The Jester's Quest in the City of Glass

by Lyrian

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    Three hideously ugly children captured by witches and boiled in a pot until they were rendered into a flat, silvery disk and buried in a transparent plastic coffin.

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about

As the title suggests, the ten songs that make up "The Jester’s Quest in the City of Glass" tell the story of a comical knave and his journey in search of a mysterious prize. Along the way he meets wise flowers, alcoholic angels, mermaids, shape-shifting fortune-tellers, aged magicians, shining metal men and a whole shipful of fools. His journey represents a particular human life, but also the quest and fate of Everyman, and has echoes of some of the great legends of pursuit, from Moby Dick to Scooby Doo, from Robinson Crusoe to The Pilgrim’s Progress, from The Wizard of Oz to The Hunting of the Snark. Some of the songs are also musical tributes to bands beloved of Lyrian and of the dedicatee of the album. The music is progressive through and through, with Mellotrons in evidence, flutes and pipes, acoustic guitars and synthesizers, and a great variety of voices, playing the parts of the various protagonists. Narration is provided by superannuated thespian Brian Nash (Paul Nash’s father). The album is full of jests, but in deadly earnest,
and of sober philosophy, but in pure jest.

credits

released April 1, 2016

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Lyrian Moreton In Marsh, UK

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Track Name: A million stars
Fit the First: A Million Stars

Narrator: On a misty morning in September the Jester rises from the sea, a child of light and mirth, clothed in cloth of blue as deep as the ocean he is born of.

He rises from the sea
Born of the ghosts of mariners singing
Of currents flowing free
Out of the bells of drowned churches ringing

He feels a million stars behind him
A nation at his back
He flies before their light can blind him
And takes the only track

He hears a distant choir
Singing a hymn of half-witted pity
He sees a distant spire
Fashioned of glass, portending the city
Track Name: Ancient spirals
Fit the Second: Ancient Spirals

Narrator: The Jester walks, slowly along the path that rises from the shore. Ahead lies the beautiful City of Glass, but he must pass many strange symbols before he can reach it, and endure the wisdom of the first of many prophets he will meet on his long journey. From the city ahead he can hear the music of an ancient hymn.

Choir: Oh the world is a white city
Sleeping in the shadow of the Cross
Oh the world is a brass penny
Rusting in the vapours of the grave
Oh the world is a pink petal
Rotting on the earth beneath the rose
Oh the world is a grey mushroom
Growing on the bosom of a corpse
Oh the world is a black beetle
Drowning in the downpour of the hours
Oh the world is a green apple
Spinning in the hollow of Death’s hand

Narrator: As he treads the path inland he notes there
Many snail-shells show their empty throats there
Ancient spirals like the horns of goats there
With many-coloured coats there

Soon he comes upon a milk-white flower
With a sweet face, but its odour’s sour
Rising up it sings with mystic power
With words the winds devour

Flower: Seek the prize you must
Soon you will be dust
Seek where bones are thrust
Seek where the wild winds gust

Jester: Speak again, your words have all the flavour
Of the riddles crooks and lovers favour
What’s this quest from which I may not waver?
No question could be graver
‘What is my name? What do I seek?
What is my name? What do I seek?

Flower: It is only the earth, only the earth, only the earth ...
Track Name: The scented chamber
Fit the Third: The Scented Chamber

Narrator: The Jester arrives at the City of Glass and enters. It is full of beautiful people and buildings, but the air is heavy with foul odours. The streets are paved with silver and laid out in straight lines, and the houses are raised on stilts with many doors and windows. Outside one building a glass sign bears the symbol of a green tree. The Jester goes inside. Although the sky is bright and the walls are of glass, the interior is dark and lit by red and yellow lanterns. There is a smell of incense, and the Jester wonders if this might be a church.

Jester: I see a green light in the gloom
And suddenly an angel stands
Beside me, singing in that scented room
A lantern and a bottle in his hands

I take the bottle and I drink
Its nectar fills my breast with bliss
My mind clears, now I am standing on the brink
Of understanding all of this

Narrator: Six times in all the angel brings
Bliss-filled bottles, fit to burst
Full of dreams and wondrous things
Answering his thirst

Now his mind is at its best
There is nothing wine can’t teach
Save the purpose of his quest
Still just beyond his reach

He stands before a door of lead
Brightly lit, but can’t proceed
A word is written there in red
A word he cannot read

He almost understands the rune
Like ‘wonderful’ or ‘wrong’ it seems
A seventh angel brings him soon
A seventh vial of dreams

Jester: I know that one more sip will shine
A light upon this final ‘why?’
The angel offers me his wine
I drink and know the answers lie
beyond that leaden door, I try
to open it, and open it, and thus pass out
Track Name: The fall of the cards
Fit the Fifth: The Fall of the Cards (A Quip for a Jester’s Ear)

Narrator: The Jester wakes to find himself back in the City of Glass. He can no longer see the building with the green tree symbol, and finds that his jester’s costume has changed colour from dark blue to pale blue. He wonders if it was bleached by the sea during his dream, but realises this makes no sense. He rises and walks on, none the wiser.

Jester: The people of the city hurry by
Tall and fair, rushing past with disdain
They do not seem to see me, but I try
To be heard and to jest, but in vain

I join the throng and swept along I soon see before me
One figure rather taller than the crowd
In robes of brown – the skies grow stormy
Glowing, turning, eddying with cloud

I chase the brown-clad figure as it flies
Through the storm, growing wild, growing foul
And catch it up at last and seek its eyes
Hidden deep in the folds of its cowl

The face I find is eyeless, ancient, female and fly-blown
She cocks her head to hear the thing I ask
Her skin is grey and crumbling like dry stone
Expressionless as if it were a mask

Her lips are black and glistening and wet with mirth
They ask me what I am seeking. I say ‘The Earth’
A hand of bone and parchment crawls out from her sleeve
And grasps my shoulder with a strength I can’t believe

‘Come with me’ she whispers as she leads me to a door
Draws me through into a room with scarlet walls and floor
And to a throne beset with shards
Of bone, the skulls of beasts and fish
Beside a table with a pack of cards
She bids me sit and ask her what I wish

Narrator: He asks, ‘What is your name?’
She turns a card, it is The Moon
He asks the woman, ‘Who am I?’
She turns a card, it is The Star
He asks ‘What does that last card mean?’
The Tower Struck-Down is the next card
He asks ‘Does that mean I shall die?’
And she turns The Wheel of Fortune
Once more he asks her ‘Who am I?’
She turns up Temperance, inverted
‘Riddles, riddles!’ cries the Jester.
She tells him ‘That is not a question.’
The Jester asks ‘What do I seek?’
She shows The World turned upside-down
He asks ‘Where will I find it?’
The next card is The Hermit.
Then asks ‘How shall I know it?’
The next card is The Devil.
He asks her ‘What shall I do with it?’
She shows him The Magician.
He asks ‘What will become of me?’
The last card is The Lovers.

The old woman takes this last card and raises it to her face. When she withdraws it again she is young and beautiful. She offers the Jester the card and he takes it. He asks her if it means they will be lovers, but she runs to the door and flings it open. The Jester passes through, and the young woman closes the door behind him. He looks down at the card in his hand and notices two things. It is no longer The Lovers, but The Fool. And the sleeve of his garment, indeed all his attire, has changed from blue to green.
Track Name: Flight from the enchanter
Fit the Sixth: Flight from the Enchanter

Jester: I journey on through the crowds of the city
Past crystal buildings with stars dancing in
Until I come to a black marble plaza
The people won’t venture onto its skin

But I step out on the sleek marble paving
I skate alone on this lake of black ice
The stone is warm not like ice but like velvet
And every slab bears a sculpted device

This is a graveyard I’m strolling over
Beneath my feet lie a million bones
The bones of kings and the bones of jesters
I hear their ghosts singing under the stones

I reach the centre and find a sundial
I seek the sun, but there is no trace
The bowl of heaven is bright above me
But casts no shadows to fall on this face

Narrator: Suddenly a figure is there beside the Jester. It is a tall old man in a dark cloak, holding a wooden staff and a bright lantern. The Jester is reminded of the image of The Hermit he saw in the tarot cards. The old man speaks.

Hermit: What do you seek here among the tombstones?
Jester: I seek the earth, where the wild winds blow.
Hermit: Look there behind you, above the tombstones
Two snow-white birds flying fast and low.
To find the earth you must fly above it
Joining flight with those four bright wings
Jester: How can I fly when my limbs are leaden?
How can I fly with those brilliant things?

Narrator: As the Jester asks this question he realises he is enchanted and has been transformed into a bird. His green clothes are now green feathers. The white birds fly past him, and he tries to join them, but cannot leave the ground. The hermit points with his staff to the Jester’s feet. He looks down and sees that he is still holding, in his right claw, the tarot card, The Fool. He drops it, flexes his wings and takes flight ...

Doves: Fly, fly with me, fly with me, in the silver sky
Fly, fly with me, fly with me, where the spirits fly
Fly, fly with me, fly with me, where the soft winds stream
Fly, fly with me, fly with me, where the seagulls dream
Fly, fly with me, fly with me, on the breath of earth
Fly, fly with me, fly with me, in the realms of mirth
Fly, fly with me, fly with me, where the clouds ascend
Fly, fly with me, fly with me, where the sorrows end

Narrator: The Jester and the white birds fly for what seems many hours above the buildings of glass, rising up on the thermals of the great city, the ecstasy of flight filling the Jester’s heart.

Suddenly, he feels a sharp pain in his breast and looks down to see that he has been pierced by an arrow. He falls toward the earth, his eyes closing. The last thing he sees is the approaching figure of the hunter with his bow beneath him, a huge man with a beard, clothed, like himself, all in green.
Track Name: The humours of the grave
Fit the Seventh: The Humours of the Grave

Narrator: The Jester wonders if he is dead. He seems to be alive, and lying on the pavement of the City of Glass. At his side is The Hermit, and he asks the old man what has become of him. ‘You were killed by the arrow of Pamphilus,’ he says. ‘It pierced your heart. But I saved you by turning you quickly into a creature without a heart.’ The Jester looks at his right hand and finds it, and his whole body, encased in green armour. He tells the Hermit that he is man. ‘No,’ says the Hermit, ‘You are a Knight and henceforth must be called Sir Jester. Observe your breastplate.’

Jester: I was slain, slain, slain by an arrow to the breast
And I fell to earth thinking no more of the quest
As a bird I would fly and had never thought to die
But I tumbled down, tumbled down out of the sky

I was saved, saved, saved from the humours of the grave
By a strange enchantment that changed my flesh and gave
Back the breath I had lost, but my heart was tossed away
Now I am a knight, am a knight, grave, never gay

Narrator: Sir Jester looks at his green breastplate to find a small hinged door there, with a brass handle. He opens it. Inside is a dark space where his heart should be.

Jester: Will a heart, heart, heart ever fill my breast again?
Hermit: If your quest’s absurd and your jest is not in vain ...
Jester: Shall I seek in fire, seek in water or in air?
Hermit: Only in the earth, in the earth – seek your heart there
Track Name: Mister Silver
Fit the Eighth: Mister Silver

Narrator: Sir Jester walks on alone until he comes to a great white archway. He passes though and finds himself in a new part of the city. Here tall buildings tower to the sky, made of gleaming metal, with wings and flanges at every corner. The silver streets are thronged with shiny metal people who sing a welcome to the Jester.

Mr Silver: Welcome, welcome, to our happy world
Welcome, stranger, you are just like us
Jester: Once men were blind, once they ignored me
Mr Silver: You’re welcome to our world
Jester: One of their kind, still they abhorred me
Mr Silver: Most welcome to our world
Jester: But now these men of steel, bright with electric light
Embrace me as a brother might
Mr Silver: You’re just like us
Jester: Driven by gears, driven by amperes
Mr Silver: Please worship at our church
Jester: Feigning their tears, tender with sham cares
Mr Silver: Our God waits in the church
Jester: They dance before me through the streets of gleaming chrome
Towards a flanged and polished dome
Mr Silver: Our God is there
Jester: They all sing, they all dance, they all bow and wink and nod
Mr Silver: We all sing allelujia, we all sing allelujia, we all sing to praise our God

Narrator: Inside the dome a million metal men are gathered in silence. Then a mechanical pianist steps forward. He begins to play upon a shining keyboard.

Narrator: Upon an altar in the centre of that great dome
A small black object lies
It is the God the metal people have come to worship
The Jester rubs his eyes
Their God is nothing but a child’s doll of black wool with one eye and ludicrous of face
The jester reaches out and touches the black doll, a million harsh voices fill the place
Mr Silver: He is touching God! He is touching God!
Narrator: Their god is lolling in his hand now, it’s silky, its downy, with something hard inside
The Jester tears the doll asunder and draws out its black heart and casts the threads aside
Mr Silver: He is killing God! He is killing God!

Narrator: The doll is stuffed with cotton wool, and at its heart is a flat black plastic box with brightly coloured buttons on its face. Sir Jester touches one of the buttons. With one accord, the metal people throw themselves down on their faces. He touches another button and they all rise up vertically again, but standing on their heads. He presses another button and they all spin round, in the same direction, singing madly of their happiness. He presses another button and all movement and sound ceases. The metal people are frozen, all standing on their heads. Slowly, one by one, they fall over, and lie where they have fallen, with happy grins upon their metal faces. Sir Jester walks out of the great dome. Once outside, he presses another button on the black box. From inside there is a great hubbub and the sound of metal worshippers lamenting the destruction of their God.
Track Name: I trespass in the kingdom of the black doll
Fit the Ninth: I Trespass in the Kingdom of the Black Doll

Jester: I walk on through the shining streets
Where smiling tinmen stand
Not knowing I have slain their god
And have his heart in hand
And I wonder could I use this heart
To fill my hollow skin?
So I open up my empty breast
And push the black box in
But no, it will not fit
The void is much too wide
Or is the box too small?
I cast its useless shell aside
Soon I come to the end
Of this suburb of smiling machines
It is marked by a great wall of white
And an arch carved with curious scenes
For a moment I pause
Then proceed through the arch in the wall
And am outside the City of Glass
In a landscape of trees, green and tall

Narrator: Between the trees Sir Jester catches a glimpse of the sea, and begins to walk towards it down a gently sloping path. Soon he emerges from the wood and can see a wide bay before him. He concludes that the City of Glass must be upon an island, or at least a promontory, with sea on both sides. Soon he comes to a marble slab beside the path and stops to look at it. It bears the word CESCESUIT. Mystified, he walks on and passes further slabs each bearing a single word in an unknown tongue, the words ECTAPVOE, MOFE, COVOUTE, QUEMAPIT and HUCCIT. A little further on he finds two of the fair, tall women of the City of Glass digging a grave beside the path. He wonders if this is the earth he is seeking. But the white-clad women shake their heads and one of them says ‘This is not your earth. Keep searching.’

Jester: Before me lies the sparkling bay
And out to sea a ship
With many sails and many masts
Where pennants nod and dip

Upon the shore a skiff is beached
I see as I descend
A man in red waits in the prow
He waves and calls me as a friend

I recognise him soon enough
His bells, his horns, his laughing eye
`Hail Scarlet Jester’ are my words
`Hail Green Knight’ is his reply

`I am the captain of that ship’
The Scarlet Jester cries
`Come join me on my ship of mirth
I sail the seas and skies

Though you are clad in iron robes
You will not drown at sea
For with no heart you cannot die
Come sail the seas with me’

Narrator: They climb into the small boat and the Scarlet Jester rows them out towards the ship. As they pass under the stern, Sir Jester notices the name of the vessel. It is SOLUM SOLUM.
Track Name: The ship of jesters
Fit the Last: The Ship of Jesters

Narrator: Once the Scarlet Jester and the Green Knight are aboard the ship, sail is set and the vessel begins to move away from the City of Glass. Soon it becomes clear that the City stands indeed upon an island, one of many, scattered about in a great archipelago. The ship is crewed entirely by jesters, each wearing velvet of a different hue.

Jester: Surrounded by jesters I am the only knight
Though dressed as a questor they jest for my delight
And here I feel among true friends
My joy is real, my sorrow ends

A feast lies before me, the Scarlet Jester carves
A priest – they assure me no jester ever starves
With roast and wine we quip and joke
We boast and dine and sip and smoke

Then I tell them all of my adventures, each battle
The jesters all lay down their spoons
With shreds of priest caught in my dentures I prattle
Of mermaids and wizards and moons

I tell of the flower which bade me seek the earth
The arrow whose power devoured my heart and mirth
And now I crave the heart I lack
To make me brave and bring joy back

‘Perhaps I can help you,’ the Scarlet Jester cries
As he reaches into his red trews
And gropes around a bit then to everyone’s surprise
Draws out a pair of old running-shoes

‘Try one of these – it has odours to impart
Like a rat that’s three weeks dead!’
‘That is not a heart,’ I tell him with a start
‘I quite disagree,’ says the man in red
‘For, surely, the heart is nothing but a pump ...’

Narrator: There is a moment of silence.

Jester: ‘I do not understand,’ I tell him.

Narrator: Sir Jester opens the hatch in his breastplate and pushes the foul-smelling plimsoll inside. It fits perfectly. The armour of the knight falls away and the Jester stands again in his green velvet which quickly turns a deep yellow. He laughs. The Scarlet Jester laughs. All the jesters laugh. And as they laugh the ship sinks.

Crew of jesters: In the sea are mermaids
Mermen and merchildren
Serpents of the sea-depths
Shoals of shining dragons
Creatures named and nameless
Divers, jesters, monsters
All dissolve in water
Fall to earth as fragments

Jester: And I only am escaped alone to tell thee.