4. Aphorism, Lament, Counsel

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Sean,

You’ll be surprised at what appears to be brilliant is only the fumbling collection of a passionate packrat. But I’ll forgive your envy if you’ll forgive the silence of mine. Godspeed to your word search, though if what we want is simplicity, then we have it: we agree that this song’s imagery works because it works easily, accessibly, and rightly.

“Stories that affect us tend to be the ones that have some of that eternal truth running through them” is a thought that strikes a simple chord in me. Earlier you noted that despite Scott’s heavy evocation of ancient mythology, he allows for interaction by not prescribing a parable-like truth, and I think I thought I agreed with you. And yet the chorus, coupled with the steady hand of the drum machine and the trot of the piano, does seem prescriptive to me now:

“Keep the river on your right / And the highway at your shoulder / And the front line in your sights / Pioneer / Keep your eye on the road / Remember what you told her / This is all in code / My dear.”

Do we take the imagery of the road, and his advice to “keep” things aligned, as a recommendation to stay some course? If so, what? Or is his the counsel of a man at the end of a journey, begging the listener to not make the mistakes he made?

But here I’m asking questions without answering yours. To whom does he write? The identity of the “second person” is vexing. One could assume, maybe rightly, that it is just the listener. And yet, “my dear” implies a stronger connection than that of an audience and performer. And his confessions seem so intimate. I go back to his words, looking for who he might be addressing, but oddly, though the song mentions two women, neither are there in the end. So writing back to one seems unlikely; the last two verses read like the musings of a man without a partner, despite having found a woman that “was all that ever mattered.” Yet I guess his use of “was” is our clue that this woman doesn’t make to the end, to the point at which he writes now. Is this why his chorus, even as it sounds like the aphorism of an ancient thinker, seems to also be a lament? The realization that through his journey, all others were left behind?

We need more context. I feel I’m probing at the tiny joint of a tiny bone in the middle of an enormous archeological excavation. Let me stand back and remember what we’re even looking at. Here, my favorite verse:

“In a dim lit motel room / Two sad lovers were discoursing / On the dignity of exile / And the merits of divorcing / She said all certainty is gone / But he left up still denying / Cried I won’t believe the flame I lit / Is dead or even dying / She left him drooling in the dust / And with rucksack packed begun her / Bitter journey to the border / Which is where I wooed and won her/ She was Aphrodite, Helen, Phoetus, Eve among the Satyrs / She was Venus in a V-neck sweater / She was all that ever mattered.”

This fascinating—and beautifully tragic—subplot brings this unequaled woman to the narrator, and then, in just moments, she’s disappeared, and the he takes us forward, unrelenting in his obsession for company as he travels back through his heart-wrenching tale.

“I came in quest of secret knowledge / In the winter of my journey / To a crumbling druid college / There I read the books of lore / And contemplated in seclusion / But I took my leave embittered / Still in love with my illusions.”

He is alone, confused, and so departs again, forsaking Ireland for Tokyo.

What do you make of the story when viewed through the lens of his constant aloneness? Is this what makes the chorus so compelling? Is the “eternal truth” we feel in our guts the awareness—and fear—of living life alone? Of a great journey that ferries us to where a wild, holy band plays outrageous jazz into the night, but that, in the end, offers no answers to our questions?

Looking for a key,

Tim

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5. An Inane Dream-Like Progression

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