Most, if not all, of Taylor Swift’s music, is poetry. The most popular song on her Folklore album, Cardigan, is just one great example of how her lyrics incorporate poetic devices to weave a story with a deeper meaning.
Cardigan is a song about first love and first heartbreak. The passion and excitement of first love are enthralling. The innocence and the bond between the two young lovers lead to heartbreak as their relationship ended and trust was lost. This song comes from the perspective of a heartbroken young girl, who feels her first love was truly a heartbreak, although she is aware that “when you are young they assume you know nothing.”
First, Swift uses imagery to symbolize the innocence of young love.
The youthful scene described here gives a vivid image of the fun, innocent love the two share. It also depicts the nature of their relationship: exciting, intimate, candid. The speaker knows her lover; she remembers every minute of their relationship. This scene perpetuates the idea that she was truly in love with him despite her age because after all these years she still looks back fondly at their memories and is able to recall the specific moments that made her fall for him.
As the song moves chronologically through the relationship, similies are used to describe the depth of emotion of the speaker caused by the betrayal of her lover.
She chooses to describe her lover as “leaving like a father,” arguably the most tragic betrayal imaginable, in order to both convey the intense emotion she felt towards him, and to draw a connection between her lover and her father, who also left. The line serves both to describe the level of heartbreak he caused her and to compare her lover to her own father, implying that from the beginning she was worried about the relationship ending in the manner it did, and has consequently lost her trust in men completely.
Taylor ends the song using metaphors to describe the impact the relationship had on her psyche.
In this line, Taylor compares the lingering memory of her lover to the smell of smoke. The vivid memories that haunt her burning relationship have hung around, she still wonders what could have been if things were different. This line reveals that all along Taylor knew the outcome of her relationship would be torture, but was unable to remove herself from it.
This song represents the paradox of young love. Adults judge the naivety of teen romances, but this song argues that young people are very much aware of the pain these short-lived relationships will cause. Despite the struggles, this song defends young love as a necessary experience that teaches those in them more about themselves and helps create expectations and dealbreakers for a forever partner.
This entire song is filled with metaphors, similes, imagery, personification, and so many more poetic devices. The reason I love this song is that it achieves a highly personal, deeply relatable meaning using beautiful poetic phrases. The way she writes her music makes listening to it an experience, you have to pay attention to understand the real meaning behind it. I highly suggest everyone listen to not just “Cardigan,” but the entirety of Taylor Swift’s discography because much of her music is written in a similar manner.