deadsongs.vue.168 : Ripple
permalink #0 of 83: David Dodd (ddodd) Mon 8 Sep 03 09:30
w: Hunter m: Garcia
deadsongs.vue.168 : Ripple
permalink #1 of 83: Alex Allan (alexallan) Mon 8 Sep 03 20:49
Lyrics: Robert Hunter
Music: Jerry Garcia

Copyright Ice Nine Publishing; used by permission.

If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung
Would you hear my voice come through the music?
Would you hold it near, as it were your own?

It's a hand-me-down, the thoughts are broken
Perhaps they're better left unsung
I don't know, don't really care
Let there be songs to fill the air

Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow

Reach out your hand if your cup be empty
If your cup is full may it be again
Let it be known there is a fountain
That was not made by the hands of man

There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night
And if you go, no one may follow
That path is for your steps alone

Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow

You who choose to lead must follow
But if you fall, you fall alone
If you should stand, then who's to guide you?
If I knew the way, I would take you home
deadsongs.vue.168 : Ripple
permalink #2 of 83: Mary Eisenhart (marye) Thu 11 Sep 03 16:16
This is the one that got me on the bus.

Due to various factors, not least of which was being stuck in grad
school in SoCal during the relevant period, I never heard any of the
songs on American Beauty or Workingman's except for the singles that
got played on the radio. So I'd never heard the song when I went to
my first show, NYE 80/81. This followed shortly after the Warfield
run, which I'd been interested in but failed to get tix, and so they
played the acoustic set, more or less along the lines of Reckoning,
which conveniently came out not much later.

From where we were sitting, in the topmost right-hand corner at the 
back of the Oakland Aud, the spectacle was amazing if you weren't
used to it--thousands of people wearing clothes the like of which I
hadn't seen in ten years, surging and clapping in time along with
Jer's singing in what, then and now, is the most compelling voice
I've ever heard, precisely because of its lack of technical perfection,

Like I say, I didn't know the song. I didn't know, and wasn't entirely
comfortable about, the cultlike thing. But I could hear with perfect
clarity the line "If I knew the way, i would take you home." 

Which was the perfect commentary on the whole situation and made me
want to know more. And here I am.

(Technically, one could say the Human Be-In was my first show, but we
got there too late to see the Dead play.)
deadsongs.vue.168 : Ripple
permalink #3 of 83: last fair deal in the country sweet susy (sumarcus) Thu 11 Sep 03 16:46
Ripple is my favorite song. When I was in college, lots of my friends
played Ripple on the guitar.  Now I play Ripple on the banjo while my
buddy plays mandolin.  It is very sweet.
Ripple is simple harmonically, yet very compelling. It is a psalm.
Also, I love any song in the key of G.
deadsongs.vue.168 : Ripple
permalink #4 of 83: Melinda Belleville (mellobelle) Fri 12 Sep 03 12:24
Yes, Susie, you're right.  It is a psalm.  It's definitely in my
spiritual canon.
deadsongs.vue.168 : Ripple
permalink #5 of 83: porn and whiskey (noah) Fri 12 Sep 03 12:39
My father's favorite GD song as well.

He was shocked when I told him who it was singing. he thought the Grateful
Dead were a heavy metal band.
deadsongs.vue.168 : Ripple
permalink #6 of 83: Lightning in a Box (unkljohn) Sun 14 Sep 03 08:10
Ripple is one of the most compelling tunes I know. There is a reverence 
about it that makes it very special. I feel the same way about Attics of 
My Life. I heard an interview with Weir once, and he said not many people 
know it but 

 Ripple in still water
 When there is no pebble tossed
 Nor wind to blow

is a haiku. Sure enough, it's 17 syllables. 
deadsongs.vue.168 : Ripple
permalink #7 of 83: Steven Solomon (ssol) Sun 14 Sep 03 11:48
That a bunch of young men came up with that ageless tune, quite apart
from the tears (in recent years) and joy (always, even in the tears),
is the most remarkable thing about it for me.

It's also about the only tune I can sing remotely in tune. For this
tin-ear, that fact has always caused me wonder. Oh, yeah, Wonder... add
that to the tears and joy.
deadsongs.vue.168 : Ripple
permalink #8 of 83: stella blue (artlife) Fri 26 Sep 03 14:49
it is my favorite gd song
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permalink #9 of 83: David Gans (tnf) Thu 1 Jan 04 10:27

Greetings and happy new year!

Last night I picked up "Amphigorey" for some eye candy before drifting off to
sleep.  It's been yearss since I looked at it ("The Gashlycrumb Tinies" is a
classic).  I was surprised to see that one of the books anthologized therein
is called "Unstrung Harp, Or, Mr Earbrass Writes a Novel."  Published in
1953.  Various sources characterizez it as Gorey's first critical hit.

I found this at

On November 18th of alternate years Mr Earbrass begins writing 'his new

"Weeks ago he chose its title at random from a list of them he keeps in a
little green note-book. It being tea-time of the 17th, he is alarmed not to
have thought of a plot to which The Unstrung Harp might apply, but his mind
will keep reverting to the last biscuit on the plate."

Thus begins the book the Times Literary Supplement called "a small
masterpiece," that established Edward Gorey's critical reputation, originally
published in 1953 and long out of print until this new edition. The Unstrung
Harp is a look at the literary life and its attendant woes: isolation,
writer's block, professional jealousy, and plain boredom. But, as with all of
Edward Gorey's books, it's also about life in general, with its anguish,
turnips, conjunctions, illness, defeat, string, parties, no parties, urns,
desuetude, disaffection, claws, loss, trebizond, napkins, shame, stones,
distance, fever, antipodes, mush, glaciers, incoherence, labels, miasma,
amputation, tides, deceit, mourning, elsewards. And it's about Edward Gorey
the writer, about Edward Gorey writing The Unstrung Harp. It's a cracked
mirror of a book, dedicated to RDP -- Real Dear Person

Some reader comments at - including

> In the Unstrung Harp, Mr Earbrass boredom and inability to write are a
> bizarre focus. Gorey finds so much humor and psychology in our
> seemingly empty, drifting moments. Makes me realize that boredom really
> is a thing in itself to appreciate. Mr. Earbrass, after all, gets more
> from his "straying" than his actually writing, enjoying the "about to
> happen" rather than the "happening".

I don't know if there's any connection, but we can't rule it out.  Surely
Hunter and his pals were hip to Edward Gorey.
deadsongs.vue.168 : Ripple
permalink #10 of 83: AZanimal (zepezauer) Fri 2 Jan 04 17:07
I have an extremely vague recollection of Jerry in some interview or
other mentioning "The Nursery Frieze," the Gorey work consisting of a
long series of animals of indeterminate species, each uttering a
single, odd word, like "sphagnum" . . . "orrery" . . .
deadsongs.vue.168 : Ripple
permalink #11 of 83: Robin Russell (rrussell8) Tue 24 Feb 04 07:10
"Ripple" is very special to me because it is central to my favourite
recollection of my mother, who helped me work out the melody and the
changes (she was a classically trained pianist). It was one of the
first Dead tunes I worked on.

Most of the lyrics came through clear, but there was one ambiguity
that took me a while to unravel - I was not sure if it was the "harp
unstrung" or the "heart unstrung", with its connotations of the
heartstrings unravelled. That overtone still runs with the song for me
and sometimes I find myself singing it that way as well.

Happy Trails
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permalink #12 of 83: David Dodd (ddodd) Tue 24 Feb 04 11:15
And then there's the Chris Hillman version, where he sings "heart of a
strum." Always liked that...
deadsongs.vue.168 : Ripple
permalink #13 of 83: David Dodd (ddodd) Tue 24 Feb 04 11:25
And apropos of the earlier, Gorey-centered exchange, here's a link to an
image from Chris Van Allsburg's Mysteries of Harris Burdick:
deadsongs.vue.168 : Ripple
permalink #14 of 83: Robin Russell (rrussell8) Tue 24 Feb 04 13:11
There is something about that format, very strong transport
capabilities beyond those of just the words or the image alone, reminds
me of the GD comix illustrated Hunter lyrics.

Happy Trails
deadsongs.vue.168 : Ripple
permalink #15 of 83: from CGRATTAN666 (tnf) Sun 31 Oct 04 00:04

Cgrattan666 writes:

"Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow"

One might consider this lyric in connection with a passage from The Yoga
 "Yoga consists in the intentional stopping of the spontaneous activity of
the mind-stuff."

There's a lovely discussion of this passage in Joseph Campbell's The Mythic
    "It may be asked, why should anyone wish to bring about such a state? 
    "The mind is likened, in reply, to the surface of a pond rippled by the
wind. At the opening of the book of Genesis we read that "the Wind of God
moved upon the face of the waters. "The wind (spiritus, pneuma, rauch)
ruffled the waters, and that was the first act of creation. Only then did God
say, "Let there be light." And there was light fluctuating on the waters. 
    "The idea of yoga is to let the wind subside and let the waters return to
rest. For when the wind blows and the waters stir, the waves break and
distort both the light and its reflections, so that all that can be seen are
colliding broken forms. Not until the waters have been stilled, cleansed of
stirred-up sediments and made mirror-bright will the one reflected image
appear that on the rippling waves had been broken: that of the clouds and
pure sky above, the trees along the shore, and down deep in the still pure
water itself, the sandy bottom and the fish. Then alone will that single
image be known of which the wave-borne reflections are but fragments and
distortions. And this single image can be likened to that of the Self
realized in yoga. It is the Ultimate—the Form of Forms—of which the phenomena
of this world are but imperfectly seen, ephemeral distortions: the God-form,
the Buddha-form, which is truly our own Knowledge-form, and with which it is
the goal of yoga to unite us.
     “And there are those who, once united, become so established in this
knowledge of identity that the rippling field of secondary forms falls away.
The body, as they say, “drops off”; or as others might say, those yogis die.
But on the other hand, it is possible, also, to return to this world of
continually breaking forms, open the eyes, let winds again blow, and enjoy
the kaleidoscopic changes in knowledge that all these dancing forms are
revelations of that one Form of forms of which each of us, in his won way is
an incarnation.”
       The Mythic Image
       IV: 4 The Wisdom Of The Yonder Shore
deadsongs.vue.168 : Ripple
permalink #16 of 83: Marked from the Day That I was Born (ssol) Sun 31 Oct 04 11:27
Yuhmmmm... <until the waters have been stilled, cleansed of stirred-up
sediments and made mirror-bright>
deadsongs.vue.168 : Ripple
permalink #17 of 83: David A. Mason (mntnwolf) Tue 2 Nov 04 16:49
In Korean Zen Buddhism, the metaphor of Still Water is very common,
frequently used in the meditation-master's formal lectures (the type
where he shouts loudly and pounds his Staff on the floor) -- this 
is adopted straight from original Tang-Dynasty Zen.  The meditative
or enlightened mind is likened to the ocean when it is perfectly 
calm -- it reflects the moon as it really is, a luminescent whole.
When the wind takes up and the surface of the water is disturbed --
our ego-driven thoughts -- the reflection is broken into fragments 
and distorted.  The deep ocean water -- our original Buddha-nature
-- remains undisturbed however.

If there is a ripple in the still water, we think it must be because
of an outside agent disturbing -- the wind blowing or pebble tossed
in.  But as we meditate, we discover that the ripples are really
generated by our own deluded ego, independently of outside causes.
When we realize this deeply, we can maintain clarity -- reflecting 
reality just as it is -- no matter what the outside circumstances.

I always did understand that line in this song in this way -- 
supposed that Hunter had borrowed the image directly from the Zen 
literature beloved by the Beatniks.  The first time i heard a Korean
Zen master lecture on this theme, i thought "yeah, I know just what
he's talking about, very familiar image, from the Ripple song..."
I must've heard lectures on that theme two dozen times since.
deadsongs.vue.168 : Ripple
permalink #18 of 83: neil (nlg) Mon 15 Nov 04 13:22
The theme of still water is a theme common to most, if not all, Zen
schools, and indeed most Buddhist schools.  In Tibetan Buddhism, it is
part of the imagery conveyed particularly to beginning students who are
just learning the first stage of meditation -- shamatha, or peaceful
abiding, which is at the start all about taming and calming the mind. 
And indeed, one of the most mind-blowing things about such practice for
the beginner is to see just how easily the calm waters are disturbed
(or, conversely, just how difficult it is to calm those waters, roiling
as they are with discursive thoughts), and eventually, one can see
perfectly that it is all coming from inside one's own mind.  

>No pebble tossed nor wind to blow.

Thinking about the song in these terms, there is another line that
conjures up to me a very Buddhist picture:

>Reach out your hand if your cup be empty

Brings to my mind a monk with an alms bowl.  The homeless mendicant,
quietly walking from home to home, accepting what is offered while
asking for nothing, and taking no more than she or he needs for
immediate sustenance.

And more: each following the very challenging and difficult middle way
on a path that is her or his own path to discover, and nobody else's:

>There is a road, no simple highway
>Between the dawn and the dark of night
>And if you go, no one may follow
>That path is for your steps alone
deadsongs.vue.168 : Ripple
permalink #19 of 83: from Cgrattan666 (tnf) Mon 15 Nov 04 17:10

Cgrattan666 writes:

There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night
And if you go, no one may follow
That path is for your steps alone.

And this where West meets East. Another point that Campbell was constantly
making, especially in his later years:

“With Respect to The Quest Of The Holy Grail it opens with the knights of
Arthur’s court in the great dining hall, where Arthur will not let the meal
be served until an adventure has occurred. Now, in those days adventures did
occur, so no one thought he was going to go away without food the adventure,
in this case, is that  the Grail appears, carried by angelic messengers and
covered with a veil, and it hovers above the company. Everyone sits here in
rapture, and the grail is withdrawn. That is the call to adventure, and
Gawain—a name that is going to recur a great deal.— Sir Gawain, the nephew of
King Arthur, stands up and says, “I propose a quest. I propose that we no
should go in quest of that grail, each to behold it unveiled.”
     “There then occurs in the Old French text a passage that Malory, for
some reason or another did not translate, but one that seems to me to
epitomize the whole sense of the Grail’s symbology. “they agreed that all
would go on this quest, but they thought it would be a disgrace”—and that’s
the word used—“to go forth in a group.” Think of the group psychology that
the Oriental tradition represents—“they thought it would be a disgrace to go
forth in a group, so each entered the forest”—the forest of the adventure—“at
a point that he, himself, had chosen, where it was darkest and there was no
     “Now all of you who have had anything to do with Oriental gurus know
that they have the path, and they know where you are on the path. Some of
them will give you their picture to wear, so you know where you are to get
to, instead of your own picture. This is the difference, and this is Europe.
     “So the knights entered the forest at the point they had chosen, where
there was no path. If there is a path, it is someone else’s path, and you are
not on the adventure…….This is a wonderful story: that which we intend, that
which is the journey, that which is the goal, is the fulfillment of something
that was never on the earth before—namely, your own potentiality. Every
thumbprint is different from every other. Every cell and structure in your
body is different from that of anyone who has ever been on earth before, so
you have to work it out yourself, taking you clues from here and there.”

Transformations Of Myth Through Time
Chapter 11: Where Ther Was No Patph.211-212
deadsongs.vue.168 : Ripple
permalink #20 of 83: Christian Crumlish (xian) Sat 20 Nov 04 11:15
Just rented the first season of Xena, Warrior Princess and there is a
scene in the third episode in which the ripple vs. the stillness on the
surface of the water are used as metaphors in an interesting way.

However, there *is* a pebble tossed in that scene.
deadsongs.vue.168 : Ripple
permalink #21 of 83: David A. Mason (mntnwolf) Tue 23 Nov 04 01:50
But if there *hadn't* been, would Xena still be Hot?
Meditate on that awhile, Grasshopper...
deadsongs.vue.168 : Ripple
permalink #22 of 83: Christian Crumlish (xian) Sun 28 Nov 04 14:12
well, since i watch it with my SO, i must admire her as a strong
feminine heroine and not as someone who looks good in a bustier
deadsongs.vue.168 : Ripple
permalink #23 of 83: Gary Burnett (jera) Sun 28 Nov 04 15:18
As if there's a difference between the two ...

At least sometimes!
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permalink #24 of 83: Bill McKenney (gratefulwood) Thu 16 Dec 04 09:07
Hello all,
After checking out David's Annotated site,I took his advice and joined
the Well.This is my first post.

"There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night
And if you go, no one may follow
That path is for your steps alone."

It seems a lot of people consider the dawn as birth and the dark as
death,with the road in between as one's life.

I always thought of the "road" as death (in the "twilight zone"?)
When one leaves this world,"that path is for your steps alone"

I really enjoy reading everybody's thought's and ideas about these
I brings to light things I never would have thought about on my own.
deadsongs.vue.168 : Ripple
permalink #25 of 83: David Gans (tnf) Thu 16 Dec 04 09:43
Welcome, Bill!


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