Loreena McKennitt - Caravanserai

This glancing life is like a morning star
A setting sun, or rolling waves at sea
A gentle breeze or lightning in a storm
A dancing dream of all eternity

The sand was shimmering in the morning light
And dancing off the dunes so far away
The night held music so sweet, so long
And there we lay until the break of day

We woke that morning at the onward call
Our camels bridled up, our howdahs full
The sun was rising in the eastern sky
Just as we set out to the deserts cry

Calling, yearning, pulling, home to you

The tents grew smaller as we rode away
On earth that tells of many passing days
The months of peace and all the years of war
The lives of love and all the lives of fears

Calling, yearning, pulling, home to you

We crossed the river beds all etched in stone
And up the mighty mountains ever known
Beyond the valleys in the searing heat
Until we reached the caravanserai

Calling, yearning, pulling, home to you
Calling, yearning, pulling, home to you

What is this life that pulls me far away
What is that home where we cannot reside
What is that quest that pulls me onward
My heart is full when you are by my side

Calling, yearning, pulling, home to you
Calling, yearning, pulling, home to you

music and lyrics: Loreena McKennitt
From: An ancient muse (2006).

Source of the lyrics: the official website.

The song can also be found on The journey so far - The Best of Loreena McKennitt (2014).  

Stanza three, second line, has the word "howdah" -- this is "a usually decorative seat for a person to sit on an elephant's back" [Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, 1987], or in this case to sit on a camel's back.
Loreena McKennitt's commentary on the song, taken from the transcript of an audio interview:
The song "Caravanserai" was created with more of a rumination of the concept of home and that a home can be a physical place but, in many respects, home is as much, if not more so, the people that reside either in that physical space or, as in nomadic cultures, that travel with you. The word "caravanserai" actually represents a physical place which was kind of a glorified inn. I've seen a couple in Turkey. They are handsome fortified structures that would have been peppered along the Silk Road and other merchant routes. And it would be a place where locals as well as travelling or itinerant people would gather. It was a place where you could protect your goods, whether they were livestock or whether they were rugs or any other kinds of goods that you were travelling with. And merchants would come into these caravanserais and spend a night or a few nights, sort of regroup before they went on their travels again. And around the periphery of the caravanserai there would be the locals and there would be bazaars. And they became a kind of lightning rod for cultural intermingling.

One of the travel experiences that informed "Caravanserai" was when I had the opportunity to spend some time with a nomadic family in Mongolia. It was in October of 2003, I believe, and this family was just getting ready to leave their summer pasture for their winter pasture. And as many of the nomadic families in Mongolia, they had the five livestock groups. They had goats and sheep and horses and camels and cattle and their whole lives were surrounded by the maintenance of these livestock groups. And indeed their calendar was fixed on when the weather or when the pastures were ready that they had to move these livestock to the next place. And I remember reading some years ago that this was in actual fact a characteristic of the very early Celtic people who were nomadic. That rather than designing their calendar on crops and the time of the year that crops would have to go in, they actually designed their calendar on when their livestock needed to be moved from their summer and winter pastures. So, for example, the Celtic New Year is more around the 1st of November or the end of October, and that would be about the time that people would be moving their livestock. So, the song "Caravanserai" was informed by a range of these experiences and these themes.

© 2006, Quinlan Road Ltd.

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created: 11 November 2006
last modified: 25 January 2014