Philyra 1

Cover of Philyra Back of Philyra

Released: 1994 2
Label: Theme Park Records

Liner notes

Montium custos nemorumque, Virgo
quae laborantes utero puellas
ter vocata audis adimisque leto,
diva triformis,

imminens villae tua pinus esto,
quam per exactos ego laetus annos
verris obliquum meditantis ictum
sanguine donem.

— Horace Carmina III:XXII. 3

Next week's topics: Cybele as Whetstone; 4 root-systems. Hey.

Philyra was included in its entirety on the compilation Protein Source of the Future... NOW!.

Table of contents

  1. Third Snow Song
  2. The Monkey Song
  3. Love Cuts the Strings
  4. Pure Honey

Third Snow Song 5

In January
I took a short walk
Down to the Broadway Bridge 6
Two and a half blocks
When you scrape the ice away
You can read the bridge dedication 7

I could feel the cold air
Coming in through my teeth
I saw the bridge
I saw the water underneath
That's a whole lot of water
That's a whole lot of water

I took out the key
That I'd forgotten the function of
Twisted it from the keyring
As the bridge moved above
I hammered it against the ice
I hammered it against the ice

The Monkey Song 8

Cool air falls through the Venetian blinds 9
And the planets in the heavens are perfectly aligned
I take in my surroundings
I memorize them all
The scuff marks on the stone floor
The powder burns on the eastern wall

There's a monkey in the basement
How did the monkey get there
There's a monkey in the basement
Where did the monkey come from
Where did the monkey come from
Where did the monkey come from

The animal noises you used to make
The Andalusian coral snake 10
All pale when standing beside this room
And the heavy hot rains and the sonic boom

There's a monkey in the basement
Where did the monkey come from
There's a monkey in the basement
How did the monkey get there
How did the monkey get there
How did the monkey get there

Love Cuts the Strings

First thing that happened was the river overflowed
The water running through the streets, it was sweet and cold
I knelt by the water like a doe by a stream
Punch-drunk, snowblind, as though the whole thing were a bad dream

And then love called out the heavy artillery
And Kypris 11 took the horses by the bit for the morning ride 12
I count my blessings but you can only be expected to count so high
When love cuts the strings

I smeared myself with pennyroyal 13 to keep the hounds at bay
And you poked your head out from an alley half a block away
And I recognized you, though I'm not sure how
And the air turned red around you as a dull chill came down over me

And then love summoned up the infantry
And the green-eyed goddess got ready for all-out war
I count my blessings but I don't even know what the word blessing means
When love cuts the strings

Pure Honey 14

I had a thousand good questions I was
Gonna ask you when you finally came by
But now that you're really here there's only
One question that comes to my mind

That question being
What's with all the Portuguese Water Dogs? 15
I'd like to repeat the question
What's with all the Portuguese Water Dogs?


Thanks as always to the inimitable Caliclimber, whose Flickr page provided the cover art.

  1. Philyra, Nall, retrieved September 28, 2013.


  1. Philyra, the Greek word for the linden tree, could refer to several different Greek mythological women. The most famous, however, would be to refer to Philyra, the water nymph and Oceanid (daughter of the Titans) who gave birth to Chiron, the famous centaur.

    In Protein Source of the Future... NOW!, John writes, "The record's title means 'lime tree' in Latin; the eight-line poem by Horace on the back of the sleeve is just unbelievably good, worth any amount of effort you might put into figuring out what it means. The whole record, actually, is full of puns for real and would-be classicists, each of which was greeted by the ocean of silence I've come to enjoy." Not being a classicist, I'm personally still struggling through the references — if you get them, please get in touch

  2. Philyra was also rereleased in full as part of the Protein Source of the Future... NOW! compilation in 1999. 

  3. Translated, this passage reads:

    Holy Virgin, guardian of the mountains and the groves,
    to whom young women in labor
    pray, you who hear and save them from death,
    triple goddess

    bless this pine tree that overhangs my villa,
    and gladly at each year's end I will present to it
    the blood of a young boar
    still practising its sidewise slash.

    This passage is dedicated to Diana, the Roman diety. It is taken from the Odes of Horace, a collection of poems published in the 10s and 20s BC.

    Kirby, John T. Some Odes in English Translation. Adapted from the translation by Clancy, Joseph P., University of Chicago Press, 1960. Retrieved September 29, 2013. 

  4. Cybele was an Earth goddess among some Greek and Roman cults. 

  5. Regarding Snow Song, John wrote, "This song's title is, for me, a generic term with a very specific purpose. I use it when I've written a song whose mood reminds me, either lyrically or musically, of the winter I spent in Portland, Oregon, a season during which I almost died at least twice." I presume that this song shares this naming schema and therefore similarly refers to the disastrous year of methamphetamine use in Portland that led to We Shall All Be Healed and many other songs. Bitter Melon Farm liner notes.

    Prior to discovering this, I hypothesized that the title was potentially related to Третий снег, Russian for The Third Snow, a collection of political poetry by poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Written in 1955, it was one of his earliest publications in what would be a lengthy career of art opposed to the Soviet establishment. At this point, my best guess is that this similarity is coincidental. 

  6. Many bridges are named the Broadway Bridge. However, especially given the description of the bridge moving (indicating a drawbridge), I think it's most likely that this refers to either the Broadway Bridge which crosses the Harbor River Ship Canal in northern Manhattan or the Broadway Bridge spanning the Williamette River in Portland. 

  7. Given that I'm not sure which bridge this is, I can't be sure which dedication this is. However, should it be Portland's Broadway Bridge, the dedication might be this plaque. I was unable to find a more concrete dedication or any plaque whatsoever in the case of the Manhattan bridge. 

  8. "This is a totally stupid song. I mean it." — 40 Watt Club, Athens, Georgia, August 10, 2006 

  9. Venetian blinds are horizontally-aligned blinds which can be opened or shut by twisting a control rod. 

  10. I'm not aware of a coral snake native to Spain. However, the coral snakes are a family of poisonous snakes known to grip a victim while injecting its neurotoxic venom. 

  11. Another name for Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. 

  12. The only story I am aware of regarding Aphrodite and horses regards Glaucus, who angered the goddess during a chariot race. In retribution, she killed him by causing his chariot to crash in the race. However, Aphrodite herself was not riding the horses; more likely, I think, is that this does not refer to a particular Greek myth. 

  13. Pennyroyal is an extremely pungent flowering plant with a minty scent. 

  14. Pure Honey is part of the Pure ... series

  15. Portuguese Water Dogs are small working dog breed from Portugal originally bred to help fishermen.