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The Fountain of Lamneth

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Title: The Fountain of Lamneth  
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Subject: The Necromancer (song), Panacea (disambiguation), Neil Peart, 1975 songs
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The Fountain of Lamneth

"The Fountain of Lamneth"
Song by Rush from the album Caress of Steel
Genre Progressive rock, hard rock
Length 19:58
Label Mercury Records
Writer Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson
Lyrics by Neil Peart
Producer Rush & Terry Brown
Caress of Steel track listing
"The Necromancer"
"The Fountain of Lamneth"

The Fountain of Lamneth is the fifth and final track from Rush's third album, Caress of Steel. The music was written by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, and the lyrics were written by Neil Peart.[1] It chronicles a man's lifelong journey to find the Fountain of Lamneth. It consists of six parts:

    • "I. In the Valley" (Music: Lee/Lifeson, Lyrics: Peart) – 4:18 [1]
    • "II. Didacts and Narpets" (Music: Lee/Lifeson, Lyrics: Peart) – 1:00 [1]
    • "III. No One at the Bridge" (Music: Lee/Lifeson, Lyrics: Peart) – 4:19 [1]
    • "IV. Panacea" (Music: Lee, Lyrics: Peart) – 3:14 [1]
    • "V. Bacchus Plateau" (Music: Lee, Lyrics: Peart) – 3:16 [1]
    • "VI. The Fountain" (Music: Lee/Lifeson, Lyrics: Peart)– 3:49 [1]

Song information

"The Fountain of Lamneth" is the first of three sidelong epics Rush would write. It is broken into six sections; however, unlike later extended songs such as "Xanadu," "Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres," and "La Villa Strangiato," the sections do not segue seamlessly, but rather each segment fades out as the next fades in.

The meaning of the song is often viewed to be the entire life of a man, from birth to death.

"In The Valley", the beginning section, deals with birth, childhood wonder, innocence, safety, and growing up. The protagonist of the story, who is still a child, sees a mountain in the distance and is told of the mystical Fountain of Lamneth that awaits at its peak. His goal, at this point in life, is to reach the top of the mountain and make it to the Fountain. This section's lyrics are intentionally written to be very simple at first, and then to grow in complexity of thought and expression as the section goes on, just as children slowly learn and become more complex thinkers as they age.

"Didacts and Narpets" refers to the rebellious teenage years. It consists mostly of a chaotic drum solo symbolizing the confusion teenagers experience as they try finding their place in the world. The opposing lyrics go back and forth, similarly to an argument between teacher/parent and teenage offspring. A didact is a teacher, sharing a root with the word didactic, which means "inclined to teach" or "teaching moral lessons," and "narpet" is an anagram of "parent".[2]

"No One at the Bridge" is centered around the first years of being alone, with no one to help out or rely on when times become difficult. It uses the metaphor of a ship lost in a violent storm at sea to make its point.

"Panacea" is about finding something in life that brings happiness or joy, such as falling in love. However, the end of this section leaves it ambiguous as to whether the protagonist ultimately gives up his "panacea" for his dreams, or whether he merely settles into a career and has trouble leaving his "panacea" every day to go fulfill his career ambitions. Panacea was a Greek goddess who represented universal remedy; later on, the word became a term used for a supposed cure for all diseases, highly sought after by the alchemists of old. The word is now used to refer to a cure-all for anything. Also in this section, the substance ambergris is mentioned, which is a waxy substance from the intestines of the sperm whale, highly valued in the past for making perfume.

"Bacchus Plateau" refers to either hitting a mid-life crisis and losing sight of what's important, or life after retirement and growing old. Either way, this section sums up the feeling of disillusionment one may experience with life. Bacchus was the Roman god of wine; the Greek equivalent is Dionysus.

"The Fountain" is the closing section, in which the protagonist finally reaches his destination on top of the mountain. "The key, the end, the answer" to the protagonist's questions, is the "secret" revealed at the Fountain: "Life is just a candle, and a dream must give it flame." A dream fulfills life, but will ultimately consume it as well. Though the secret has been revealed to the protagonist, he is nonetheless confused and distraught, as he realizes this means that the Fountain is not an ending unto itself, but merely a signpost on what appears to him an unending, cyclical journey. Some time after this revelation, the protagonist reaches the end of his life. At this point the song reprises the music from its very beginning, and the lyrics are written to be intentionally simple again, as they were during the introduction of "In the Valley". The ending is written this way to either show that the protagonist has returned to a more childlike state due to senility, or to convey the idea that, even at the end of his life, the protagonist is still, in many ways, an infant struggling to understand the enormity of existence. It is left up to the listener whether these final lyrics represent the man lamenting his life as wasted, or whether, in his last moments, he successfully reconciles the secret of the Fountain with the things he's done and experienced. The last swell in the music is either the man's final breath, or his crossing through the threshold of death.

Regarding the section "Didacts and Narpets", Neil Peart, in the October 1991 news release from the Rush Backstage Club, said: "Okay, I may have answered this before, but if not, the shouted words in that song represent an argument between Our Hero and the Didacts and Narpets - teachers and parents. I honestly can't remember what the actual words were, but they took up opposite positions like: 'Work! Live! Earn! Give!' and like that." [3]

Geddy Lee mentioned this song in a somewhat unfavorable light in this interview excerpt from the book Contents Under Pressure: "[The song] was just something we had to do. But it’s kind of absurd. I mean, it’s just where we were at. We were a young band, a little pretentious, full of ambitions, full of grand ideas, and we wanted to see if we could make some of those grand ideas happen. And 'Fountain of Lamneth' was the first attempt to do that. And I think there are some beautiful moments, but a lot of it is ponderous and off the mark. It’s also the most time we ever had to make a record. I think we had a full three weeks, and we were just indulging ourselves.'"[4]

Alex Lifeson cited Steve Hackett as a major influence on the sound he strove for in this song and album, particularly on the guitar solo during "No One at the Bridge": “Steve Hackett is so articulate and melodic, precise and flowing. I think our Caress of Steel period is when I was most influenced by him. There's even a solo on that album which is almost a steal from his style of playing. It's one of my favorites, called 'No One at the Bridge.'"[5]

As to Lifeson's thoughts on the "Panacea" section: "It was an attempt at something that didn't really work out. It was ... innocent."[6]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g
  2. ^
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