Saturday, December 19, 2015

                   Joeseddit’s
‘Cipherin’ The Song
Many songwriters refuse to offer the meaning of their lyrics, instead preferring to allow the listener to come up with his/her own interpretation. And surprisingly, some songwriters admit that they don’t even know the meaning of their own song, citing some type of “stream of consciousness” thing going on at the time it was penned. I’ll admit I’m not very good at deciphering song lyrics. I’ll sometimes think I know, but usually find out either through the author’s explanation or someone else’s more logical interpretation that I was way off. But that’s not gonna stop me from occasionally takin’ a crack at it here. Let me know while you’re laughing at me how far off I am. Or, I may be so befuddered by a song that I’ll have to back off completely and hope someone in the comment section comes up with something that makes sense.


Lady With a Fan – Grateful Dead
For me, Robert Hunter’s lyrics land in the same category as those of Bob Dylan and a few others. I usually don’t completely understand what the whole song is about, yet the song is riddled with lines and phrases that ring true. But this isn’t one of those songs. It’s a straightforward poetically told tale that’s for the most part, easily deciphered. But I do struggle with one portion of the lyrics. The song is cleverly written about taking a chance on love, the ultimate chance in this case as the girl pits the wise soldier against the daring sailor for presumably her devotion:

She takes her fan and throws it in the lion’s den
"Which of you to gain me, tell
will risk uncertain pains of Hell?
I will not forgive you
if you will not take the chance"

The sailor took a shot but the soldier is said to be too wise, apparently figuring he has a good chance to win by default:
 
strategy was his strength
and not disaster

It’s the next verse that confounds me:

The sailor coming out again
the lady fairly lept at him
that's how it stands today
you decide if he was wise

For the longest time I thought the line was “The lady fairly laughed at him”, which I think is better than Hunter’s version. Sinister, but better. What does he mean by “lept” at him? I’m assuming the word is a varied spelling of “leaped”, but still, strange choice of words to describe what I’m guessing is victory for the sailor.
I love the next stanza concerning our decision on the sailor’s wisdom:

The storyteller makes no choice
soon you will not hear his voice
his job is to shed light
and not to master

That’s how I see joetopic’s job. Throw it out there for discussion/consideration and stay out of the way. I still say my way (“laughed at him”) is better and it still works up to this point. “Lept”? Maybe the word is meant to be ambiguous and the sailor wasn’t necessarily victorious after all, ‘cuz the next and final stanza points out that the “end is never told”. I dunno, you tell me. The storyteller doesn’t seem to want to.


Lady With A Fan
The Grateful Dead

Let my inspiration flow
in token lines suggesting rhythm
that will not forsake me
till my tale is told and done

While the firelight's aglow
strange shadows in the flames will grow
till things we've never seen
will seem familiar

Shadows of a sailor forming
winds both foul and fair all swarm
down in Carlisle he loved a lady
many years ago

Here beside him stands a man
a soldier by the looks of him
who came through many fights
but lost at love

While the storyteller speaks
a door within the fire creaks
suddenly flies open
and a girl is standing there

Eyes alight with glowing hair
all that fancy paints as fair
she takes her fan and throws it
in the lion's den

"Which of you to gain me, tell
will risk uncertain pains of Hell?
I will not forgive you
if you will not take the chance"

The sailor gave at least a try
the soldier being much too wise
strategy was his strength
and not disaster

The sailor coming out again
the lady fairly lept at him
that's how it stands today
you decide if he was wise

The storyteller makes no choice
soon you will not hear his voice
his job is to shed light
and not to master

Since the end is never told
we pay the teller off in gold
in hopes he will come back
but he cannot be bought or sold



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