Saturday, 18 December 2010


“There may be a great fire in our soul, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke.” - Vincent van Gogh

A busy morning today putting up Christmas decorations in the house, going out to do some shopping and then back home again for some chores. This evening, however, we went to a friend’s house to dinner. He and his partner live in an apartment on the riverside in the City. She is very nice and cooked a delicious dinner. Another couple was there and we all had a wonderful evening. We heard some lovely music during dinner and a favourite of mine from Sting’s pen brought back some memories.

“St Agnes and the Burning Train”… It is a curious and mysterious title. St Agnes is a virgin martyr of the Catholic calendar. She is the patron saint of virgins, chastity, young girls, engaged couples, rape victims and gardeners. Agnes is also the name of Sting’s grandmother. The piece is instrumental and is found on Sting’s Album “The Soul Cages” dedicated to the death of his father. Most of the songs on it somehow relate to sailing and sea, as his father was a sailor. Newcastle is mentioned a couple of times as this is where Sting grew up.

The burning train refers to a fire on a train his grandmother was on, on an occasion near Christmas when she was coming to visit him. As Agnes was very independent she always insisted on taking the train when visiting. The fire on the train perhaps was a reminder that life is precarious and death is waiting around every corner. Here is something attributed to St Agnes:

“When Death Is Near

I bless you, O Father, worthy as you are of higher praise, who renders me fearless even in the midst of the flames and who fills me with longing to go to you. Lo! I already behold Him whom I have trusted, I am about to grasp what I have hoped to embrace Him whom I have so ardently desired.”

The insistent “chug-chug” of the bass rhythm reminds me of the train, while the flickering melody could well be the flames, as for the lovely harmony, well that’s St Agnes…


  1. What a wonderful piece of music! I had never heard it before...

  2. Video is here:

  3. Even more beautifull and thrilling now I know the background of this magnificent piece!

  4. Thank you for the background information!
    Somehow, this tender composition doesn't associate for me with anything as brutal and powerful as trains and as destructive as fire. It reminds me of something graceful and fragile, like a butterfly, or a teenage girl.))

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  6. We chose this song for the processional to our wedding ceremony (1998). It is near and dear. Thank you for the thoughtful reflection. Now I understand how fitting it was. All evening long our guests were humming the tune.

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