Official Blog of the Bishop of Durham

Nick Cave – There is a Kingdom

Posted by NT Wrong on December 2, 2008

Nick Cave’s song, There is a Kingdom picks up on a number of Gnostic and Christian motifs. There’s the idea of the Kingdom of God being within (and, Nick Cave adds, without). He also sings of the human spark unable to be quenched in the darkness (which parallels a single bird singing up the sun in the darkness of the early morning). Cave also employs the Gnostic idea of the material world as mere appearance — but complicates it by ascribing this quality of false appearances to those signs of transcendence that Kant thought he could rely on. What Cave does seem to affirm, instead, is the ephemeral one-off never-to-return dawning day, in all its materiality and lack of transcendence that we can still love. In this way, the Christian-hymnlike qualities of the song and its mystical Gnostic motifs manage to open up a world which is both more mundane and more spirit-filled than the individual Christian and Gnostic motifs it employs.

It’s also a very nice song to listen to:

Here it is, accompanied by some still pictures by one of the videographers of Youtube (as John Lyons refers to them):

Just like a bird that sings up the sun
In a dawn so very dark
Such is my faith for you
Such is my faith
And all the world’s darkness can’t swallow up
A single spark
Such is my love for you
Such is my love

There is a kingdom
There is a king
And he lives without
And he lives within

The starry heavens above me
The moral law within
So the world appears
So the world appears
This day so sweet
It will never come again
So the world appears
Through this mist of tears

    Gospel of Thomas 3:
    Jesus said, “If your leaders say to you,

    ‘Look, the (Father’s) kingdom is in the sky,’
    then the birds of the sky will precede you.
    If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’
    then the fish will precede you.
    Rather, the (Father’s) kingdom is within you and it is outside you.

    When you know yourselves, then you will be known,
    and you will understand that you are children of the living Father.
    But if you do not know yourselves,
    then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty.”

“Two things awe me most, the starry sky above me and the moral law within me.”
– Immanuel Kant


3 Responses to “Nick Cave – There is a Kingdom”

  1. Gideon said

    Nick Cave… such an odd bird. His discography is so all over the place, but I enjoy him immensely.

    Another strange song that has caught my attention recently has been Natalie Merchant’s “Thick as Thieves” which seems escatological and is densely packed with medeival and religious images.

  2. tim f said

    I love Nick Cave. However, I think The Boatman’s Call is the weakest Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds album. I don’t know how familiar you are with his other stuff, but I’d recommend From Her to Eternity, Murder Ballads and No More Shall We Part. Probably the latter if you like the hymn-like stuff.

  3. ntwrong said

    Gideon – Thanks for your song sharing. It’s good. You must make me a mix-tape so we can be best friends.

    Tim – I’m quite familiar with Nick Cave. Murder Ballads is perhaps my favourite album — I’ve played it so many times I absorbed it into my skin. I also very much like The Boatman’s Call, which was his next album, but always thought they were polar opposites.

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