By David Dodd
1997-87 Research Associate, Music Dept., University of California, Santa Cruz
Saint Stephen with a rose
In and out of the garden he goes
Country garland in the wind and the rain
Wherever he goes the people all complain
Stephen prosper in his time
Well he may and he may decline
Did it matter? does it now?
Stephen would answer if he only knew how
Wishing well with a golden bell
Bucket hanging clear to hell
Hell halfway twixt now and then
Stephen fill it up and lower down
And lower down again
Lady finger dipped in moonlight
Writing `what for?' across the morning sky
Sunlight splatters dawn with answers
Darkness shrugs and bids the day goodbye
Speeding arrow, sharp and narrow,
What a lot of fleeting matters you have spurned
Several seasons with their treasons
Wrap the babe in scarlet covers call it your own
Did he doubt or did he try?
Answers aplenty in the bye and bye
Talk about your plenty, talk about your ills
One man gathers what another man spills
Saint Stephen will remain
All he's lost he shall regain
Seashore washed by the suds and the foam
Been here so long he's got to calling it home
Fortune comes a crawlin, Calliope woman
Spinning that curious sense of your own
Can you answer? Yes I can,
but what would be the answer to the answer man?
High green chilly winds and windy vines in loops around the
twining shafts of lavender, they're crawling to the sun
Underfoot the ground is patched with climbing arms of ivy
wrapped around the manzanita, stark and shiny in the breeze
Wonder who will water all the children of the garden when they
sigh about the barren lack of rain and droop so hungry 'neath the
William Tell has stretched his bow till it won't stretch no
furthermore and/or it may require a change that hasn't come
Covered by the Solar Circus on their album Juggling Suns. (1989)
Blair Jackson, in Grateful Dead: the Music Never Stopped, says:
"AOXOMOXOA's most famous song, perhaps because it translated so beautifully to the group's live repertoire, is `St. Stephen,' a cryptic rocker (again with an unusual, irregular cadence, almost a combination of waltz and march rhythms in a rock motif) about a character who embodies the confusion of the period. Stephen has neither the Big Answers nor even the Big Questions. But he is a seeker, with a capital `S.' in his own way. And since, as the song says, `One man gathers what another man spills,' there is still as much of a chance that Stephen will shape his own destiny in a positive way, as there is that he will fritter away his life. In the end, it all goes beyond the dreams and concerns of one person to a higher plan, for example, if Stephen has his own house in order, is that enough? `Can you answer? Yes, I can,' the song's final verse teases, and then poses a larger question: `But what would be your answer to the answer man?" (pp. 94-95)In an interview published in Relix, v. 5, # 2, the following exchange took place:
"Relix: Was St. Stephen anyone specific?
Hunter: No, it was just St. Stephen.
Relix: You weren't writing about someone, you were writing about something?
Hunter: Yea. That was a great song to write..."" (p. 28)
Jurgen Fauth sent this unidentified photo of a painting of Saint Stephen in the Vatican art gallery which he took this summer.
From the New Catholic Encyclopedia: "First deacon and apologist for the Christian faith. ... Stephen (from the Greek for 'crown') was a Hellenist, one of the Greek-speaking Jews of the Diaspora...." He was the first ordained by the Apostles as one of seven deacons. His complete story, such as it is, may be found in the Acts of the Apostles 6.1-8.2. He was stoned to death for preaching that Israel had become more progressively opposed to God's word.
He died circa A.D. 34, and his feast day is December 26.
According to The Dictionary of Christian Art, "When held by a martyr, the red rose signified 'red martyrdom' or the loss of life." (p. 296) However, paintings of St. Stephen usually depict him holding either a palm, a censer, or a stone. (p. 311)
There are quite a number of other St. Stephens. Most notable is Stephen I, King of Hungary (997-Aug. 15, 1038). This Stephen is generally considered the real founder of the state of Hungary. Again, according to the New Catholic Encyclopedia: Stephen was aware that his seminomadic people could survive only if they embraced Christianity. He eliminated all the pagan representatives of the old order with grim determination and quite ruthless methods to achieve this integration into the Christian commonwealth." His feast day is September 2.
Other St. Stephens:
And this note from a reader:
Subject: St. Stephen
Date: Thu, 6 Sep 2001 23:07:25 EDT
St. Stephan's Episcopal Church on Belvedere Island is where the memorial service for Jerry Garcia was held. Thought it would be an important and interesting fact to add to your site.
Mark D. Firestone -
"I always thought the GD song was about Steve Gaskin, who taught a weekly (Monday night or Tuesday night?) spiritual-type class in SF during the late 60's and later founded The Farm, about which there are many stories, positive and negative, here on the WELL and elsewhere. That is, "about" as much as any GD song is "about" only one specific thing or even only one level of "reality."" -- Alan Mande.
"As to St. Stephen. I used to think so but then I read where Hunter had written that song while he was away from the Haight so wasn't in touch with Steve Gaskin in that particular time. However, the tune is loaded with ambiguity and oblique references that lend credence to the theory that SG is part of who they mean. "Wherever he goes the people all complain" What that always meant to me was that people were always asking SG about their trips and things about their lives and whatnot and rather than complaining about him I pictured it as complaining to him. But I can see the whole story as a fuzzy historic piece about the Christian martyr. So as in all Dead songs...who knows?"--John Coate.
"I have thought of St. Steven as enlightened types in general. The non-conformist ahead of her time. And as the GD scene as a whole. The garden is a place of power for these people. Enlightened folks have historically relied on rituals performed in sacred places to help them deal with their power.
"Wishing well with the golden bell...it seems to me that the further one tries to reach toward ecstacy/nirvana, the more able the person needs to be able to ground herself with energy based in depths of darkness.
"Speeding arrow..the revelatory experience. The sudden change.
Some of my thoughts on this song are too heavy for me to feel comfortable posting, so I'll move down a few stanzas...
"St. Steven will remain...Enlightened folks have always been present in every generation. Prophets, poets, etc. .. They are traditionally social "losers" yet are traditionally revered long after their deaths. I also think I am not alone in deriving support and inspiration from the sea.
"Children of the garden when they sigh about the barren lack of rain and droop so hungry 'neath the sky.... I see the hopefuls of today (today reamins a constant notion, even though the song was written forever ago) as being these children, and as corny as it sounds, I see the dead scene as providing the water we need to nourish and support one another...
"William Tell has stretched his bow... Is an image of critical mass...an observation that significant change is the only possible outcome of the current state of affairs. As significant today as it was when it was written."--Julie Ellen Anzaldo.
Date: Mon, 06 Mar 2006
From: Damian G Stephen
Subject: St. Stephen hints
I love your Dead annotation website. I was born a little too late and kept in the dark too long to be a full-blown Dead fan right now. Am working on that... In the meantime, I love what you're doing with the lyrics. It's a great project. I wish I knew more about the Dead, but I enjoy your pages regardless. I learn something new with every browse.
In the meantime, I came across the song "St. Stephen" this weekend. As you might be able to guess from my last name, I have an interest in things Stephen.
What jumped out at me was the word "garland." The Greek word for "garland" is "stefanos"--if I had Greek fonts, I'd give you the actual spelling--essentially the name of that first martyr.
That brings me to point #2: "martyr" is Greek for "witness," an individual who is asked to answer truthfully.
Why Stephen wouldn't know how to answer, I'm not sure about that one.
Keep up the awesome work,
(Illustration from a mural in the
Library of Congress, painted by Edward Simmons, as reproduced on a circa 1910 postcard)
Calliope is "the Muse of epic poetry, and chief of the Muses. She was the mother of Orpheus by Apollo or King Oeagrus." Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia. She was also the muse of playing on stringed instruments.
Of course, a calliope is also a keyboard instrument, usually associated with the sound of circuses and carousels. So a "calliope woman" could be "spinning" on a merry-go-round.
The calliope is an American invention, attributed to Joshua C. Stoddard of Worcester, Massachusetts, who filed a patent to produce the instruments in 1855. They were extensively mounted on showboats. According to New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, "Most calliopes had a limited range (13 to 20 whistles); many had 32, the largest 588. Reputed to have been audible as far as eight miles away, the calliope played popular dances or marches..." (p. 628)
There is also a parallel to Bob Weir's song "Hell In a Bucket."
About 30 Small Cakes Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Have ingredients at about 75 degrees. Sift before measuring:
1/3 cup cake flour
Resift it 3 times. Sift:
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
Beat until thick and lemon colored:
1 whole egg
2 egg yolks
Whip until stiff, but not dry:
2 egg whites
Fold the sugar gradually into the gg whites. Beat the mixture until it thickens again. Fold in the egg yolk mixture and:
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Fold in the flour. Shape the dough into oblongs with a paper tube, on ungreased paper placed in a pan; or pour it into greased ladyfinger or small muffin tins. Bake for about 12 minutes." --The Joy of Cooking, p. 633.
"Swiss legendary hero who symbolized the struggle for political and individual freedom.
"The historical existence of Tell is disputed. According to popular legend, he was a peasant from Burglen in the canton of Uri in the 13th and early 14th centuries who defied Austrian authority, was forced to shoot an apple from his son'e head, was arrested for threatening the governor's life, saved the same governor's life en route to prison, escaped, and ultimately killed the governor in an ambush. These events, togher with others, supposedly signalled the people to rise up against Austrian rule." --The New Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed.