There are a few songs that make the tears push up out of my stupid old face as sure as mud between your toes. Most of them have some good reason - this one was played at my brother's funeral; that one was the theme for my first marriage. A very, very few make me leak for their sheer, penetrating beauty. Madame George is one of those.

When I listen to this song, I don't hear the story. I hear some pictures in the words; I hear the string bass (like teardrops); I hear the violin (aching, dancing, importuning); Van opening a page of his diary; the flute like light falling on a rain-wet street. I hear so much I don't hear any more - I only feel this song. It's not quite sad, yet it's almost more than I can take.

I played it for one of my daughters (the poetic one). She called it "slow and boring". She's only fourteen. I made her promise to come back to it, listen again when she's thirty-five. I hope it takes her that long to "get" this song. I want to wish she would never get it, but she's a mortal human, and she will. Poor child, she will.

Lyrics removed in accordance with E2's copyright policy

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