by Patrick van der Splinter and Martin Jansen
Much has already been said and written on the lyrics of Brave. Nevertheless the 'reconstructed' story still shows some gaps and there are parts which, maybe inevitably, can be explained in two or even more ways. In this edition of our 'textual digging' we concern ourselves with a couple of letters by readers that we received not so long ago. Maybe these contributions can remove some of the remaining vaguenesses. In any case, we found some interesting additions and interpretations on Mad and The hollow Man. Be your own judge.

Martijn ten Napel from Rotterdam wrote to us the following about the lyric Mad:

"In Mad Hogarth sings: 'You've got Egypt in your head, I've got a headful of Troy'. In a brainwave an explanation for this lyric suddenly occurred to me, but I have to admit it is stretched rather far. Maybe I give the lyricist to much credit, but you never know what the use of 'joss sticks' may lead to. 'Egypt' refers to the character of Helen in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. The play's king, I believe his name is Thesius, recites a monologue which begins with the words: 'Lovers and madmen have such seething brains, such shaping memories that apprehend, more than cool reason ever comprehends...'. Later in the monologue there's the following text: '...sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt...'. This means that the person Thesius talks about worships Helen as a goddes who moves around in a glow of beauty. This is a positive approach to love. the remark made by Patrick van der Splinter an Martin Jansen that "in a confused mind strange things take place sometimes", is confirmed by the first line of the monologue [Which is: fools and lovers can, in their state of mind, sense more than reason will ever understand - PS&MJ]. 'Troy' refers to Helen of Troy. Troy is destroyed by the war between two warlords/kings fighting for the love of Helen of Troy.

because her father abused her and her boyfriend pulls her further down the spiral by using drugs. I hope anyone can follow my train of thought and I am curious to hear what people think about this. Pleas put this theory to Steve Hogarth if you have a chance, maybe it'll give him a real good laugh [...]." We are stunned once more! And whether Steve will have a good laugh... We are convinced he will as always appreciate it immensely that someone has taken the trouble to think about this. So do we by the way, and what's more, it sounds very plausible: the girl tells her boyfriend he seems to see a mysterious beauty in her, whereas in her own thoughts she herself merely sees two dubious 'lovers' (father and abusing boyfriend) who are competing for her 'favours'.

To get more comlete insight into this reference we perhaps have to take a better look at the Trojan war. The story of this war, that supposedly was derived from an actual siege of Troy that took place around 1200 A.D., is the subject of Homer's Iliad. It deals with the then year siege of Troy by the Greeks, povoked by Paris' kidnapping of Helen, wife to Menelaus of Sparta. Troy was attacked by an army led by Agamemnon, who finally forced the Trojans - led by Hector - to their knees by means of cunning. A large wooden horse, which was apparently left by the Greeks, was brought inside the gates by the Trojans, after which Greek soldiers, who had been hidden inside the horse, could attack the city from within. This story, a common-place for allusion, metaphor and situation, was the single most important 'heathen' influence on later art. It also seems probable to us that this may be one of those allusions or metphors, perhaps in the way Martijn ten Napel refers to, but perhaps also with regard to the 'cunning and fraude' aspect. It is probably obvious: we lack the necessary knowledge to make a truly sensible point here. We are therefore very much open to the views of classisist/latinists and other 'afficionados', concerning the opinions vented above.

You've got Egypt in your head,
'I've got a headful of Troy'
This is therefore the worshipping of a beloved, with negative consequences. the lyric on Brave may be explained thus: the girl tells her boyfriend, "You regard our love as a positive thing, but to me it is another road to destruction". Especially because 'I've got a headful of Troy' can then refer to two people fighting for her affection: her father and her boyfriend, both in a negative sense,

Then we received two letters about The hollow Man. One of them was by Louise Spijkers from Enschede. Below is the larger part of her letter:

"In issue number 5 you said that lyric didn't seem to fit in very well with the whole and I don't agree with that. I merely explain the lyric differently.
In many people who have to deal with the problems as described on Brave, you see the begginings of a dichotomy, dividing what they feel inside and what they show on the outside; the so-called 'mask principle'. They will try to hide their problems by pretending there are no problems, the exterior therefore. This dichotomy becomes stronger as the problems continue, or when they are not dealt with in the sense of therapy.
This exterior life often means a sacrifice of the interior one, one does not merely want to hide the interior from the outside world, but also from one's self, since there is not always a possiblility for dealing with it: 'I can feel the outside feeding on my inside'. This leaves a great black hole: 'leaves a growing darkness in its place'. It seems clear to me that this makes you lonely, because our fellow human beings address us according to what we show and not to what we feel inside: 'I think I have become one of the lonely, now that everybody talks to me'. Because of all this , the division between the exterior and the interior becomes ever greater, it starts to resemble a split personality, as if there were two different people: 'I think I have become one of a pair of men'. It now seems as if the exterior begins to push out the interior more and more: 'I look down upon myself and watch my movements, a blind eye sees the fragile vandalised'.

The exterior life now increasingly becomes something that can be summoned, something you call up when you're with other people, in order to survive: 'watch[...]/see the will to win'. It is remindful of a doll with batteries, that you can switch on and off whenever you feel like it, which laughs and cries and does everything a person is supposed to do.
This may lead to drug abuse or other problems, but it doesn't have to. In this storyline of course it does happen. I hope I've been able to explain a bit why this lyric to me does belong to the whole. To me the girl has become one of those 'hollow men'." We cannot remember ever having said that we thought The hollow Man didn't quite fit in with the whole; on the contrary. We did, however, have doubts about what the 'hollow man' stood for exactly; purely for the 'victim', as Louise Spijkers seems to see it, or also for the ouside world, the spectators and the 'accomplices'? Things which mostly led to that question were for instance a phrase such as 'We'll buy you and we'll sell you / But perhaps we'll save your skin' and for example the parts that Steve and the social worker (both with masks) play during The hollow Man in the film. Not that we disagree with Louise - certainly not, her explanation links up very well with ours and explores it beatifullly at points - but the fact remains that some lines are still hard to fit in, in her explanation as well. We regard the concerning part of the film as an important reference to how The hollow Man could/should be read. A suggestion: add everything you have read about the lyric and everything the film shows to what you yourself think about it, and the 'truth' will be somewhere in the middle. Louise's letter also is a valuable contribution to this.

This also goes very much for the letter we got from Lamyan Chan from Maastricht. For an explanation of The hollow Man he mainly refers to peom by T.S. Eliot that was discussed before.

"['Hollow men'] are men who do not believe in man's goodness. If they are mistreated by others, they will do the same thing back without remorse."

Subsequently also Lamyan suggests that deep within these 'men', despite their apparent callousness, there may be something resembling a conscience. But then there's this:
"The poem by Eliot refers to the fact that they are inside a church - 'In this last of meeting places/ We grope together/ And avoid speech/ Gathered on this beach of the tumid river'. So the men of straw come together in church to profess Christianity, whereas in fact they are people who do not believe in anything [Also keep in mind what we wrote about Eliot - PS&MJ]. This does indicate a contradiction, for the church preaches there is a paradise after life. Twice there's the line 'For Thine is the Kingdom', but the final four lines of the poem refer to how the men of straw see it: 'This is the way the world ends(...)/ Not with a bang but with a whimper'. So, in paradise, in life after death, they do not believe. In Marillion's The hollow Man it is the hard people who use other people for their own profit and who thus spead the poison. Maybe Steve Hogarth also wants to make clear that people in our society do things to better themselves, so that everyone just lives for himself and does not think about his feelings or take his fellow man into consideration."

lyric from beginning to end, just for the fun of it... Even leaving aside 'We make futil gestures, act to the camera/ With our made up faces and PR smiles/ and when the angel comes down to deliver us/ we'll find out after all, we're only men of straw'... How about And if you ever come across us don't give us your sympathy/ You can buy us a drink and just shake ou hands/ and you'll recognise by the reflection in our eyes/ that deep down inside we're all one and the same/ We're clutching at straws still drowning?

Uncanny parallel to the last bit of The hollow Man? Maybe it is inevitable that two 'poets', who think about the world around them and their own place in it, reach similar conclusions. But getting back to Lamyan Chan's letter: again a confirmation of our own ideas and an extension of them. Yet we do, however, want to make one small comment. The phrases 'stone images', 'prayers to broken stone' and 'This broken jaw of our lost kindoms' in T.S. Eliot's The hollow Men, we think, rather point to a cemetery (in literature tombstones are often compared to teeth) than to a church. the meaning of that to the poem is, according to us, that there is not so much a reference to believing in a life after death as in the idea that life is meaningless/void. and we can imagine very well that Steve Hogarth is also referring to that meaning by using the title The hollow Man. In any case, to us personally it seems a sure thing that Steve has tried to express his vision on society - and not just on the people who have fallen victim to that society.

Agree or disagree? Many thanks anyway to Martijn, Louise and Lamyan, and please keep writing. We hope that your fabrications will give some extra food for thoughts. To us in any case they all seem quite plausible and we will try sometime soon to confront Steve with the most intriguing of these ideas. Anybody else want to make a point? You know how it is: 'the only sign of life is the ticking of the pen'... or the printer of course.

We'll find out after all,
we're only men of straw
Men of straw! Where have we heard that before? For those of you who immediately grab for The last Straw, do read the whole