Dweller by the Dark Stream

Truth cover art
audio/mpeg icon
Audio excerpt: Excerpt from verse 1 and bridge

Lyrics & notes

Feb 1980

well-mannered, cool and calmly persuading
myself that I am truly what I seem to be
a beast of greed unbounded still is raging
barely contained beneath the straining liturgy
they joke of pain as if it were so distant
I laugh along, a desperate play for comedy
but if they knew my most inflexible resistance
can scarcely curb the madness of my villainy
I’d be crushed beneath the heel of their intolerance
and left alone to face my own Gethsemane

dweller by the dark stream
how can I escape the meaning of my name
pilgrim of a fair dream
dream yourself some wings for all your chains

wind blowing cloudy hair and sky above
he’s lost inside a cinematic sanctitude
he lost his heart to a movie screen lover
he drives into the West
and the story continues
pursuing some vision of beauty
he’s haunted by faces that remind him
of something he’s seen
and wounded by the passing touch
of eyes that taunt him
to own for just a moment
and lose eternally
a martyr so fearful of dying unwanted
he justifies his sadness
as humanity

dweller by the dark stream
how can I escape the meaning of my name
pilgrim of a fair dream
dream yourself some wings for all your chains

dweller by the dark stream
how can I escape the meaning of my name
prisoner of a fair dream
lose those binding chains and fly away

℗ © 1986 Dweller by the Light Stream Music, assigned to Creative Measures (ASCAP)

2011 Notes:

My name, Douglas, is of Celtic origin, and means, roughly, "dweller by the dark stream." It's fitting really, because my last name, Howell, is of Welsh extraction, after Hywel, a 10th-century Welsh king, meaning "eminent" (yeah, let's go with that one!), or a more English meaning "at the hough (depression or valley), at the well." Anyway, I've always felt my name fit me, both on and under the surface. Hence this song. In fact, I started writing a whole suite of songs based on the meaning of my name, but this is the only one that's seen the light of day so far. Both Mike and I felt it fit well with the theme of this album. Telling the truth about who you are is a pretty important element of telling the truth in general, don't you think? (See also comments on "Liar.")

I'm sure you'll have no trouble picking out the recurring themes of longing to fly, to escape; feeling chained by circumstances, bound by conventions, traditions and my (then even more limited) understanding of the scriptures; being forced to pretend when that's the last thing I wanted to do; hearing friends and family make jokes about other people, knowing all the time that inside I was just like those people; loving the unattainable, whether they were on the silver screen, or unavailable emotionally; the mainly hopeless character of my dreams... "The beast of greed unbounded still is raging, barely contained beneath the straining liturgy."

It's impossible to describe what it feels like to be trapped inside your own body, inside your own persona, when you long to be free, but thank God for music and poetry. Without music, I don't know if I could have survived through all the confusion, hurt and despair. Music, the constant love of family and friends, but most of all the fact that "Jesus loves me." There may have been some not-so-great things pounded into my head during my Baptist upbringing, but there were some very good things, too, and chief among these was: Jesus loves me. Thank God, I believed that from the earliest days I can remember, and believe it to this day. Somehow that belief became the bedrock of my life, and endured through all the uncertainty and upheaval of my first 39 years.

It remains the biggest mystery of life: why Jesus should love and bless us so. We can all escape the meanings of our names through him. Through faith in Him, through our baptism, we have a new nature and a new name (Rev 2:17, 3:12). I have fancied mine to be something like "dweller by the light stream," but I don't know for sure. Not yet.