"...as well to count the angels dancin' on a pin"

The Annotated "Weather Report Suite: Part II (Let It Grow)"

An installment in The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics.
By David Dodd

Copyright notice
"Weather Report Suite: Part II (Let It Grow) "
Words by John Perry Barlow
Morning comes, she follows the path to the river shore
Lightly sung, her song is the latch on the morning's door
See the sun sparkle in the reeds; silver beads pass into the sea

She comes from a town where they call her the woodcutter's daughter
She's brown as the bank where she kneels down to gather her water
And she bears it away with a love that the river has taught her
Let it flow, greatly flow, wide and clear

Round and round, the cut of the plow in the furrowed field
Seasons round, the bushels of corn and the barley meal
Broken ground, open and beckoning to the spring; black dirt live again

The plowman is broad as the back of the land he is sowing
As he dances the circular track of the plow ever knowing
That the work of his day measures more than the planting and growing
Let it grow, let it grow, greatly yield

What shall we say, shall we call it by a name
As well to count the angels dancing on a pin
Water bright as the sky from which it came
And the name is on the earth that takes it in
We will not speak but stand inside the rain
And listen to the thunder shout
I am, I am, I am, I am

So it goes, we make what we made since the world began
Nothing more, the love of the women, work of men
Seasons round, creatures great and small, up and down, as we rise and fall


"Weather Report Suite: Part II (Let It Grow)"

Written in Salt Lake City, Utah, February, 1973.

First recorded on Wake of the Flood. Also on Without a Net and Dick's Picks, v. 1.

First performed September 7, 1973, at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y. It debuted in the second set, following "Loser" and preceding "Stella Blue". It has remained in the repertoire ever since, usually as a first set song.

work of his day

This note from a reader:
From: Joseph Newcomb [mailto:JAN02000@pomona.edu]
Sent: Thursday, October 23, 2003 1:15 AM

I really enjoy the site. I've been referencing it for years. I have been on a Weather Report Suite kick lately, so I checked out what you had to say about it.
I didn't notice any references to Hesiod! Thematically, the song very closely invokes the messages of the two works attributed to this Dark Age Greek poet. Defining and naming the divinities embodied in nature was the focus of Hesiod's "Theogony." His "Works and Days" extolls the intrinsic virtue of a pastoral life comprised of hard, honest work.
Essentially, Hesiod advocates humbling oneself before that which is beyond the power of man to understand or control and practicing a life of simple, pastoral virtue. I am really quite convinced that the song at least strongly alludes to Hesiod, though I am only guessing.
Hope someone else finds this interesting or agrees with me.
-Joe Newcomb, Pomona College undergrad

What shall we say, shall we call it by a name?

Frederick Mathewson Denny, in his article on "Names and naming" in the Encyclopedia of Religion, says
"It is common to nearly all religious practices that in order to communicate with a deity one must know its name. Knowledge of a divine name gives the knower both power and an avenue of communication with its source. This intimate relationship between knowing a name and participating in its power has both religious and magical aspects."
He then proceeds to examine the tradition of the naming of deities throughout world religious practices. See also the note under "I Am".

As well to count the angels dancin' on a pin

From the article "Angel/Angelology", by E. Ann Matter, in the Dictionary of the Middle Ages:
"Aquinas devoted fourteen books of the Summa theologiae to the nature and powers of angels. He held that angels have form but not matter, and are therefore eternal and incorruptible. Angels are able to assume bodies; these bodies take up space, so only one angle can be in a particular place at a certain time. In contrast, Duns Scotus asserted that angels consist of both form and a noncorporeal matter particular to them alone, which makes it possible for more than one angle to occupy the same place at the same time (De Anima, XV; De rerum principio, VII-VIII). The ensuing debates over these positions may have given rise to the early modern legend that the Scholastics argued over such questions as how many angels can dance on the head of a pin."

thunder shout

This note from a reader:
From: Chris Robbins [mailto:lexslamman@yahoo.com]
Sent: Sunday, June 30, 2002 2:11 AM
Subject: addition to the annotation of Let It Grow


First I must give you a few compliments for The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics. These songs are DEFINITELY more than the ear-fodder many Deadheads took the for granted as. The site allows those who never took the time to listen and explicate them a chance to see the depth within each song. After reading some of the lyrics I hadn't explored before, I have become certain that Robert Hunter and John Barlowe belong with the best of 20th century American poets.
Let It Grow harkens to the final movement in one of the greatest poems of our century, TS Eliot's The Wasteland (and via The Wasteland, also alludes to the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, a central piece of Vedic scripture).
The movement in The Wasteland is called 'What The Thunder Said', and this is near the end of the poem:
Then spoke the thunder
Datta: what have we given?
My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment's surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed
Which is not to be found in our obituaries
Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider
Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor
In our empty rooms
Dayadhvam: I have heard the key
Turn in the door once and turn once only
We think of the key, each in his prison
thinking of the key, each confirms a prison
Only at nightfall, aethereal rumours
Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus
Damyata: The boat responded
Gaily, to the hand expert with sail and oar
The sea was calm, your heart would have responded
Gaily, when invited, beating obedient
To controlling hands
The portion of the Upanishad is as follows:

1. The threefold descendants of Pragapati, gods, men, and Asuras (evil spirits), dwelt as Brahmakarins (students) with their father Pragapat1.Having finished their studentship the gods said: 'Tell us (something), Sir.' He told them the syllable Da. Then he said: 'Did you understand?' They said: 'We did understand. You told us "Damyata," Be subdued.' 'Yes,' he said, 'you have understood.'
2. Then the men said to him: 'Tell us something, Sir.' He told them the same syllable Da. Then he said: 'Did you understand?' They said: 'We did understand. You told us, " Datta," Give.' 'Yes,' he said, 'you have understood.'
3. Then the Asuras said to him: 'Tell us something, Sir.' He told them the same syllable Da. Then he said: 'Did you understand?' They said: 'We did understand. You told us," Dayadharn," Be merciful.' 'Yes,' he said, 'you have understood.'
The divine voice of thunder repeats the same, Da Da Da, that is, Be subdued, Give, Be merciful. Therefore let that triad be taught, Subduing, Giving, and Mercy.

Personally, I do not think that allusion is stretched, since Barlow specifically wrote:
'listen to the thunder SHOUT
i am, i am, i am, I AM'
Also, the I AM phrase has a loose connection to the inscription on the gate of Dante's Inferno, as well as the sanskrit AUM.
This was written at 5 AM on a Sunday morning. Its up to you whether you want to include any of it on the site. Keep up the good work.
Chris Robbins

I Am

Again, quoting from Denny's article, "Names and naming", in Eliade:
"Moses asked the voice from the burning bush, identified as 'the god of your father,' what his name was, and was answered 'I am' (ehyeh), which, in a different Hebrew grammatical form, is rendered Yahveh (approximately, 'He causes to be'; Exodus, 3:13-14).

This note from a reader:

Date: Sat, 16 Dec 1995 11:53:53 -0700 (MST)
Subject: Let It Grow

Dear Mr. Dodd:
I've just gained entree to the www and discovered your absolutely amazing project. I'm doubly pleased because we are colleagues on the CU faculty. To the best of my knowledge, I'm the only tenured Deadhead on the Boulder campus (though who knows how many are in the closet). By chance, I clicked on Let It Grow, and discovered (coincidence?) that you quoted my own colleague here in Religious Studies, Fred Denny, from the Eliade Encyclopedia of Religion. But he made a mistake. The line "I Am" is an accurate translation of the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint, 3rd cent. BC). But it is a mistaken translation of the Hebrew. "Ehyeh" is what we would call a future tense verb (Hebrew linguists use somewhat different categories). So it actually means "I will be." There is an enormous amount at stake theologically in this difference, though I'm not sure many readers of your annotated lyrics would care, unless they were in an altered state, when it might suddenly become simply fascinating. I had a great experience with this line years ago. A student handed in a paper and on the front cover wrote "I Am Student Number xxx..." (filled in her actual number there). I knew she was a Deadhead, so when I returned the paper I wrote above that "Listen to the thunder shouting." A few months later, at Red Rocks, the band played Let it Grow, and leaving the theater, among 10,000 people, I bumped in to her, and of course she sang: "Listen to the thunder shouting." The memories of so many little connections like that give me a bittersweet feeling now, excellent work. Keep it up!!

Thanks for the note, Ira! I especially like the sly reference to "one in ten thousand..."

Barlow's turn of phrase in associating the sound of thunder with the name of the deity resonates throughout world religion, as the "sky-god," who has the power of thunder, is often the chief god in the pantheon of any given religious system.

And in Autralian aboriginal culture, the name of the sky god is divulged in the sound of the bull-roarer, which Mickey Hart writes about in Drumming at the Edge of Magic.

See also John Clare's (1793-1864) poem, "I Am!"

creatures great and small

Compare the hymn, "All Things Bright And Beautiful" (1848) by Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895):
"All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all."

First posted: April 10, 1995
Last revised: October 23, 2003