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The song "Summer Wine", written by Lee Hazlewood, describes a girl seducing a man with her 'summer wine'. At some point the man tells us "She reassured me with an unfamiliar line". What can it possibly mean?

Below are the relevant lines and the video for context:

My eyes grew heavy and my lips they could not speak
I tried to get up but I couldn't find my feet
She reassured me with an unfamiliar line
And then she gave to me more summer wine
Ohh-oh-oh summer wine

Summer Wine - YouTube

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To all appearances, the man was drugged with something the woman gave him to drink. The drink is not necessarily the only meaning of "summer wine", just like angel's kiss is ambiguous: a kiss by a woman who looks "angelic", a classic cocktail named "angel's kiss", or a less obvious meaning. However, "let's pass some time" suggests that there was an enticement of amorous congress and not just enjoying a drink together.

"I couldn't find my feet" is nicely ambiguous: (1) the man can't even struggle to his feet or (2) he can't act independently and confidently. If he suspects that something is wrong with his drink, he needs to be reassured. This is where the "unfamiliar line" comes in.

  1. The unfamiliar words may suggest that the woman isn't using some meaningless cliché, which might have increased his suspicion. Using an original line instead can suggest genuine concern, whereas a cliché may have suggested indifference or that the whole thing is a routine.
  2. The man is too confused to make any sense of what the woman says—even to such an extent that anything she said would sound unfamiliar—and he is simply reassured by her tone of voice. In that case, the exact words she spoke are irredeemably lost.

In any case, he wakes up feeling his "head felt twice its size", unable to remember the details of what happened. Because of this, we will probably never find out what that "unfamiliar line" exactly was.

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  • +1 My initial reaction to the question was "Come on, it's only a song!" but from your answer I learned that even these details can be deeply analysed and plausibly explained. – Jos May 23 at 12:36
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The “unfamiliar line” is the one that appears (in slight variations) at the end of each verse of the song:

And I will give to you my summer wine

This is an unfamiliar (meaning “original”) pick-up or come-on line. “Wine” is a metaphor for something delightful and intoxicating (here, sex), and “summer” is metaphorically hot, languid, ripe.

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The "unfamiliar line" spoken by the girl was "I'm not after your money" (or words to that effect).

The (unspoken) fear of most men in a relationship is "she is a gold digger." These fears have been stoked for at least two centuries by (feminine) social commentary like the following:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that any single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."* [emphasis added].

The "Summer Wine" woman was memorable for convincing the hero that she wasn't like that.

But the fifth verse (two verses after the one you cited) tells a different story:

"When I woke up, the sun was shining in my eyes
My silver spurs were gone, my head felt twice its size
She took my silver spurs, a dollar and a dime
And left me craving for...more summer wine
Oh..oh..summer wine."

Of course she was, and when he took "inventory," a dollar and a dime" were missing, as were his silver spurs. (To give you some idea of value, "in the old days," the value of an ounce of silver was a dollar (now about $15)).

*I'm not sure that the first claim of "Pride and Prejudice" is actually true. I believe, however, that it is "universally acknowledged," thanks in large part to Jane Austen.

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    I think your second line requires some support, both in form of some statistics and a more solid analysis of the lyrics. – Gallifreyan May 21 at 1:16
  • I have addressed the issues that @Gallifreyan raised. – Tom Au May 21 at 5:23
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    Thank you for taking the time to address my concerns... but isn't that line by Jane Austen meant to be ironic? As in, she's taking a "truth" that is "universally acknowledged" (it even might have been, at her time) and is making the readers question it, thus implying her disbelief and doubts in this "truth". Your analysis of the lyrics notwithstanding, I don't think this argument of yours holds water at the moment, and I'm not convinced it's the one relevant to the lyrics. – Gallifreyan May 21 at 5:51
  • @Gallifreyan: You may be right about Jane Austen's meaning. But "literature" is not my strong subject, so I go about interpreting these, and other passages based on what is on their face. More to the point, that passage was introduced to, was read by, and influenced millions of men around the world who probably came to a similar conclusion as I did. That, by itself, and reinforced by other cues, might lead men to (wrongly) believe that "women are goldiggers." As women (seem to) believe that "men are just after our bodies." – Tom Au May 23 at 14:20

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