Loreena McKennitt – “Dante’s Prayer” Lyrics Meaning

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Written By Joanna Landrum

Joanna holds a BSc in English Literature and uses her expertise in literary analysis to uncover the deeper meaning of her favorite songs.

Loreena McKennitt’s “Dante’s Prayer” is a spellbinding blend of ethereal melodies and poignant lyrics. Inspired by Dante Alighieri’s “The Divine Comedy,” the song explores a journey through darkness towards light, both metaphorically and spiritually. McKennitt sends a powerful message about the transformative power of love, grace, and remembrance, especially when grappling with life’s difficulties. The song seems to serve as both a prayer and a plea, urging us to find our way out of metaphorical “dark woods” by relying on inner strength, love, and the hope for a dawn after an “endless” dark night.

Intrigued by the blend of literature, history, and soul-searching in a single song? Keep reading to delve into the richness that is “Dante’s Prayer.”

“Dante’s Prayer” Lyrics Meaning

“When the dark wood fell before me, And all the paths were overgrown.” The song begins by setting the scene of being lost, echoing Dante’s “Inferno,” where the character finds himself in a dark forest. However, Loreena adds a layer by mentioning “priests of pride,” indicating societal or internal judgments that often make us feel there is no way out.

“I did not believe because I could not see, Though you came to me in the night.” The narrator confronts their own skepticism and limitations. They couldn’t believe in the possibility of change or love, until a transformative experience ‘in the night’—perhaps a moment of spiritual or personal enlightenment—changes everything.

“Cast your eyes on the ocean, Cast your soul to the sea. When the dark night seems endless, Please remember me.” This beautiful chorus emphasizes the importance of hope and remembrance. Even in the darkest of times, the idea that someone, somewhere remembers you can be the light leading you out of darkness.

The lyrics then talk about a “mountain rose before me, By the deep well of desire, From the fountain of forgiveness, Beyond the ice and the fire.” These lines speak to the obstacles and challenges that arise even after one has found a semblance of direction. Desire and forgiveness are presented as both hindrances and catalysts on this journey.

Towards the end, the narrator shares this path with another, pointing out the fragility of the human heart and the yearning for transcendence: “Oh give these clay feet wings to fly, To touch the face of the stars.”

The Story Behind “Dante’s Prayer”

Loreena McKennitt is well-known for her ability to marry history, literature, and deeply personal themes into her music. “Dante’s Prayer” is no exception. It’s not just a song; it’s a musical interpretation of an age-old text, crafted by a singer-songwriter deeply invested in exploring spiritual landscapes and human emotion.

When Loreena penned this song, she was already an established artist but was also experiencing a phase of creative and personal exploration. Her interest in Dante Alighieri’s work and her own life experiences culminated in a song that reflects not just the agony and the ecstasy of the human condition, but also the transformative power of love and remembrance.

The song captures a universal sense of longing coupled with the hope for redemption and transformation. It encourages listeners to break free from their internal and external judgments (“priests of pride”) and limitations to embrace hope and love as guiding lights.

In an age where we’re often encouraged to focus on the material and immediate, “Dante’s Prayer” serves as a timeless reminder of the enduring human struggles with faith, love, and the journey towards enlightenment.