An authentic and heretical faith

National Poetry Month, Day 23  //  This one is just for fun, but the fun cloaks a profound authenticity. It’s attributed to a Catherine Madsen, but lots of Catherine Madsens show up in a Google search, and I haven’t a clue which one she is. I’d give her more credit of authorship if I could, but I give her lots of credit for crafting a song that does so well at celebrating a heretical faith, which I’ve come to believe may be the only true and authentic faith there is. Other than Madsen’s recording, I’ve heard it sung only once, by Priscilla Herdman (pictured) about thirty years ago in a little concert at Land’s End, near Saranac Lake, New York, and since then I’ve replayed it many times in memory. You can sing it, too, to the hymn tune “Forest Green.” So have fun with it. Maybe it will help you sing your truth.

Heretic Heart,” by Catherine Madsen

I am a bold and a pagan soul
A-ramblin’ through this land
I judge the world by my own lights
And I come by my own hand
And if you ask me where I learned
To live so recklessly
My skin, my bones, my heretic heart
Are my authority

My mother was a spinner of tales
My father a dreaming man
And I have swung on the dragon’s tongue
And danced on holy land
I’ve sung the seed up out of the ground
And the bird down from the tree
My skin, my bones, my heretic heart
Are my authority

Once I was found but now I’m gone
Away from the faithful fold
The ones who preach that holiness
Is to do what you are told
Though law and scripture, priest and prayer
Have all instructed me
My skin, my bones, my heretic heart
Are my authority

Now they tell me Jesus loves me
But I think he loves in vain
He must go unrequited
On me he has no claim
For the man who would command me must
Wear the horn and let me be
My skin, my bones, my heretic heart
Are my authority

And while I breathe this glorious air
An outlaw I’ll remain
My body will not be subdued
And I will not be saved
And if I cannot shout aloud
I’ll sing it secretly
My skin, my bones, my heretic heart
Are my authority

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