Lit & Lyric: Leave Behind

Rose (

In "Beautiful Day", Bono sings: "See the bird with a leaf in her mouth/ After the flood all the colors came out..." This sounds like this could be based in the Bible's Book of Genesis and the story of the Great Flood. When it looked like the rains had stopped, Noah sent out the dove to find out if there was any dry land. The first bird came back with a twig in its mouth. He took this to mean that some land was starting to appear as the water dried up. The second dove he sent out never came back, having found a home on dry land.

Rose (

On the cover art of "All That You Can't Leave Behind", the monitor in the background reads : J 33-3. Rumor has it that the band had this put in on purpose, different from the original F21-36 that was really in the photograph. The J 33-3 is apparently a reference to the Book of Jeremiah Chapter 33, verse 3 in the Bible. The snippet reads "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and hidden things which you have not known." With the album title implying that they have left behind the irony and excess of their recent work and have returned to the sincerity and songcraft that made them famous, the Bible verse seems to fit.

Early pictures of the CD cover show the original F21-36, meant to designate the check-in counters at the airport. Cool, huh!

Rose (

Bono's dedication to Seamus Heaney's poetry continues on All That You Can't Leave Behind. Heaney's play The Cure At Troy is an adaptation of Sophocles' Philoctetes. Sophocles was an ancient Greek playwright for those who did not know. Anyway, Heaney revives ancient Greek theatre in his own vigorous, modern poetry (check Heaney out if you haven't). Read this clip:

Human beings suffer
They torture one another
They get hurt and get hard
No poem or play or song
Can fully right a wrong
Inflicted and endured

The innocent in gaols
Beat on their bars together
A hunger-striker's father
Stands in the graveyard dumb
The police widow in veils
Faints at the funeral home

History says, Don't hope
On this side of the grave
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme

So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracle
And cures and healing wells.

Call miracle self-healing:
The utter, self-revealing
Double-take of feeling.
If there's fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky

That means someone is hearing
The outcry and the birth-cry
Of new life at its term.

Sound familiar? It should. Bono snipped the "hope and history rhyme" line for his "Peace on Earth" from the new album. On the album, the lines are: "Hear it every Christmas time/ But hope and history won't rhyme/ So what's it worth?/ This peace on earth..." Listening to U2... hell of a way to learn literature both modern and ancient.

And for the real die-hards out there, here's another connection between the snip from the play above and U2. Did anyone get the Omagh tribute album Across The Bridge of Hope? I tracked it down in New York City. Liam Neeson gets to read the first selection and the lines above is what he reads. U2 contributed "Please" to the CD. Knowing now that Bono wrote "Peace On Earth" after Omagh, it makes ya kind of wonder that he used the same work of literature to influence his words as Liam Neeson chose to read for a tribute album of the same tragedy. I've never read the whole play, but it makes you wonder if the work really is THAT fitting to make two people think of it for the same thing or if Bono was listening to that CD and that's what tipped him into using it, too.

Interesting, huh? Maybe I should rename this site "Literary Six Degrees of U2"...

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