicar cited this as an example of one of CJ's simpler lyrics, since it seems to me to be one of his most self-consciously literary.  As well as the various references that Jan refers to, there's also the Ford Madox Ford reference of 'no more parades' and what I assume is a reference to Lawrence's 'Look! We have come though', and no doubt others.  I've always assumed that one of the lyrics's themes is that of leaving behind a bookish adolescent 'poetic age' - hence the flood of literary references in the earlier part of the song.  Interesting, too, that 'superbly' is CJ's own addition, not taken from Flaubert...I think it's a, well, superb choice with its connotations of pride as well as excellence.  
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