Tonight my wife and I were listening to “The Cave” by Mumford & Sons, and I was struck by a section of the song that I hadn’t much noted before. Mumford sings:
Come out of the cave walking on your hands
See the world hanging upside down
You can understand dependence
When you know the maker’s hand
That bit about walking upside down from a cave tugged at my sleeve, and set me scrambling through the Chesterton section of the bookshelf. Sure enough, there is a passage in his book on St. Francis of Assisi in which one finds the following, in connection with a discussion of Francis’ conversion:
Francis, at the time or somewhere about the time when he disappeared into the prison or the dark cavern, underwent a reversal of a certain psychological kind; which was really like the reversal of a complete somersault, in that by coming full circle it came back, or apparently came back, to the same normal posture. It is necessary to use the grotesque simile of an acrobatic antic, because there is hardly any other figure that will make the fact clear. But in the inward sense it was a profound spiritual revolution. The man who went into the cave was not the man who came out again; in that sense he was almost as different as if he were dead, as if he were a ghost or a blessed spirit. And the effects of this on his attitude towards the actual world were really as extravagant as any parallel can make them. He looked at the world as differently from other men as if he had come out of that dark hole walking on his hands.
That is rather too close to be a coincidence. And there’s more! A few paragraphs further down one finds this:
… the symbol of inversion is true in another way. If a man saw the world upside down, with all the trees and towers hanging head downwards as in a pool, one effect would be to emphasise the idea of dependence. There is a Latin and literal connection; for the very word dependence only means hanging. It would make vivid the Scriptural text which says that God has hung the world upon nothing.
So we have a cave, walking upside down, dependence, and the Maker, all four elements being also present in the stanza above.
As you can well imagine, I am quite pleased to have stumbled upon this connection. I would be even more pleased if I were the first to have noted it — but, alas, I am not. A little poking around online turns up others who noticed the same thing: here and here, for instance, and here.
It turns out that Marcus Mumford may be something of a Chesterton enthusiast: last year he chose The Outline of Sanity (which I have written about with striking incompetence here) for the “Mumford & Sons book club”, saying that the book changed his life.
Consider this post, then, as my unoriginal contribution to the study of Chesterton’s impact on popular culture. And listen to this song: