STLT#3, The World Stands Out on Either Side

The world stands out on either side no wider than the heart is wide;
above the world is stretched the sky no higher than the soul is high.

The heart can push the sea and land so far away on either hand;
the soul can split the sky in two and let the face of God shine through.


This is a hymn I have never sung, nor never heard.  The lyrics are amazing – let’s not kid ourselves: Edna St. Vincent Millay can write. The lyrics talk about the expansiveness of our souls, of God, and what I perceive as a challenge against the limits we try to put on our ideas of the divine. It’s a lush pair of couplets. That last line… so delicious: the SOUL can split the sky in two. It comes from us. We’re the only thing trying to hold it all in, but as Leonard Cohen taught us, ‘there’s a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in.’ I wonder if Cohen had read Millay before writing that song. And I am led to wonder about the ways I try to hold it in, hold it all together, try to seal the cracks that my soul is yearning to open up.

Yes. The lyric is inspiring, beautiful, hopeful, lush.

The music is not so lush – at least not the melody, which is the only thing I can manage to play on the piano app on my iPad. I long for a Ralph Vaughn Williams kind of tune here – something with a bit of sentimentality, but maybe with a bit of simplicity.

I agree with Jason Shelton that no song is unsingable – and I did indeed sing it. But I didn’t feel it – there seemed to me no marriage of word and melody, and thus it was a chore, not a delight.


Words by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Music by W. Fredrick Wooden

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