Grace Perfecting Nature: A Tenth Anniversary Toast to Kate Bush’s “An Endless Sky of Honey”

Most proggers regard side two of Hounds of Love as Kate Bush’s greatest work.  I love it as well, and I have since I first heard it thirty years ago this coming autumn.  Who wouldn’t be moved by the invocation of Tennyson’s Ninth Wave, by Kate as an ice witch, and by the observation of it all from orbit?  The entire album, but especially side two, is a thing of beauty.

A vision of the Natural Law itself: Kate Bush, ca. 2005
A vision of the Natural Law itself: Kate Bush, ca. 2005

Equally gorgeous to me, though, is Bush’s 2005 album, Aerial, and, in particular, side two, “An Endless Sky of Honey.”

No one, no one is here

No one, no one is here

We stand in the Atlantic

We become panoramic

The stars are caught in our hair

The stars are on our fingers

A veil of diamond dust

Just reach up and touch it

The sky’s above our heads

The sea’s around our legs

In milky, silky water

We swim further and further

–Kate Bush, “Nocturn”

Indeed, let me blunt, it’s not only my favorite Bush song, it’s probably one of my top ten songs of all time.  All 42 minutes of it—an examination of the beauties and creativities in one twenty-four hour period.

Birdsong.
Birdsong.

The song is without a flaw, to be sure, and it’s the interplay of Bush’s ethereal vocals, the adventuresome grand piano, and the tasteful upright bass that makes this song such a gem even with nothing more than a superficial listen.  The drumming, too, does much for the music.  It’s not varied, it’s consistent in a Lee Harris fashion.  In it’s consistency, it allows every other instrument to swirl in a varied menagerie.

But, even more than this, it’s Bush’s use of birdsong that makes this song nothing less than precious in the history of music.  If music at its highest reflects the turning of the spheres, as Plato believed, then Bush has mimicked nature with perfection.  It’s as though Bush embraced the Natural Law in all of its mysterious rhythms and held the entire delicate thing in a shaft of sunlight, that moment when the twilight sun peers into stained glass revealing not just the spectrum and the mote of light, but the unpredictable oceanic dance of freed dust particles.

Not atypical for prog epics, Bush broke the song in multiple parts: Prelude; Prologue; An Architect’s Dream; The Painter’s Link; Sunset; Aerial Tal; Somewhere in Between; Nocturn; and Aerial.  Again, not atypically, there exist no moments of silence between the parts, each part lushly flowing into what follows.

Whose shadow, long and low

Is slipping out of wet clothes?

And changes into the most beautiful iridescent blue

Who knows who wrote that song of Summer

That blackbirds sing at dusk

This is a song of color

Where sands sing in crimson, red and rust

Then climb into bed and turn to dust

Every sleepy light must say goodbye

To the day before it dies

In a sea of honey, a sky of honey

Keep us close to your heart

So if the skies turn dark

We may live on in comets and stars

Who knows who wrote that song of Summer

That blackbirds sing at dusk

This is a song of color

Where sands sing in crimson, red and rust

Then climb into bed and turn to dust

–Kate Bush, “Sunset”

If side two of Hounds of Love, “The Ninth Wave,” reached deeply into Celtic myth, disk two of Aerial, an “Endless Sky of Honey,” reifies the thoughts of Aristotle, Cicero, Thomas Aquinas, and Thomas More, calling upon the rigorous reflection of creation itself.

Nature makes nothing in vain, but only grace perfects nature.

In 2005, Kate Bush was that agent of Grace.

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