The full title of this song is written as Beautiful Ghost/Introduction to Songs of Experience. Now, if I told you the song was written in the Joshua Tree era, would you believe me? Given that the band just released an album called Songs of Innocence, and are calling the next album Songs of Experience? Probably not a coincidence, but seriously, planning something twenty years ahead seems kind of excessive.
The lyrics of the song are taken completely from some poetry written by a dude called William Blake in 1794. Yes, 1794, so maybe they were planning 200 years ahead. Apparently he wrote a collection called Songs of Innocence, and another one called Songs of Experience. The lyrics here are literally the Introduction to Songs of Experience, as the title says.
I’m joking by calling him a dude, of course, because Blake is pretty well known. Couldn’t have told you any of his works before today, but I had heard his name. Apparently Bono is well-read, even more so than I actually knew. You always hear about him having read this or that literary thing and using it for inspiration, but 200 year old poetry is crazy. I cannot pretend to know what the heck the poem is talking about. I’m not that literary. My knowledge of it is pretty much all from the Wikipedia article. Even then my knowledge is kind of sketchy, I read through this literary discussion of the poem and have no idea of about half of what they’re saying (or more, maybe three quarters). I’ve always been more on the analytical side of the brain, but I’ve been trying to push that artistic side lately. That is one of the reasons for this blog in fact, so I can work on my writing and develop a voice, as it were.
The music is ethereal, random, kind of something you might think of as from a movie. Mostly just ghostly sounds, I suppose you could say that’s why the song is titled as it is. Bono speaks quietly as he quotes the poem. What’s weird is that it is two minutes in before he even says a word, then he reads the poem, and it is right at the end when he repeats “till the break of day” that his voice gets a little higher. That’s the total of the song. Dreary I would have said a few weeks ago, although I think I might have used that word a little too much.
There are a few songs by U2 that are music only, instrumentals, and this one could almost qualify as one of them. It is music by the band, and words by someone else, and they do appear to just be thrown in as an afterthought. I’m going to write about several instrumentals in one post one of these days, because really how much can you write about a song that doesn’t have any words? Not much, I tell you. It’s hard enough to write about one whose words are a 200 year old poem that doesn’t make any sense.
My rating for Beautiful Ghost/Introduction to Songs of Experience: 3 / 10