“Death is at your doorstep
And it will steal your innocence
But it will not steal your substance”

~ Mumford & Sons, Timshel

I’ve been relying on this lyric lately, and I’ll let it stand for itself. Except to say that:

I look into everyone’s biographies now, to see if they actually know what they’re talking about. I’ve talked to enough bereaved mothers to know that nobody is truly aware of their innocence until it has been shattered. I was naive once, too.

Marcus Mumford may not know about deep grief from first-hand experience, but the song is based on East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Here’s the thing: Steinbeck’s close friend died unexpectedly, and at a young age, in 1948. He wrote East of Eden in 1952, and his knowledge of grief in that book is much more evident (in my opinion) than it was in The Grapes of Wrath, which he wrote as a younger (much more innocent) man in 1940. (The Grapes of Wrath concludes with a ridiculous scene of a bereaved adolescent mother breast-feeding an elderly man who is starving. Uh, what? All better?? I read this while pregnant; it seemed creepy and absurd to me then… even more so now!)

So: I think that the wisdom of this statement is legitimate, borne from Steinbeck’s experience of grief, which he channeled it into the pages of East of Eden. (I have to mention that I don’t personally recommend East of Eden. In my opinion, it is straight-up misogyny and attempts to veil its horrific treatment of its women behind a shroud of biblical legitimacy. Also, it is self-indulgently repetitive. But, I am glad that Marcus Mumford read it and then wrote this song!)

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