Mirth – Birth – Reverie: Remembering Nico (October 16, 1938 – July 18, 1988)


I can’t let this day pass without remembering a beloved heroine – the great singer/songwriter, poet, composer, musician, fashion model, actress, Warhol Superstar, and self-described “international pagan,” born on this day as Christa Päffgen, but known to the world as Nico.

Nico is probably most famous for her association with The Velvet Underground, but her solo albums are absolute gems, extremely influential and decades ahead of their time, filled with haunting melodies and exquisitely beautiful lyrics . . . bursts of poetry charged with mythical and mystical symbolism. The following two songs are both from my favorite Nico album, her 1968/1969 masterpiece – The Marble Index.

[And for a brief but remarkably astute analysis of Nico’s life and work, which places Nico in the visionary tradition of “Jung, Kafka, Genet, Ernst, Anna Kavan, Jean Rhys, H.D. and David Lynch”, while perceptively noting that “Nico was like a Greek oracle, both voice and vehicle of the gods” – check out this excellent review of The End (Nico’s 1974 album) by J.E. Barnes here.]

Nibelungen
by Nico

Since the first of you and me asleep
In a Nibelungen land
Titanic curses trap me in
A banishment of stay
Symbols vanish from my senses
Stem and stave the view appears

Symbols captured in a trance
Vanish from my glance
For the various defenses
I enforce a strike the alarm
For the various defences
That choose to be here and there
And lose the direction everywhere

Since the first of you and me asleep
In a Nibelungen land where we cannot be
Almond trees grow along the mountain trail
From their tongues the words are spelling
The telling numb

I cannot hear it anymore
I cannot hear it anymore

Since the first of you and me here and there
We lose the direction everywhere
Shrieking city sun shiver in my veins
In flames I run
In flames I run
Waiting for the sign to come

Will you spell the words for me
Will you spell the words for me to hear
Nibelungen
Nibelungen
Nibelungen land

***

Julius Caesar (Memento Hodie)
by Nico

Amidst water lily fields white and green
Grows a tree
And from the tree hang apples
Not for you to eat.

In a way it matters more
Than it did before
To see the East voyaging through
True hearts of dunes

Mirth
Birth
Reverie

There in harmony
Somersault caravans of fools
As he passes for reply
To sing his songs again.

He sways to kiss the horizontal ground
And from the ground a dove rises
And as a mark of honor
A mask is left behind

Mirth
Birth
Reverie

There in harmony
To gentle form and noble force
Calm and vast his voice cascades
From this gentle stage

Calm and vast the city lies
On a horizontal ground
Kind and calm Julius lies
For Octavian to prevail

Mirth
Birth
Reverie

In harmony
Traverses the peninsula
Aeolus with his whisperwinds to strike
With his gentle kisses the righteous
And wise and doom ambitious praise
With his will his will and order

Mirth
Birth
Reverie

Amidst water lily fields white and green
Grows a tree
And from the tree hang apples
Not for you to eat
Beneath the heaving sea
Where statues and pillars and stone altars rest for all these
Aching bones to guide us far from energy

Mirth
Birth
Reverie

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