Ward Kelley's Thoughts

Where there’s no evidence this is a true story, it certainly could be one. Xerxes slayed hundreds of thousands of Greeks during his invasion of the democracies, so it’s not a stretch to imagine a wealthy land owner making a suicidal stand against the invaders. This song has it roots in a poem I published 20 or so years ago, by the same name; I guess I felt compelled by the situation and the thoughts running through the protagonist’s mind as he stood in a small temple at night on his property, in a thunderstorm, knowing Xerxes and his murderous army waited over the next hill. He had sent his wife, brother and slaves to the shore and safety, while committing himself to Honor: better to stand and die than be known as the man who ran away. While waiting for death to come at daybreak, he stands in his small temple and contemplates his gods, concluding they themselves had run away to the shore . . . but it’s better to be a man who can honorably complete himself, than gods who can only cry at their results.

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Temple in the Path of Xerxes Song is About:

The song is set in 5th century BCE Greece, where a landowner learns the Persian invader Xerxes is nearing his property with a large, murderous army. He quickly sends his wife, children, brother and slaves to the safety of the shore, and resolves to make a suicidal stand with his small guard of mercenaries. The night before the battle, he stands, during a thunderstorm, in the small temple he built on his property, contemplating his gods – why does a man decide to stand and fight, when the very gods have fled this place?

Temple in the Path of Xerxes Lyrics

(Whitaker/Kelley 2015)

Verse 1
Stone frigid columns, pungent fumes, incense burning,
biting breeze penetrates the Acute night outside,
pillars clammy, expressing my fear, oh, from learning
invaders coming tomorrow for genocide.

Chorus
My children are safe at the coast,
their mother SPIRIT ed them down,
with the slaves, my brother, oh, and most;
she left my sword . . . . but not her gown.

Verse 2
Wind easily dispels incense and sacred smoke,
I understand our gods have also left this, oh, this place,
and perhaps they too are at the shore, beaten down and broke
into human pieces, oh, of themselves and our race.

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Chorus
Why does a man stand firm after
the very gods have fled far from this place?
I’ll always rail from the rafters,
look unyielding fate in the face.

Verse 3
Is the nature of gods to dissipate, oh, at whim?
So man must stand while the gods are only, oh, only smoke
for the awe of future generations, oh, brave him
who does not flee, oh, but is privy to the old joke.

Chorus
My children are safe at the coast,
their mother SPIRIT ed them down,
with the slaves, my brother, oh, and most;
she left my sword . . . . but not her gown.

Instrumental

Verse 4
I cannot imagine this place without myself,
but it’s better to believe in man than these cults,
for any man can readily complete, oh, himself,
while the gods can only . . . . . cry at their results.
oh, cry at their results.

Oh,oh, well you know it’s coming.

Here it comes. Oh, oh, you know it’s coming.

I see it. Oh, God, it’s coming,

Oh, oh, oh, oh, it’s coming.

Can’t you see it? Oh, here it comes.

Can you feel it? Oh, God, it’s coming,

Oh, oh, oh . . . . oh, here it comes.

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