Northern Lights

SSAA A Cappella
Lyrics: from Song of Solomon
Language: Latin
Duration: 4:10
Publisher: Walton Music

 
 

Northern Lights is about beauty – a “terrible,” powerful beauty, although the music is quite serene on the surface:

 

Pulchra es amica mea,
suavis et decora filia Jerusalem,
Pulchra es amica mea,
suavis et decora sicut Jerusalem,
terribilis ut castrorum acies ordinata.
Averte oculos tuos a me
quia ipsi me avolare fecerunt.

 

Thou art beautiful, O my love,
sweet and beautiful daughter of Jerusalem,
Thou art beautiful, O my love,
sweet and comely as Jerusalem,
terrible as an army set in array.
Turn away thy eyes from me,
for they have made me flee away.

 

Looking out from an attic window one Christmas, close to Oslo over a wintry lake under the stars, I was thinking about how this “terrible” beauty reminded me of the northern lights, or aurora borealis. The northern lights are one of the most beautiful natural phenomena I’ve ever witnessed, and they have such a powerful, electric quality that must have been both mesmerizing and terrifying to people in the past, when no one knew what the lights were, and when much superstition was attached to these experiences.