R.I.P. Sydney Carter

‘The Lord of the Dance’ is gone at 88: “Sydney was a folk poet, a holy sceptic and an iconoclastic theologian – that last description would both bemuse and please him – in the amateur tradition of the folk movement, deconstructing the theology of the academic establishment and bringing it to life. He played a leading role in the folk revival of the 1960s and 70s, and it was then that he wrote most of his songs, composed both to please and to shock. Life, as he embraced it, was for dancing.

…When, in 1999 the mists of Alzheimer’s disease began to close in, Sydney’s second wife, Leela, lovingly cared for him and interpreted him to others. The past gradually receded into the strange land of lost memory. His friend Rabbi Lionel Blue wrote that now “our only contact is a thin thread of memory and his songs. I start singing them, and he joyfully joins in – and I leave him as he continues singing.”

More than 30 years ago, Sydney had written his own epitaph:

Coming and going by the dance, I see

That what I am not is a part of me.

Dancing is all that I can ever trust,

The dance is all I am, the rest is dust.

I will believe my bones and live by what

Will go on dancing when my bones are not.” —Guardian.UK [via walker]

Lord of the Dance
by Sydney Carter

I danced in the morning when the world was begun

I danced in the stars & the Moon & the Sun

I came down from Heaven & I danced on Earth

At Bethlehem I had my birth:

Dance then, wherever you may be

I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!

And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be

And I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said He!

(…lead you all in the Dance, said He!)

I danced for the scribe & the pharisee

They would not dance & they wouldn’t follow me

I danced for Peter & for James & John

They followed me & the Dance went on:

Dance then, wherever you may be

I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!

And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be

And I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said He!

(…lead you all in the Dance, said He!)

I danced on the Sabbath & I healed the lame

The holy people said it was a shame!

They whipped me & stripped me & hung me high

And left me there on a cross to die!

Dance then, wherever you may be

I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!

And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be

And I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said He!

(…lead you all in the Dance, said He!)

I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black

It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back

They buried my body & they thought I’d gone

But I am the Dance & I still go on!

Dance then, wherever you may be

I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!

And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be

And I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said He!

(…lead you all in the Dance, said He!)

They cut me down but I leap up high

I am the Life that will never never die!

I’ll live in you if you’ll live in Me

I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!

Dance then, wherever you may be

I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!

And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be

And I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said He!