The Lakes

The Lakes” is a song by Taylor Swift off of her album “Folklore”. Released in 2020, the central idea of “The Lakes” is escaping your battles and struggles and going to a place of quiet and calm. This relates to Taylor Swift wanting to find peace from the struggles of life, and uses nature to symbolize this calm. In the third line of the song, Swift refers to “these hunters with cellphones,” which makes an allegory to nature and hunters. This metaphor is used to associate nature with feelings of safety, and the problems she faces as threats to nature.

The line in the chorus, “Take me to the Lakes where all the poet went to die,” refers to the beautiful places in nature that Romantic poets and thinkers like Thoreau and Whitman went to experience Romantic ideals like wonder and instinct. Further in the chorus swift says, “These windermere peaks look like a perfect place to cry”. This connects ideas of nature to intense emotions like sadness, and the romanticist ideals of escaping modern ideals of logic and reason in favor of emotion and nature.

“Imagine” and Romanticism

Imagine” by John Lennon is his highest-sold single after his departure from The Beatles. In the song, Lennon emphasizes the necessity of peace, love, and acceptance in a world full of conflict and division. He intended for this song to inspire people around the world and give them hope for a better future. Lennon’s “Imagine” is full of imagery, repetition, and symbolism, allowing listeners to perfectly picture the possibilities this world has to offer and reiterate his wishes.

Lennon repeated the same lines in stanzas 5 and 8, stating, “You may say I’m a dreamer/But I’m not the only one/I hope someday you’ll join us/And the world will be as one.” He takes his position on the issue and understands the difference of opinions, however, in the third line he calls for people to join him, which will ultimately bring everyone together. 

As the romantic era broke from conventional standards, the song “Imagine” does as well. The line, “Imagine there’s no heaven” broke from the norms of society by challenging the worldview that maybe Christianity isn’t true, and after death there is nothing. This was especially controversial in the 1970s when the song was released. 

Furthermore, imagination is the center of the song. I mean, the song is called Imagine. Romanticism values imagination over logic, and the song asks the reader to imagine a different world, one that will never exist. While that may not be the most reasonable thing to do, Lennon values the idea of this ideal world, despite the fact that it is basically impossible. 

Freedom from rules is another romantic ideal embodied through the song. “Imagine there’s no countries” is an example of Lennon envisioning society with the lack of rules that exist currently. Countries are a rule, there is a set of laws and a government with each country, and for there to be no countries would break away from rules.

The Beatles and A Noiseless Patient Spider

The Beatles record, Eleanor Rigby, which is a part of the Revolver 1966 album expresses life living in solitude. This song was one of the first introductions to psychedelic music and shares many connections to poems written by Emily Dickinson. The Beatles used this song to empathize for the lonely, particularly by focusing on an isolated old woman and the limited connections she had made. To many, this song felt as though it was telling a short story, possibly because it was based on real characters but also because of the many literary techniques packed in it. The most substantial elements being the use of imagery, repetition, metaphors and allusion. 

Imagery is used as a mechanism to bring to life and illustrate lonely women. At the beginning of the song Eleanor “Picks up the rice in the church where the wedding has been” and “lives in a dream”. Further reiterating the image of a lonely unmarried woman who despises such social events. 

Another example of literary devices is the line describing Eleanor by one who keeps “wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door”. In other words, this implies the facade she puts on and specifically the fake smile that she often leaves“by the door”. Although she appears happy, in reality she is miserable and finds ways to cover up the internal pain she truly faces. Later, Paul McCartney states that she was buried along with her name,” suggesting both literally and metaphorically her isolation after death. Essentially, when she is buried her name is too, and she is completely forgotten. Given these examples, the idea entailed is that even when Eleanor helped in the church and attempted to help others, ultimately she is easily forgotten once she died. 

Another important aspect is the repetition of “lonely people” which is seen throughout the song. The word “lonely” helps guide the audience to understand the sadness and despair within the story, and the particular ways in which this word promotes the struggles of those in solitude. 

Both “Eleanor Rigby” and A Noiseless Patient Spider obtain many overarching concepts following the struggles of those who are lonely.  A Noiseless Patient Spider is based upon an isolated spider trying to find connections while building its web. “Eleanor Rigby” is a parallel example as she struggles to form connections and is quickly forgotten due to her life in isolation.

Michael Jackson and Walt Whitman as Romantics?

By: Estefania, Grayson, Elijah and Camila

n Leaves of Grass a collection of poems by Walt Whitman, readers become immersed in romanticism. One poem from this collection, “Song of Myself”, uses the concept of romanticism to depict the speaker’s journey of self discovery and the influence of nature to the regeneration of the body, soul and mind. You may be wondering what could Michael Jackson and a poet from the 1800’s possibly have in common. The truth is, their work has more similarities than you think. In Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song”, he addresses the issue of global warming and the loss of animals. He uses poetic devices to vocalizes his concern for animals and nature. For example, in one verse he says, “What about flowering fields? // Is there a time? // What about all the dreams that you said was yours and mine?”. Here flowers symbolize a greater theme of love and, “flowering fields” suggest that love is growing as the flowers grow. Walt Whitman also uses aspects of nature to symbolize subjects such as the ongoing cycle of life. Some may say a “Song of Myself” is the epitome of transcendentalism because it highlights the experience of nature over material things. This same idea can be seen in “Earth Song” when Jackson said “What about nature’s worth? (Ooh) // It’s our planet’s womb (What about us?) // What about animals? (What about it?) // Turned kingdom to dust (What about us?)”. The reference to “our planets womb” demonstrates the use of personification to show the personal connection between him and the nature. It also applies the ideas of transcendentalism because he views human’s actions as detrimental to nature. By doing so he is asking readers to view nature as something powerful and worthy of love and respect. This can lead to a deeper discussion about how the identification of ourselves and other selves will bring us to understand and cherish life more. Walt Whitman also utilizes personification to give meaning to nature and animal life and the concept of death and immortality. All in all, both Whitman and Jackson use romanticism to show their appreciation for nature and comment on how earth provides us with so many things while also highlighting the importance of preserving it.

To Autumn by John Keats and Autumn Serenade by by John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman

Autumn Serenade” is a jazz piece by John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman from their 1963 collaborative album: John Coltrane And Johnny Hartman. Despite being released almost 150 years after the publication of John Keats’ “To Autumn,” the two works share a very similar sentiment, supported by many similar poetic devices. 

First of all, both the song and poem clearly express simple appreciation for fall, which certainly reflects humanity’s intrinsic love of nature and urge to celebrate it via art, even across multiple generations. But the pieces also both personify the season in similar ways; in “To Autumn,” Keats addresses the season directly, and in “Autumn Serenade” the season is described as a woman who comes “through the trees” with her “serenade.” In both cases the poets characterize autumn in order to connect the audience to the fall time they are describing. By using personification they are able to ground a very abstract idea—a time of year—in the very familiar concept of a person who can be directly interacted with. 

Both poems also evoke a sense of timelessness in order to highlight the recurring nature of a yearly season. Keats does this with phrases like “with patient look’ and “last oozings hours by hours;” Coltrane and Hartman do it more explicitly with lines like “Let the years come and go/ I’ll still feel the glow that time cannot fade.” Either way, both pieces use time-related language to pay homage to the time-related element of seasonal change and the reflection on years past that a change in season can cause. I, personally, think there’s a unique beauty to these two separate works commenting on the timelessness of autumn 150 years apart. It just goes to show that humans will always need to create art, and nature is something that’s always been there to appreciate and (hopefully) always will be (sans global warming).

Don’t Fear The Reaper

“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” (1976) written and sung by lead guitarist Donald Roeser from the rock band Blue Oyster Cult redefines the process of death as an eternal embrace of love into the afterlife rather than an agonizing moment that you are dreading.

Death is extremely scary to most people because of how unpredictable it is, but having the courage to accept it makes the process much less painless. People leave the Earth fearing the ‘end’ of their lives but forget the journey they just had and the new one they’re about to start. The song’s message correlates with Emily Dickonson’s poem, “Because I Could Not Stop For Death,” in that death(The Reaper) came to someone unexpectedly; however, death is portrayed as a gentle and easygoing man as he leads his lover into eternity.

The song begins with:

All our times have come

Here, but now they’re gone

Seasons don’t fear the reaper

Nor do the wind, the Sun, or the rain

In nature, death is viewed as a normal process in the circle of life. But modern human society has portrayed it to be a painful event that must be avoided at all costs. This phrase eases the minds of listeners and reminds them that they are a part of something bigger than themselves. Getting caught up in your own human nature causes people to forget that they came into the world where Earthly nature rules.

Come on, baby (Don’t fear the reaper)

Baby, take my hand (Don’t fear the reaper)

We’ll be able to fly (Don’t fear the reaper)

Baby, I’m your man (Don’t fear the reaper)

The chorus directly follows the first few lines of the song implying that “The Reaper” wants to join in nature with his lover but can’t unless she is willing. This reassurance encourages her to take a leap of faith and join death as they fly away to heaven.

Valentine is done

Here but now they’re gone

Romeo and Juliet

Are together in eternity

Their time on Earth may have ended but their love has moved on toward’s a greater existence that exceeds mortal nature. Romeo and Juliet signify their love by dying together but it doesn’t necessary mean that suicide brought them closer. It is Romeo’s soul who leaves first but waits for Juliet to cross over so they can be together. They wanted to love each other while alive but because their love is so strong they are able to find each other in the afterlife.


All of Me Song Analysis

All of Me is a contemporary romantic song by singer John Legend, in part of the Love in the Future album. The song is an emotional ballad that expresses deep love and devotion, as well as vulnerability and fear of losing your loved one. The speaker in the song is John Legend himself, who addresses his then-fiance, Chrissy Teigen with heartfelt and vulnerable lyrics. The audience for the song is not only his lover but likely anyone who has experienced the highs and lows of being in love, as the song’s themes are universal and relatable. The occasion for the song is a personal expression of love from John Legend to his partner. The song employs a range of literary techniques to convey its emotional impact. For example, it uses vivid imagery, such as “smart mouth,” “curvy roads,” and “perfect imperfections,” to paint a picture of the speaker’s love for his partner. The use of repetition, such as the phrase “all of me,” emphasizes the speaker’s willingness to give himself completely to his beloved. The song also uses metaphors, such as “my head’s underwater,” to convey the feeling of being consumed by love. Overall, “All of Me” is a powerful and emotive love song that resonates with audiences due to its universal themes and relatable lyrics.

“I’ll Fly Away” by Hank Williams and “Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman

In Hank Williams’ singing of “I’ll Fly Away” , the song carries a meaning of not just life and death, but a greater understanding and acceptance of this inevitable path taken by everyone, a shared theme emphasized not only in William’s song, but in Whitman’s poem “Song of Myself” as well.

“That some bright morning when this life is over
I’ll fly away (fly away, fly away)
To that land on God’s celestial shore
I’ll fly away (fly away, fly away)”

Rather than seeing it as something to be feared, Williams looks upon his eventual death as the beginning of an afterlife where he can fly through the skies forever and no longer carry the sorrows of human life. This is a similar meaning demonstrated in Whitman’s poem, where he feels a sense of contentment upon reaching his end. His description of his “white locks” in section 52 exemplify the long life he had lived, writing poetry and putting his work out into the world so that a part of him will always be kept alive.

“Like a bird from prison bars flown
I’ll fly away (fly away, fly away)
To a land where no sorrows are known
I’ll fly away (fly away, fly away)”

Williams compares his death to a bird flying free from a prison, finding peace beyond the world of the living. Whitman similarly compares his death to a tranquil departure in section 52, feeling still as he becomes one with the earth “to grow from the grass I love”. They share a more relaxed view on death than many others, not viewing it so much as them dying, but as them moving on the their next life as their impact on earth remains.

“When I die, Hallelujah, bye and bye
I’ll (fly away) fly away
Thank you fellas”

In both Williams’ and Whitman’s work, they each take a moment to address the audience/reader and choose to speak directly to them as if saying their goodbyes to a loved one. Williams ends his song with “Thank you fellas” and Whitman ends his poem with “I stop somewhere waiting for you”, switching the focus from themselves to the audience and reaching out beyond the words of a song and text of a poem.

Emily Dickinson & The Beatles

Strawberry Fields Forever by The Beatles was released in 1967 and was a reflective and nostalgic look back on John Lennon’s childhood, much like Emily Dickinson’s poem “Because I could not stop for Death”. The song is a melancholic reflection on Lennon’s adolescence, particularly of an orphanage he lived near called “Strawberry Field” where he felt connected with the other children. Strawberry Fields Forever is reportedly one of the most analyzed songs ever with it’s psychedelic instrumentals as well as the meaning of the lyrics themselves. Strawberry Fields Forever is an almost surreal expression of nostalgia and letting go.

Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to
Strawberry Fields
Nothing is real
And nothing to get hung about
Strawberry Fields forever

These lines of chorus reinforce the idea of remembering and reflecting but ultimately letting go of that. Lennon uses a bit of humor here with “nothing to get hung about”; one one hand, it’s a humorous, little dig but on the other, it’s suggesting that if nothing is real, we shouldn’t be so uptight and worrisome (I think it’s also important to note that while there are no direct references to drug use in this particular song, Lennon admitted to being heavily under the influence of a psychedelic, LSD, while writing it). The allusions to the orphanage from his childhood also add to the melancholic feeling the lyrics and instruments create.

Strawberry Fields forever
Strawberry Fields forever
Strawberry Fields forever

These 3 repeated lines occur at the end of the song just as the instrumentals start to derail. While the phrase has been repeated continuously throughout the song, they are particularly powerful in this instance because it could be interpreted a few different ways. In one sense, Lennon could be calling for his childhood to continue, given that Strawberry Field(s) was such an important location of his youth, as reinforced by the multiple allusions to it. However, it could also be interpreted as statement of continuity and immortality; even though we all age and die, it’s possible that certain parts of us never die. In this case, that would be this figure of Lennon’s youth, but the concept of parts of us and our lives being immortal is universally applicable.

So what does this have to do with Emily Dickinson’s poem? Well, when it comes to tone and the overall theme, the works are actually quite similar. Dickinson makes references to relevant childhood locations as the speaker passes on to death and in the last stanza, she also speaks of “eternity”.

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess-in the Ring-
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain- 
We passed the Setting Sun-
I first surmised the Horses' Heads
Were toward Eternity 

Both Dickinson and Lennon refer to locations that one would experience as a child and the experience of letting go of those moments. In Dickinson’s case, at least, the speaker is dying or already moving on to whatever happens after we die, but the similarity remains. Another interesting similarity is Lennon’s repeated use of “forever” and Dickinson’s use of “Eternity”. Both suggest that while some things die and change, others don’t and will always remain.

Music Poetry- “A Solemn Thing” and Beyonce

After analyzing the song “All the Single Ladies” by Beyonce, an intriguing contrast is revealed between this song and our poem “A solemn thing it was” by Emily Dickinson. While “All the Single Ladies” celebrates female independence and agency, “A Solemn Thing” mourns the responsibility of women in this time period to get married. Emily Dickinson’s writing on this subject is what allowed women like Beyonce to write songs about women’s empowerment. 

Beyonce’s anthem empowers women to embrace their freedom and not feel obliged to be in a relationship. The lyrics, “Don’t be mad once you see that he want it/ If you liked it, then you should have put a ring on it,” emphasize that women have the right to choose their partners and not be bound by societal norms. They have the power to recognize their worth and not settle for a man who doesn’t treat them right.  This is exactly what Emily Dickinson’s fighting for. 

The chorus of the song is 

“All the single ladies, all the single ladies

All the single ladies, all the single ladies

All the single ladies, all the single ladies

All the single ladies”

The repetition of “all the single ladies” emphasizes that Beyonce thinks that being single is a positive thing. This connects to Emily Dickinson’s poem because Dickinson shows that she doesn’t want to be married and would rather be single and free. 

“I can care less what you think

I need no permission, did I mention”

After researching Emily Dickinson, our group came to the conclusion that she was a woman before her time period. She pushed against social norms and expectations from her family to get married and create a family of her own. She ultimately wanted to have her own career writing poetry. Dickinson can relate to these lines because she didn’t care what people thought of her. She was happy creating her own way in the world; living freely and away from societal pressure. 

Moana and Emily Dickinson

When reading “I taste a liquor never brewed”, one of the main themes that we noticed was the speaker’s fascination for nature and apparent lack of interest in more mundane, anthropocentric parts of life. The speaker likens being out in nature to being incredibly, and happily drunk, as if the emotional revelation or fulfillment to be found in nature is greater than any human construction. 

A song that is a bit different in context, but that I thought actually pulled on a lot of the same strings is “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana, performed by Auliʻi Cravalho and written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. (

This song represents a key transition point in the movie, where Moana officially declares her desire to explore the sea beyond her island home. Throughout the beginning of the movie, Moana is constantly reminded that the sea is dangerous, and that there is no need to venture beyond her home island because the island provides everything the people need. Moana feels like an outsider because her father insists that she stay safe on their island and not risk traveling on the sea. However, Moana is inexplicably drawn to the water, and the island seems to be less productive than normal, prompting Moana to want to leave to find a solution.

During this song, Moana decides to completely embrace the romantic inside of herself. Moana’s desires here are indicative of many of the desires that seem to be embraced by the narrator of “I taste a liquor never brewed”. Both focus on the grandeur and splendor of nature; Moana remarking on the “light as it shines on the sea” and the “water”, in general. Similarly, the narrator remarks on “molten blue” and generally uses a metaphor of alcohol to describe the feelings they have in nature. The motifs of alcohol and water are used to show the fascination that the narrator and Moana have with nature, respectfully. The narrator frames their assessment of nature within the lens of being so happily drunk that the grandeur of nature is ever apparent, and the “saints” and angels, representing status-quo society, fade into the background. Similarly, Moana uses the water to frame her infatuation with nature. She keeps coming back to the “edge of the water”, and she literally juxtaposes her experience on the island with her feelings by the sea, clearly reasoning that a life of adventure and nature would be more profound than just living on the island her entire life. In the actual movie, this is even more apparent as she spends a lot of the song walking around her island home, only to end the scene by leaving. 

Ultimately, Moana and the narrator share a lot here in terms of their beliefs in nature and their framing of nature as more important or grander than a more traditional societal existence. Both characters realize that an existence out in nature is more stimulating, and they address that through poetry/song. By analyzing both of these characters within these literary works, we can learn more about what each one fears and each one seeks.

Wild Nights and Wildest Dreams: Emily Dickinson vs Taylor Swift

Wild Nights by Emily Dickinson is one of her most famous poems, depicting a night of passion, told by a person in love directly to their lover. In this poem, the speaker wants to stay with their lover forever. They can be wild because they know they have someone to come back to. Dickinson uses an extended metaphor of a boat to convey this theme. In this metaphor, the speaker is the sailor and their lover is the harbor. Her quick repetition and use of exclamation points show the intensity that she wants the reader to feel and dramatize the events of the night. She describes “Futile – the Winds” compared to “a Heart in port,” indicating that nothing can stop them from being together. Ultimately, Dickinson ends the poem with the lines “Might I but moor – Tonight – / In Thee!” Here, the speaker is illustrating their desire to be with their lover and “dock” or stay in the harbor forever. Wild Nights is a groundbreaking poem in the traditionally strict and patriarchal 1800s.

Fast forward a century and a half later, Wildest Dreams by Taylor Swift has risen to the top of the charts. This song depicts a relationship with a seemingly perfect man who she has quickly fallen for, but knows is going to end soon. Throughout the song, Swift expresses her wish for her lover to remember her through poetic, multidimensional language. She repeats this sentiment often in the chorus:

“Say you’ll remember me

Standing in a nice dress 

Staring at the sunset, babe 

Red lips and rosy cheeks

Say you’ll see me again

Even if it’s just in your wildest dreams, ah-ah, ha

Wildest dreams, ah-ah, ha”

She is forced to contemplate the inevitable end of her relationship, but doesn’t fully accept it. She continues to wish that her lover will always think of her, even if never again in real life. Her request to her lover to never forget her is asked in an idealized way. She wants their relationship to be romanticized, saying that he should remember her dressed nice, beautiful, and in the setting of a sunset. Swift goes on to say in the next stanza:

“You’ll see me in hindsight

Tangled up with you all night

Burning it down

Someday when you leave me

I bet these memories

Follow you around”

Again, Swift hopes that her lover will remember her. Overall, the song is bittersweet, talking both about the joy of their relationship, and the difficulty in letting go. She is conflicted in that she knows that they both have to move on, but still wants to remain connected. The title demonstrates that this dream is not realistic, no matter how much Swift wishes it was. 

Both of these poems, one in the traditional sense and the other not, showcase the wild nature of love felt by two similarly independent women. They describe the passion that they feel for their lovers, however the speaker in Dickinson’s poem hopes to be reunited with their lover, while Swift knows that is not possible, viewing the relationship more in the past. Despite these differences, one thing is clear: Wild Nights and Wildest Dreams are both poetry.

I Felt a Funeral, in my Brain

Andrew Bird’s “I Felt a Funeral, in my Brain”

Emily Dickinson’s poem, “I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain” was so inspiring that it inspired Andrew Bird, to make a song, out of her poem. He describes the poem as,

I came across this Emily Dickinson poem and found it to be the most vivid description of an inner world I’ve ever encountered. It became an inspiration for the songs on Inside Problems.

Below is Emily Dickinson’s poem

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,

And Mourners to and fro

Kept treading – treading – till it seemed

That Sense was breaking through –

And when they all were seated,

A Service, like a Drum –

Kept beating – beating – till I thought

My mind was going numb –

And then I heard them lift a Box

And creak across my Soul

With those same Boots of Lead, again,

Then Space – began to toll,

As all the Heavens were a Bell,

And Being, but an Ear,

And I, and Silence, some strange Race,

Wrecked, solitary, here –

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,

And I dropped down, and down –

And hit a World, at every plunge,

And Finished knowing – then –

Andrew Bird included all the words from Dickinson’s poem and added music and sound. He made it sound so beautiful. You can’t even question whether poetry is a song, playing in an artist’s head. Dickinson’s poem still has the same beautiful techniques like alliteration, metaphors, and repetition. Dickinson uses alliteration in her poem like “felt a funeral,” “seated, A service, ” silence some strange,” and “dropped down,” (1;6;15;17). Those words have the same letter or sound at the beginning of the adjacent words. Which just adds to the meaning of the poem, and what the speaker is going through. An example of repetition is “treading, treading,” “beating, beating,” and “down, and down,” (3; 7; 17). She has repeated something that has already been said. The rhythmic quality of both alliteration and repetition techniques is in the poem. Therefore, the poetic devices perfectly reflect the theme. Musicality worked because of the way Andrew Bird saw it as a song. It is shown through careful word selections. Finally, Dickinson uses the metaphor of a funeral to represent the way the speaker sense that she is being separated away from herself. A funeral is an appropriate occasion for this poem because it connects with a funeral relating to death.

Bird’s way with music is very fantastic mixed with Dickinson’s poem you see and get a funeral in the brain

All By Myself and Noiseless, Patient Spider

We are writing about Celine Dion’s well-known song, All By Myself, which is a part of the album, Falling into You. All By Myself is about the desire for connection and intimacy after feeling lonely for too long. Celine Dion seems to have no hope for her future even through her desperation for a partner or connection in general.

In the song All By Myself, Celine Dion uses repetition in order to show her desperation for intimacy and connection with those around her. The words, all by myself, appear 14 times in the whole 3 minutes and 58 seconds song. The chorus of the song uses the combination of “all by myself” and “anymore” to show her great desire to get rid of that feeling of loneliness.

All by myself
Don’t wanna be
All by myself

This song uses ethos in order to appeal to the listener’s emotions. Dion writes and sings in a way that makes listeners feel empathetic towards her. Nearly every other line is the same throughout the entirity of the song. Dion repeats the line, “All by Myself” 14 times total. Her use of repitition is emphasising the significance of her feelings toward lonliness.

Overall, Celine Dion writes her song, All By Myself, in order to emphasize the significance of her feelings of lonliness and her longing for intimacy and connection.

“What A Wonderful World”

“What A Wonderful World” (1967) sung by Louis Armstrong and written by songwriters Bob Thiele and George David Weiss depicts the inherent beauty of nature; while simultaneously reminding listeners to not take things for granted as there is so much to be learned through the beauty of the natural world.

Natural word? By natural world the connotation in the literal sense is the unfiltered world, the untouched land that has yet to be ruined by pollution and industrialization. Appreciating the land that quite literally gives us life; aiding us by providing food sources, oxygen, land to destroy, and views to escape to. Both Armstrong and Walt Whitman in the poem “Song of Myself” captures this respectively. More specifically “What A Wonderful World” serves as a gentle attack on readers, calling them out on their ability to take nature for granted and miss out on the beauty that is right in front of them. The intended audience being those with the privilege of experiencing life in a more lavish and industrialized way (in other words everyone who lives in an urban or city area).

One of the most apparent ways Armstrong coveys his message is through the changing tense of his thoughts:

“”I see friends shakin’ hands, sayin’ “How do you do?”

They’re really saying “I love you

This phrase, while staying in the present tense articulates the simplicity and the intimacy of interacting with those around you. People are so wrapped up in their lives, constantly on the go they oftentimes forget the importance of simply being and interacting which relates to disregarding the beauty of the world surrounding you.

”I hear babies cryin’, I watch them grow

They’ll learn much more, than I’ll ever know”.

This phrase which follows the lines from above shifts from present to future. Signifying the want and hope for future generations to admire the inherent beauty around the and learn from the mistakes of older generations.

To further strengthen the message of the piece, the song is sung entirely in the first person. By singing in the first person the intensity of the speaker’s feelings is accurately conveyed to the audience. Using personal pronouns (I, me, we, etc.) and words/phrases that are entirely subjective to the speaker like “I think” and “I see” make the message becomes more personal and it becomes clear that the speaker genuinely believes that nature is inherently beautiful and want to urge others to see the world through their eyes. In addition to the point of view, and the changing tense, the piece uses a free verse structure meaning it’s nonmetrical, with nonrhyming lines that follow the natural rhythms of speech. The use of free verse allows readers to easily understand the piece but also is significant as the simplicity of the words is parallel to the simplicity of nature that is being expressed.

“mad woman” and Janina

Taylor Swift and Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. An unlikely combo? Possibly. However, the song “mad woman” from Swift’s album folklore is a song that parallels Janina’s character and struggles closely.

The song begins with Swift singing, “What did you think I’d say to that?/Does a scorpion sting when fighting back?/They strike to kill and you know I will”

It’s society’s expectation that women should internalize their anger, and their frustration over injustices. However, the narrator in Swift’s song is willing to fight back, and is attempting to overturn the power structure. Similarly, Janina also fights back against the power structure imposed against her as an older woman, and against the injustices against animals. She literally “strikes to kill,” murdering those who, according to her, wrongly killed animals. Additionally, when seeing a group of hunters shooting at pheasants, Janina takes a stand, boldly declaring that they’ve “‘no right to be shooting at living creatures’” (63). The hunters state that they’re doing nothing wrong, to which Janina begins to physically attack them. Janina defies societal expectations. If she sees something that is against her morals, she will fight against it, no matter the consequences. She wants change, and even if it means that she becomes a murderer.

Swift then goes on to sing, “Every time you call me crazy/I get more crazy/What about that?/And when you say I seem angry/I get more angry”

Similarly to this song, anger is a prominent motif within Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. After witnessing an unfair, unjust, cruel world, Janina is filled with “divine anger.” This anger, Janina believes, “puts things in order and shows you the world in a nutshell; Anger restores the gift of Clarity of Vision, which it’s hard to attain in any other state” (31). So, anger is not a bad thing. It’s what fuels Janina’s responses, and allows her to attempt to obtain justice. Janina is also called “crazy” numerous times within the novel, including by the hunters discussed above. Much like Swift’s narrator, being called “crazy” makes Janina appear even more crazy to the world (e.g. repeatedly writing to the police department demanding that they investigate her belief that the animals were the killers, and attacking the hunters after they refused to stop shooting pheasants). 

In a later verse, Swift laments, “And women like hunting witches, too/Doing your dirtiest work for you”

When taken in the context of Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead the “you” in these lines could mean the deer. The deer are who Janina says “chose” her to “act in their Name,” and told her to become a murderer (255). So, Janina was doing the dirty work of the deer. She is also in a way hunting “witches,” or the men who have wrongly killed animals.

In the final lines of the song, Swift sings, “But no one likes a mad woman/What a shame she went mad/You made her like that”

I believe that these lines are what sums up the theme of “mad woman”–how women are often declared crazy, irrational, or rude if they are mad, or become mad. However, what makes women angry is often the result of men, who are the same people calling women crazy if they react in this way. There is also a double meaning to the word “mad” within this song–mad as in crazy, and mad as in angry. The two meanings of mad also apply to Janina. Her anger causes her to seem crazy. Additionally, Janina reacts in the way that she does because of the actions of the men that she kills. If they hadn’t gone around killing animals for sport, Janina wouldn’t have killed them. Of course, Janina’s actions, in my opinion, are a gross overreaction, but we also have different morals, and ideas about animals and humans.

Satirical Song Analysis- “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel

One of the most iconic examples of cultural work that uses satire is the song “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel. The song was released in 1989 and features a rapid-fire list of historical events, pop culture icons, and political figures from 1949 to 1989. The song has become a classic and is still popular today, thanks in part to its catchy tune and memorable lyrics. “We Didn’t Start the Fire” is an excellent example of the use of hyperbole and irony in satire. The song’s hyperbole is evident in the way it compresses more than 40 years of history into a single song. The use of irony is also clear, as the song’s chorus repeatedly asserts that “we didn’t start the fire” while the verses list a litany of events that seem to suggest otherwise. The song also uses understatement in places, such as when it mentions the death of Elvis Presley with the simple line “Elvis Presley, we lost him young.” In addition to these techniques, the song also employs parody by using a musical style that was popular in the 1950s and 1960s. The song’s melody and rhythm are reminiscent of early rock and roll songs, which adds to the song’s nostalgic and satirical feel. While “We Didn’t Start the Fire” is undoubtedly a humorous and entertaining song, it also serves as a biting critique of American society and culture. The song highlights the many challenges and crises that have occurred over the past 40 years, including political scandals, wars, economic downturns, and cultural shifts. By listing these events in a single song, the song suggests that they are all interconnected and part of a broader trend in American society. At the same time, the song’s repeated refrain that “we didn’t start the fire” suggests that society is not entirely to blame for these problems. Rather, the song suggests that society is a product of its history and that the events listed in the song have shaped the society we live in today. By pointing out these connections and underlying causes, the song encourages listeners to think critically about the society they live in and to work towards making positive changes.

“my tears ricochet” and King Lear

King Lear and Taylor Swift. At first glance, these two may not appear to have much in common. However, let me introduce you to “my tears ricochet”–a song that I believe relates closely to King Lear

In the first verse of the song, Swift sings, “Even on my worst day, did I deserve, babe/All the hell you gave me?/’Cause I loved you, I swear I loved you/’Til my dying day”

I feel that these lines relate to two characters: Cordelia, and Lear. If taken from the perspective of Lear, these lines describe how Lear was betrayed by his two daughters, Goneril and Regan. Though he did lash out at people and act impulsively, he didn’t deserve to be treated as they treated him (e.g. throwing him out into a storm when he was in a terrible mental state). If taken from the perspective of Cordelia, these lines seem to describe how Lear treated her. After telling Lear the honest truth, that she loved him as a daughter should, she was immediately banished by him. And yet, she never stopped loving Lear. Shortly before her “dying day,” after reuniting with Lear, he tells her that he would understand if she did not love him, as he gave her cause to hate him. Yet, Cordelia responds, “No cause, no cause” (IV, vii, 86). Cordelia treats Lear with grace, and with love. She’s forgiving and understanding, a “perfect” daughter.

Later in the song, Swift sings, “You wear the same jewels that I gave you/As you bury me”

These lines mirror how Goneril and Regan treat Lear. Lear gave them “jewels,” aka land, after they exaggerated their love for him. Then, even after receiving a ridiculous amount of wealth from their own father, these two decide to belittle Lear, deny him his servants, plot his demise, and throw him out into a raging storm, thereby “burying” him.

Then, in the bridge, Swift laments, “And I can go anywhere I want/Anywhere I want, just not home”

These lines describe Lear and Edgar. For Lear, after being betrayed by his daughters, he no longer had a home, or anyone to turn to. He was wandering aimlessly for a good portion of the play, as his mental state deteriorated. He couldn’t go back to the place or people he once called home, because he had given up his wealth and had been tossed aside by the people he had once given a home to–his daughters. On the other hand, Edgar was betrayed by his brother, Edmund, and was required to disguise himself as a madman in order to prevent himself from being killed. If he had stayed at his home, Edmund’s plot to kill Edgar and take his inheritance would have succeeded. Edgar also wanders around throughout the play, and even ends up running into his father, Gloucester, as he attempts to commit suicide.

And then we arrive at Swift’s line, “You had to kill me, but it killed you just the same”

At the end of the play, almost all the characters end up dead. Though a lot of deaths relate to this line, I feel that Goneril and Regan’s joint deaths most closely mirror it. After fighting over perhaps the worst man that two sisters could fight over, Edmund, Goneril decides to poison Regan. However, after Regan dies, Goneril confesses to the murder, and kills herself. Though there is little explanation to why Goneril committed suicide, I believe one of the reasons to be that she didn’t want to bear the punishment of killing her sister.

And for the final blow, Shakespeare wrote King Lear during a plague. Taylor Swift wrote “folklore,” the album that “my tears ricochet” comes from, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Taylor Swift is Shakespeare reincarnated.

A Love Story Across Time…and Space?

“Berenstein” Lyrics

My song, “Berenstein” by THE BAND CAMINO, was released as a single in 2017. In trying to keep my selection relatively random, I just chose this song because it was one of the first songs that happened to pop up on my phone. I’ve always enjoyed listening to it for its sci-fi, synth sound and mysterious lyrics which I’ve never really dived into that much. I would encourage you to listen to the whole song to get the whole “feel” of it, but here I’ll give some of my thoughts on it:

Essentially, the speaker, audience, and occasion are pretty standard in a sense; a lover, the person he loved, and thinking back on what could’ve been; a “lost” relationship. The meaning, if only “x” things were different, we could have been together, but it never worked out. A classic theme across many songs. However, the song quickly takes on a more compelling meaning starting with its refrain, 

“At another place in time

You were infinitely mine

Relatively alright

When Berenstein was fine”

The inclusion of “Berenstein” is an allusion to the Mandela Effect, a phenomenon where a significant number of people insist that they remember something happening when it never did. Famous examples include Nelson Mandela dying in prison in the 80s when he really died in 2013, or for people who grew up reading the “Berenstain Bears” children’s books, an insistence that they were pronounced “Berenstein Bears”. A popular explanation for this phenomenon is the existence of parallel universes where these small details really exist the way we remember them. In this way, the song’s allusion to Berenstein actually cuts deep, the speaker is possibly alluding to a different universe or “another place in time” where “You [the speaker’s lover] were infinitely mine” and “Berenstein was fine”. The song then is a love letter across realities with a wish to travel between time and space to that universe when Berenstein, rather than Berenstain, was fine. The subtle inclusion of just one word changes the song from a catchy pop tune to a multidimensional love letter that contemplates reality. 

To further emphasize the existence or significance of this idea of an alternate reality, the song employs personification to describe said reality,

“You were always certain that it did exist

Imagination so intrinsic all at stake

All the things we said when we were younger

Did it bend or did I break?”

“It” being the alternate reality is described as something that may have “bent”, not a literal term we would associate a reality of having, but one that gives us more context into the song. Perhaps a relationship never worked out for the speaker because of some event in their reality that “bent” the potential for said relationship the wrong way. Then again, just as in one universe things may bend the wrong way, in another they may have bent the right way and the speaker would have experienced the relationship he dreams of. The personification of reality “bending” gives more power to the idea of multiple universes and/or the idea that such realities are malleable, and in turn, the things or relationships across those realities could also be malleable. Once again, the inclusion of certain elements in this song leaves the listener thinking about more than just a romance between two people but questioning the properties of love and reality. The personification of a universe being “alright” or a reality “bending” gives the idea that love is a malleable thing with many different variations across realities.

Finally, the song employs a constant motif of time and age to tie together its elements of love and parallel existences. In addition to its constant refrain,  

“At another place in time

Only parallel to mine

The universe was alright

When Berenstein was fine”

The song also references time stating, 

“Wait for me, wait for me there

I’ll die if you die, wait for me I swear

Wait for me I’m still somewhere

You’re getting older without me, I’m scared”


“All the things we said when we were younger”

Did it bend or did I break?”

The explanation of time within the speaker’s relationship makes it clear that the speaker has known their lover for a long time, and they probably regret both the timing of their relationship in their reality and yearn for a better timing in a different reality. The theme of time is literally important to understand the speaker’s relationship across their own life and whatever parallel lives they may have, but I also think it is meaningful for sparking a reflection on what time really signifies in a relationship. In our reality, time is linear and moves in one direction, if things didn’t work out in the past, that’s just how it was destined to be, and it’s fixed in the past. This perspective lets the reader challenge that, if one could jump between realities as the speaker wishes to, time would no longer be linear; relationships that never worked out could be re-explored and re-lived “at another place in time”.

Overall “Berenstein” by THE BAND CAMINO uses the allusion to one word, “Berenstein” to open a trove of poetic devices and philosophical wonderings. The song illuminates the multidimensionality of a relationship, capable of being lost between two individuals in our world, but also capable of being lost between realities. Whether it is the time motif, personification of realities, or the initial allusion to the Mandela Effect, Berenstein takes its listeners on an unorthodox journey through time, space, and love.

A Song That Will Never Escape Your Mind

Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue” is an expertly crafted poem that draws you in and refuses to let go. It tells the story of a man’s life, his relationships over the years, and his journey to get back to one person in particular. By the time you’re finished listening to the song, you feel like you’ve lived the speaker’s life right alongside him. The song achieves this effect through its unorthodox usage of perspective and time.

Dylan has a tendency to alter his lyrics in live performances and on different recordings, so there are several different iterations of “Tangled Up in Blue.” The most significant, aside from the album version, is an earlier recording that makes the theme of perspective evident. On the album version, the narrator speaks in the first person in each of the seven stanzas, but in this alternative recording, stanzas one through three and six refer to the same events in the third person, as if the narrator were retelling stories he heard second-hand. This difference in point of view establishes Dylan’s interest in playing with perspective, which is made more evident in the song’s final lines (which are the same in both versions).

But me, I'm still on the road
Headin' for another joint
We always did feel the same
We just saw it from a different point of view
Tangled up in blue

Dylan uses the song’s fairly repetitive structure to sweep the listener up into the flow of time, positioning them in the shoes of the speaker as his memory drifts around from one point in his life to another. Each of the seven stanzas is composed of eight lines that set the scene for whichever stage in his life the speaker is remembering, followed by four lines that resolve that stage, followed by the refrain “Tangled up in blue,” which describes the speaker’s state of being tangled up in his memories.

The stanzas flow together, but they aren’t in chronological order. The first stanza establishes the moment the speaker presently occupies before he starts his walk down memory lane:

Early one morning the sun was shining
I was laying in bed
Wondering if she'd changed at all
If her hair was still red

However, the only lines that are actually in present tense come in the final stanza:

So now I'm going back again
I got to get to her somehow
All the people we used to know
They're an illusion to me now

This frames the stanzas that come between as motivation for the speaker’s current journey. The stories/memories that are told in these stanzas range from moments on one specific night to accounts that condense what could be years of the speaker’s life, but they all make the same argument to the speaker: he must return to the woman he left years ago.

The most poetic stanza of the song is the fifth:

She lit a burner on the stove
And offered me a pipe
"I thought you'd never say hello," she said
"You look like the silent type"
Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me
Written by an Italian poet
From the thirteenth century
And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burning coal
Pouring off of every page
Like it was written in my soul
From me to you
Tangled up in blue

This verse perfectly encapsulates the meaning of the song (the song is so purposefully crafted that you could make the same argument about any section) by turning a seemingly mundane interaction into a moment of enlightenment that holds great significance in the speaker’s memory. In it, Dylan describes a moment where he was struck by the beauty of a poem in the strikingly beautiful lines of his own poem. He signs the verse “from me to you,” as if he is giving the listener the same gift that the woman gave him in the book of poems.