A Song of Love for Julia

Julia Bates, the love of my life

Julia Bates, the love of my life

Today the woman I married 42 years ago turns 64, which means that two Beatles songs come to mind. I still need her and I still feed her and I continue to sing a song of love for Julia, Julia, Julia.

I fell in love with Julia for many reasons but one of them must have been because of the easy way her name slides off the tongue. My first poetic encounter with the name was not the Beatles song but a wonderfully sensuous Robert Herrick poem. “Upon Julia’s Clothes” was taught to me in 1967 to illustrate iambic meter:

Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows
That liquefaction of her clothes.

Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
That brave vibration each way free;
O how that glittering taketh me!

Both Julia’s silks and the sound of her name liquefy, and John Lennon’s own handling of the name is filled with water imagery. According to WikipediaLennon’s mother, killed by a drunk driver, was named Julia, and Lennon moves between the name and Yoko Ono, whose first name means “child of the sea.” In the song, Julia is an ocean child calling out to the singer, but he finds language inadequate to express his feelings. He twice turns to the mystical poet Kahlil Gibran to help him out:

The line “Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it just to reach you” was a slight alteration from Kahlil Gibran‘s “Sand and Foam” (1926) in which the original verse reads, “Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it so that the other half may reach you.” Lennon also adapted the lines “When I cannot sing my heart, I can only speak my mind” from Gibran’s “When life does not find a singer to sing her heart she produces a philosopher to speak her mind.” (Wikipedia)

In this instance, however, life has found a singer to sing her heart. “Julia” works as a kind of mystical incantation, crooned out and repeated over and over. Lennon voices his longing for his mother and elides that longing with his love for Ono.

You can hear the song on YouTube here . The lyrics go as follows:

Julia

By John Lennon

Half of what I say is meaningless
But I say it just to reach you, Julia

Julia, Julia, oceanchild, calls me
So I sing a song of love, Julia
Julia, seashell eyes, windy smile, calls me
So I sing a song of love, Julia

Her hair of floating sky is shimmering, glimmering
In the sun

Julia, Julia, morning moon, touch me
So I sing a song of love, Julia

When I cannot sing my heart
I can only speak my mind, Julia

Julia, sleeping sand, silent cloud, touch me
So I sing a song of love, Julia
Hum hum hum hum… calls me
So I sing a song of love for Julia, Julia, Julia

Let this also be my song of love for Julia. Happy Birthday, sunshine.

This entry was posted in Herrick (Robert), Lennon (John) and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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