More R.E.M Lyric Reading

On “Fire, or “One I Love

Lyric poetry in rock music is a speaking of the soul to the one loved. That’s why this one catches, as a rarefied essence. And it is fire. He does not sing the lines: ‘(she is coming down on her own now).” That is strange. It is to the one he has left behind because she did not come along on her own. So it is like Airplane’s “I saw you/ “Comin’ Back to Me.” That is just a dream.

Losing My Religion:

From Songmeanings.com

Oh, life is bigger
It’s bigger
Than you and you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I set it up

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

Every whisper
Of every waking hour
I’m choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt lost and blinded fool, fool
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I set it up

Consider this
Consider this
The hint of the century
Consider this
The slip that brought me
To my knees, failed
What if all these fantasies
Come flailing around?
Now I’ve said too much

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream
That was just a dream

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream
Try, cry
Why try?
That was just a dream, just a dream, just a dream
Dream

“Losing my religion” of course intends the cliche,’ which, despite what is said, means more than exasperated or angry: it means being disillusioned. It means seeing beyond a love or the illusion of love, as in the opening and closing lines. The lengths equal to the distance in the eyes of the one loved is a nice line. But the analogy of love and faith is what catches the unconscious, as we secretly desire a spiritual lyric poetry. He sees himself, in the corner, seeing what disillusioned. If he refers to the spotlight of his own stage, seeing himself as the frontman of R.E.M., it means something like that the exasperation of love has led to the inspiration of R.E.M. lyrics. Losing my religion is then near to “losing my sanity” with losing the faith from the love- again despite what is said, that the song is about romantic rather than religious matters. It is similar then to when Jack White says,”I’ve been talkin’ to myself because I can’t forget…”

With a lyric poet as Stipe, his mere loves ARE of general significance.

Here is the collected wisdom on the matter:

Wikipedia: “Stipe has repeatedly stated that the song’s lyrics are not about religion. The phrase “losing my religion” is an expression from the southern region of the United States that means “losing one’s temper or civility” or “feeling frustrated and desperate.”[10] Stipe told The New York Times the song was about romantic expression.[11] He told Q that “Losing My Religion” is about “someone who pines for someone else. It’s unrequited love, what have you.”[12] Stipe compared the song’s theme to “Every Breath You Take” (1983) by The Police, saying, “It’s just a classic obsession pop song. I’ve always felt the best kinds of songs are the ones where anybody can listen to it, put themselves in it and say, ‘Yeah, that’s me.'”[13]

This disillusionment leads to what may be indistinguishable from madness, though it is temporary, and related to the inspiration. The indication of the Police song about unrequited love and obsession is very interesting. While Sting seems in error, Stipe seems correct in his response to “obsession,” from the first line. He means by this a true love, which is self sacrificing. It is of the sort that one does not love in this way again. The song may even communicate this correct response to the circumstance of one’s one crucial love.

R.E.M. – Losing My Religion (Official Music Video) https://youtu.be/xwtdhWltSIg via @YouTube

The video is full of clues, including the “hint of the century.” It is as much a primary work of art as is the song. The writing that appears in a flash is da Vinci’s discovery and invention of the helicopter. This, the helicopter, is related to the theme of wings and sprouting wings. It would be the modern, mechanistic and artificial mode of ascent, as opposed to the natural development of love. The groups of figures are, first, the band, Second a group from Art, From what first appeared to me as Peter Breugels and da Vinci’s School of Athens and the Death of Marat or the tragedy of the French Revolution. It is , a set of definite references to Art history, Caravaggio and certain others, woven to tell a story. I do not understand the Persian and Hindu references, but this would make a third group. The spotlight, and the work of music, is represented by a fourth group, the communist workers, and in one scene these are him singing. It is difficult to place the homo-eroticism and the conflict regarding the princess and the angel wings, but the question concerns eros, ascent and sin. “Choosing my confessions” coincides in the video with homoerotic sin, or a festering of the appetites in a deserted love, as Nash says, “I embrace the many colored beast.” We will be working on the meaning through the video, as Stipe said in a 2004 concert that the song belongs to us, the fans, and refers to a collective matter as well, expressing something for us and for the age.

The video opens with spilt milk, I believe as in the proverb, “don’t cry over spilt milk.” The members of the band are then looking up, apparently as the angel descends, like inspiration into lyric poetry.

There are then the wings and reference to the angel, who falls and enters on various occasions, a homoerotic shadow figure, partly unconscious. The theme reminds of the teaching regarding love and the growth of the soul’s wings.

Eric Ducker, in “Rolling Stone, reports Stipe’s explanation of the idea:

“I’m not supposed to tell anybody the idea, but if you want, I’ll try to explain it to you.” I told him there’s a story by Gabriel García Márquez called “A Very Old Man With Wings” in which this freak angel arrives and nobody knows quite what to do with it. So it’s that story, told abstractly through the style of these guys called Pierre et Gilles, who are these iconic gay photographers that take how Indians do their gods and goddesses, then they do that to the Western gods. I said that it would be interesting to have an Indian copying two French guys copying Indian work. That’s the style of one piece [in the video], that’s the heavenly abode. And the place where the angel lands, it would look like Caravaggio, whose lighting I really like. Then there’d be propaganda posters, which is a third group of people who might see this event, but might misinterpret it or come up with a different solution altogether.

The archetype on which the plot is written has similarities, then, to Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust theme.

There will be some benefit to the consideration of the images in Jungian terms, of shadow, anima, self, wise man, child and such. The one who suffers is the adolescent child emerging into love, and the young adult erotic questions. The divine woman and her cohort are pictured in the mode of the icons of the Upanishads, seen as the Hare Krishnas have spread these among us, depicting stories from the Hindu books similar to our Homeric epics.

Hmmm “…how the Indians do their gods and goddesses, then they do that to the Western gods?” Ok. Poets.

Jung considers the soul in terms of three levels, each with an aspect that is more or less unconscious. The “shadow” is similar to the Freudian unconscious, containing repressed memories, parts of ourselves not acceptable to our conscious persona, as we see ourselves. Deeper than this, though, are the archetypes of the collective unconscious, and what Jung calls “anima,” the Latin word for soul, is the etherial “She” behind the love of every man for every woman. The corresponding function in a woman is called “Animus,” or spirit, and these are related to the formation of the imagos, shaped decisively by the parents, by which one find their fitting love. In the 5th volume of his collected works, Symbols of Transformation, Jung discusses the battle of the hero for deliverance from the mother, the same as the earth or cave, so that the soul might ascend. What is born from the death of love is also a child, but the adult or true self, and it is this, also like a nascent faculty, which integrates the contents of the archetypes in the unconscious, considered now to be knowledge in the soul. It is this child then that pursues wisdom and is guided by the wise old man,” the archetype of the philosopher. The “You,” then, the woman who appears as semi-divine, the beloved as carrier of the “projection” of the anima. The soul of a man produces an image that at once is and is not the beloved, and this image is the feminine unconscious of the male. Hence the beloved appears more beautiful to one in love, gilded by the charms and favors attributed to Aphrodite. But the form of the beautiful is the only one to appear in the visible at all, the first condcete experience of the divine as distinct from the contents of the imagination regarding the divine.

Wikipedia: A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, subtitled “A Tale for Children” is a short story by Colombian writer and author Gabriel García Márquez. … into the sea, he sees a very old man with wings laying face down in mud in his courtyard.

…”The priest, Father Gonzaga, comes by the house because he is surprised by the news of the angel. At this time, onlookers are making hypotheses about what should happen to the angel, saying things like “he should be the leader of the world,” or “he should be a military leader in order to win all wars.” However, Father Gonzaga decides to determine whether the man is an angel or not by speaking to him in Latin. Since the man with wings did not recognize Latin and looked too human, the priest decides the man could not be an angel.”

The semi-divine woman is the one beloved, although the homosexual angel is a representation of the self, again half in shadows.

The adolescent suffering similar to the crucifixion is similar too to The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian by Antonnello de Messina. This too has a man tied to a post impaled by darts, bloodless.

Antonello da Messina - St. Sebastian - Google Art Project.jpg
Sodoma 003.jpg

Wikipedia:

Saint Sebastian (c. AD 256 – 288) was an early Christiansaint and martyr. According to traditional belief, he was killed during the Roman emperor Diocletian‘s persecution of Christians. He was initially tied to a post or tree and shot with arrows, though this did not kill him. He was, according to tradition, rescued and healed by Saint Irene of Rome, which became a popular subject in 17th-century painting. In all versions of the story, shortly after his recovery he went to Diocletian to warn him about his sins, and as a result was clubbed to death.[1][2] He is venerated in the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.


Caravaggio – Wikipediaen.wikipedia.org ›

Wiki: Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was an Italian painter active in Rome for most of his artistic life. During the final four years of his life he moved between …

Wikipedia

The Caravaggio figure indicated as the lyrics say “hint of the century” is from his painting of St. Jerome translating the scripture.

Saint Jerome Writing-Caravaggio (1605-6).jpg

Caravaggio had an interesting dispute with a rival painter, who describes him as representing carnal rather than heavenly eros, which is represented by the rival painter himself, in winged figures. But let us look for the drama or plot to the video, and try to see how this goes with the lyrics of “Losing My Religion.”

Following the spilt milk, and the attempt of his friends to comfort his despair, as he says, “the lengths that I would go to, he appears winged. He spreads his arms to say “bigger,” and these become his wings. His transcendence of the love is the lengths to which he must go. When he says “That’s me.” there appears first the homosexual angel with small wings, a cupid -like figure, or cupidity. He repeats “that’s me, and the spotlight is the communist workers, and again it is the suffering adolescent martyr when he says “losing my religion.”

“You ” is the anima figure, the princess, pictured with her cohort, and she is also “you on the occasion of her other appearance. The first time she appears centrally, is is at the word “I thought that I heard you sing.” Then at “trying to keep an eye on you, it is the homosexual cupid and the old St. Jerome looking up at the divine appearance of the beautiful in the one loved. Then, at “I’v said to much, the old St. Jerome figure falls, revealing that the cupid figure and he were in a heavenly condition. The cupid figure reaches down, but cannot reach Jerome, and the old bearded man picks up Jerome and points to him, at “hint of the century.” This is the same as the slip that brought him to his knees, humbled him, but brought him down, like losing his religion. The slip may have been to share his confession with the one loved. “Failed.” The attempt may have been to share confession with one loved who was not faithful, or had 11 gallows on her sleeve. A possible reading that may be in the right direction, and would explain the tension in the imagery.

Much more might be unraveled. Who is the second old man from Caravaggio, equivalent to the man who receives the angel in the story of the old man with wings? Who are the other Persians and the idolatrous Canaanites or Babylonians with the cow? The song is, after all about religion, if in a way not likely to be understood, and this would be to bring Jerome a crutch, and to look to lyric poetry for inspired songs.Who are the two who bring Jerome a crutch, and the one looking up to the heavenly cupid? There are wings in every group, including the communist workers at song, with something like an emblem. The artificial wings of the helicopter occur on the word “try.” To laugh, sing and try would go along with love, but that is here only a dream, as the one loved is one who does not love. Some are like that, the poorer, though less pained. Only the soul of the philosophers recover’s its wings.

Stipe has done well to keep his loves private, but one expects that “Losing My Religion” is written over the same love as Country Feedback, which Stipe calls his favorite R.E.M. song. Here the ducks are arguments the one lost has set out in a row.

Swan, Swan, Hummingbird

There is a very good reading of “Swan” on the Songmeanings site, unraveling particular lines from publications during the civil war. The scenes are from a publication from a prison camp, with trinklets being made of anything to sell for greenbacks, as to the captain. The futility of the Civil War is the theme, the price of heroes being inestimable to the captain’s mother. The beginning and the end reference the Christ, who emerges occasionally in the semi-automatic lyrics. “Girl and dog he bore his cross-” the family he was beginning was sacrificed in the war. Here are the lyrics from Songmeanings.com”

Swan, swan, hummingbird, hurrah
We are all free now
What noisy cats are we?
Girl and dog, he bore his cross
Swan, swan, hummingbird, hurrah
We are all free now
A long, low time ago
People talk to me

Johnny Reb, what’s the price of fans
Forty apiece or three for one dollar?
Hey, Captain, don’t you want to buy
Some bone chains and toothpicks
Night wings, or hair chains?
Here’s your wooden greenback, sing
Wooden beams and dovetail sweep
I struck that picture ninety times

I walked that path a hundred ninety
Long, low time ago, people talk to me
A pistol hot, cup of rhyme
The whiskey is water, the water is wine
Marching feet, Johnny Reb
What’s the price of heroes?

Six of one, half dozen the other
Tell that to the captain’s mother
Hey, captain, don’t you want to buy
Some bone chains and toothpicks?
Night wings, or hair chains?
Swan, swan, hummingbird, hurrah
We’re all free now
What noisy cats are we?

Long, low time ago, people talk to me
A pistol hot cup of rhyme
The whiskey is water, the water is wine.

From Twitter:

“This is a song about a war that, our country inflicted on itself a few decades ago..

REM – Swan Swan HThe http://Songmeanings.com page on “Swan” is VERY good. What is the connection of Johhny Reb to the bearing of the cross and wine? If the Captain has paid the price, they are not in a prison camp, but…. The civil war trinkets remind of Ophelia selling flowers and Edgar in Lear… “What noisy cats are we” comes direct from a civil war writing Rikdad suggests: compare Duck, Duck, Goose,” an arbitrary selection, as of which would die in the war or arranging those in the prison camp. The largest and smallest birds, and two very special birds. The Swan loves once, for life, then sings the “Swan song.”

Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana, Galilee, but it is of course eucharistic, the bread and wine. “Do this in remembrance of me,” He says at the last supper. Rikdad Songmeanings: A telling phrase is “wooden greenbacks”: Greenback is a name for the US dollar, and “wooden”, applied to currency, means false or worthless. This would describe Confederate currency near or after the end of the war, when it ceased to have monetary value.

Try Not To Breathe

I will try not to breathe
I can hold my head still with my hands at my knees
These eyes are the eyes of the old, shiver and fold

I will try not to breathe
This decision is mine
I have lived a full life
And these are the eyes that I want you to remember, oh

I need something to fly over my grave again
I need something to breathe

I will try not to burden you
I can hold these inside
I will hold my breath
Until all these shivers subside
Just look in my eyes

I will try not to worry you
I have seen things that you will never see
Leave it to memory me
I shudder to breathe

I want you to remember, oh (you will never see)
I need something to fly (something to fly)
Over my grave again (you will never see)
I need something to breathe (something to breathe)
Baby, don’t shiver now
Why do you shiver? (I will see things you will never see)
I need something to fly (something to fly)
Over my grave again (I will see things you will never see)
I need something to breathe, oh, oh, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh

I will try not to worry you
I have seen things that you will never see
Leave it to memory me
Don’t dare me to breathe
I want you to remember oh (you will never see)
I need something to fly (something to fly)
Over my grave again (you will never see)
I need something to breathe (something to breathe)
Baby, don’t shiver now
Why do you shiver now? (I will see things you will never see)
I need something to breathe (something to breathe)
(I have seen things you will never see)
I want you to remember

Old folks home residents are this song, a good one for the workers to know the circumstance. The poetry of Stipe extends in its breadth to thought on death, said also to be the beginning of philosophy.

The one dying is concerned for others and feels bad about burdening those caring for them, and so would even try not to breathe. He tries to suppress shivers. The end of the first verse is indeed as one who has chosen euthanasia, as these will do even from feeling a burden.

As the one dying enters something like a delusional state, the lines become deeper and enigmatic.

I need something to fly over my grave again
I need something to breathe.

Air. The one dying needs air and a memorial at the same time, and wants their person to remember:

I want you to remember, oh (you will never see)
I need something to fly (something to fly)
Over my grave again (you will never see)
I need something to breathe (something to breathe)

The one dying has seen something, or things their person will never see, but says, leave it to memory.” The last lines are “will see,” related again to what they have seen but fail to communicate:

(I will see things you will never see)
I need something to breathe (something to breathe)
(I have seen things you will never see)
I want you to remember.

Though they want us to remember, these things are left to memory.

On Songmeanings, it is related that “There is a Southern saying that says every time you shiver, an angel has flown over your grave. So the death theme, connected with angels, is plausible.” (middleofsomewhere93on June 02, 2006).

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