I bought PJ Harvey’s “To Bring you My Love” about ten years ago.
During that time I was hanging around with wonderfriend Mike and, one night, on a whim, I bought this album. The video for “C’mon Billy” had been in moderately high rotation on MTV (when they used to show videos during reasonable hours) with its strange whispered chant:
little fish, big fish, swimmin’ in the water, come back here and gimme my daughter
I would never have said “I love this album” - but I never tire of it either.
In recent years I’ve come to believe that the album is essentially maternal. In many ways, I wonder if the “love” she is singing about is the blood of a child, the father of whom is away, has left, or is dead.
Here’s a brief catalog of some of the turns of phrase dealing with child quickening, birthing, or the act by which life is perpetuated:
Here she’s talking about this deep desire to bring this love, and the offspring to this mysterious, dark, absent, father.
Cast down on my knees I’ve laid with the devil Cursed god above Forsaken heaven To bring you my love
I believe she believes this devil to be the father, perhaps named William?
C’mon Billy You’re the only one Don’t you think it’s time now You met your only son
Or about a lost daughter?
Oh, help me Jesus come through this storm I had to lose her to do her harm I heard her holler, I heard her moan My lovely daughter I took her home
Birthing children reaches a final desparate plea with her desparate wailing of:
Left alone in desert This house become a hell This love become a tether This room becomes a cell Mommy, daddy, please Send him back to me
How long must I suffer? Dear God, I’ve served my time This love becomes my torture This love, my only crime Lover please release me My arms too weak to grip My eyes to dry for weeping My lips too dry to kiss Calling ,Jesus, please Send his love to me I’m begging ,Jesus, please Send his love to me
It just leaves me in the mind of dark-haired Polly Jean in some dusty, western, hardscrabble town, her lover leaving, her belly swelling… It just shows what a desparate act - a sneer in the face of circumstance - birth can be. It’s all very Schopenhauerian .