Art Garfunkel, Bridging the Waters

Some very dear friends kindly took us to Art Garfunkel’s recent concert at the Pantages Theater in Tacoma, WA. It was a delightful, very rewarding evening. His was the clear tenor voice that made possible the wonderful Simon and Garfunkel music that those of us of a certain age associate with our high school and college years. But this was not simply a series of old songs re-sung; this performance included newer songs with old favorites, interwoven with the artist’s delightful commentary on life, often in poetic form. (He protested applying that high-sounding term, poetry, to his writings, but since the English Department includes free verse under its definition of poetry, we will too.)

There is a spirit of mature melancholy in Garfunkel’s music and musings. Not the adolescent angst we knew so long ago, but the reflective thoughts and feelings of one who has experienced life, known great success and great loss and success returned again. “Artie” lost his voice in 2009 and labored diligently to regain it. He succeeded well. The result is not only a beautiful voice, but the sense of a great artist who is also humble, a rare and wonderful thing in our age of self-promoting demagoguery.

The greater losses, though, were of loved ones lost in death’s dateless night. Here Garfunkel revealed his love of family and friends: his beloved wife and children, also his intermittent relationship with childhood friend and youthful collaborator, Paul Simon. He also revealed his faith in God and devotion to the more important things of life. As a boy he served as a cantor, and included in the concert a too-brief excerpt of Hebrew a cappella. Even without the touch of echo added by the sound engineer, it was heavenly, an angel’s song.

Garfunkel’s concluding number was a rendition of Bridge Over Troubled Waters which he characterized as a “rehearsal” of a work-in-progress. There was no piano; all his accompaniment was by a very fine guitarist. Nevertheless, this adaptation of an old favorite was simply outstanding, very fine. Standing ovations generally are over-done, but in this case, I was happy to join the crowd in standing for a great artist in the humane tradition. Long may he perform.

Here is a link to his website where you may be able to find a performance near you:


Best Wishes.


The Fool’s Prayer

I recently ran across an old poem that I first read many years ago and which I think is of great worth:


by: Edward Rowland Sill (1841-1887)

HE royal feast was done; the King                      
Sought some new sport to banish care,                      
And to his jester cried: “Sir Fool,                      
Kneel now, and make for us a prayer!”                      
The jester doffed his cap and bells,                      
And stood the mocking court before;                      
They could not see the bitter smile                      
Behind the painted grin he wore.                      
He bowed his head, and bent his knee                      
Upon the Monarch’s silken stool;                      
His pleading voice arose: “O Lord,                      
Be merciful to me, a fool!                      
“No pity, Lord, could change the heart                      
From red with wrong to white as wool;                      
The rod must heal the sin: but Lord,                      
Be merciful to me, a fool!                      
“‘Tis not by guilt the onward sweep                      
Of truth and right, O Lord, we stay;                      
‘T is by our follies that so long                      
We hold the earth from heaven away.                      
“These clumsy feet, still in the mire,                      
Go crushing blossoms without end;                      
These hard, well-meaning hands we thrust                      
Among the heart-strings of a friend.                      
“The ill-timed truth we might have kept–                      
Who knows how sharp it pierced and stung?                      
The word we had not sense to say–                      
Who knows how grandly it had rung!                      
“Our faults no tenderness should ask.                      
The chastening stripes must cleanse them all;                      
But for our blunders — oh, in shame                      
Before the eyes of heaven we fall.                      
“Earth bears no balsam for mistakes;                      
Men crown the knave, and scourge the tool                      
That did his will; but Thou, O Lord,                      
Be merciful to me, a fool!”                      
The room was hushed; in silence rose                      
The King, and sought his gardens cool,                      
And walked apart, and murmured low,                      
“Be merciful to me, a fool!”                    
“The Fool’s Prayer” is                    reprinted from The Little Book of American Poets: 1787-1900.                    Ed. Jessie B. Rittenhouse. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1915.