Sunday, January 22, 2006

Casimir Pulaski Day (2005) – Sufjan Stevens

Quite simply one of the most poignant songs ever written, “Casimir Pulaski Day” has the ability to touch even those who have never lost a close loved one. Such is the songwriting gift of Sufjan Stevens. His description of life’s mundane details that often go unnoticed serve as a universal reference point of the human condition. Immediately, Stevens drops the bombshell of cancer. While in less capable hands the subject matter would reek of an appeal to cheap sympathy, Stevens is so adept at finding the beauty in unremarkable situations or occurrences that allow the listener to ascribe personal feelings, that he effortlessly wrenches our hearts with his tenuous susurrations. He appeals to our own experiences, recalling the minutiae of a burgeoning relationship, and very specific factual details which suggest a broader backstory we are free to construct for ourselves: the initial flirtation; strife between a father and his daughter over a boy who isn’t good enough; moments of emotional collapse.

Perhaps the song’s greatest attribute is the acknowledgement of pain, doubt and questioning in moments of tribulation that test one’s Christian faith. After his loved one’s passing, Stevens examines his beliefs, revealing an obedient sarcasm or perhaps joyless praise. Knowing that his grief is necessary to foster spiritual growth, he accepts his personal cross to bear, acknowledging Christ’s sacrifice: “All the glory when He took our place / but He took my shoulders and He shook my face / and He takes and He takes and He takes.” In the end, only one completely devoid of emotion could resist a welling tear, a sigh to release the blunt pang of empathy.

  • Listen to "Casimir Pulaski Day" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • See also "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." (2005)– Sufjan Stevens
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