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45 votes

Why must "she" perform impossible tasks in order to be "a true love of mine" in "Scarborough Fair"?

Scarborough Fair is a folk song which dates back to at least the 17th century. Folk songs were, as the name suggests, passed on by oral tradition and relatively little was written about them until ...
Matt Thrower's user avatar
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19 votes
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What is the "Neon god" in "The Sound of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel?

The "neon god" is obviously the sign pictured earlier in the song. But why is it a god? The sign is a god because people made it a god ("the neon god they made"). In praying and bowing to the sign, ...
CHEESE's user avatar
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18 votes

Why must "she" perform impossible tasks in order to be "a true love of mine" in "Scarborough Fair"?

Matt's answer is exceptional. And I fully agree that it is now impossible to know for certain. In fact, with so many versions, it is quite possible it has held multiple meanings over the years ...
TimothyAWiseman's user avatar
17 votes
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Why don't these lines rhyme in Les Miserables?

That wouldn't follow the rhyme scheme of the other verses, which follow the scheme ABCC. The next verse is: There is a lady all in white, Holds me and sings a lullaby, She's nice to see and she'...
Joshua Engel's user avatar
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15 votes
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Why is the Star of the County Down referred to as Colleen?

Colleen is the Anglicised version of the Irish Gaelic cailín, meaning young woman or maid. Derivation: caile (“maid”) +‎ -ín (diminutive suffix) Although girls are sometimes named Colleen, in the ...
Old Brixtonian's user avatar
14 votes
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What words sung by Gloria Gaynor correspond to the line written in the lyrics of I Will Survive as "It took all the strength I had not to fall apart"?

Gloria Gaynor recorded two versions of ‘I Will Survive’. The original 1978 version has the lyric “It took all the strength I had not to fall apart” that is quoted on many lyrics sites. But in the ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
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13 votes

Explanation of the line 'But you don't really care for music, do you' in "Hallelujah"

The song has many verses, some of which varied in different performances. Even sticking to the "canonical" verses used in the Jeff Buckley version, however, there's demonstrably no one consistent "you"...
Chris Sunami's user avatar
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13 votes
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Origin and significance of E-I-E-I-O in the Old MacDonald song

As with any folk song, the origins of the lyrics can be a bit murky, but given transcriptions collected by folklorists in the early part of the twentieth century of this or related songs, we see that ...
D. A. Hosek's user avatar
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10 votes

What is the significance of the words of the prophets being written on the subway wall?

Some insight can potentially be gained by comparing and contrasting Simon's later song "A Poem on the Underground Wall," in which a graffiti artist's scrawling of a obscenity on the wall of a subway ...
Chris Sunami's user avatar
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10 votes

How does the line 'your faith was strong but you needed proof' match the rest of the verse in "Hallelujah"?

The second verse is primarily an allusion to the story of David and Bathsheba (with the odd clause about Samson and Delilah thrown in). The "you" addressed by the speaker is David himself. "Your faith ...
DLosc's user avatar
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10 votes

Is "Here we come a-wassailing" supposed to be sung at Christmas?

The plants that grow green in European wintertime have become entwined in the myth and rituals of the season. Celebration: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 2011 ascribes the '...
Spagirl's user avatar
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10 votes
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What is the Myth of Fingerprints?

The "myth of fingerprints" is that by focusing on trivial aspects of ourselves, we appear to be very different when in fact we have much more in common with one another. It's also a literal myth: ...
Matt Thrower's user avatar
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10 votes
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What is the "color of boom"?

The singer feels like an unfulfilled promise, or an anticlimax. In terms of what this lyric means in the song, I think the interpretation is best understood when you examine the lyrical pairings that ...
Sciborg's user avatar
  • 421
9 votes

Why is the king 'baffled' in "Hallelujah"?

Now, I've heard there was a secret chord That David played, and it pleased the Lord But you don't really care for music, do you? It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth The minor fall, the ...
auden's user avatar
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9 votes

In the song "Ja is Playing Jazz" (Джа играет джаз), who is Ja?

Jah is a god of Rastafari. He is often mentioned is late- / post-soviet era songs. For example "Джа на нашей стороне" by Гражданская Оборона or "Единственный дом (Джа даст нам всё)"...
DrTyrsa's user avatar
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9 votes
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What is the nature of the friendship in Don Henley's "My Thanksgiving"?

The lines about passion and desire do strongly imply a romantic relationship, but only when taken out of context. Here is the full stanza. The last time I saw you We were playing with fire We ...
Chris Sunami's user avatar
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8 votes

What was the original "The Sound of Silence" about?

I don't think the song states or implies an ultimate cause. But the proximate cause is made explicit enough: People talking without speaking, People hearing without listening "What we've got ...
Gareth McCaughan's user avatar
8 votes
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Does Rush's "Tom Sawyer" promote an anti-religious view?

Geddy Lee is explicitly, openly atheist and "Roll the Bones" (the bones referring to dice) is explicitly about rejecting the idea that a god or faith directs anything, so quite probably your answer is ...
Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum's user avatar
8 votes
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Meaning of "sheer hulk" in the poem/song "Tom Bowling" by Charles Dibdin = "just a hulk of a ship" or "a floating crane"?

Although, as remarked in the comments, it may not be possible to definitively settle this question, I think that nonetheless there are certain indications that let us assess the balance of ...
Clara Díaz Sanchez's user avatar
7 votes

Explanation of the line 'But you don't really care for music, do you' in "Hallelujah"

Strictly speaking, this answer duplicates one that @Chris Sunami has already given: the "you" is a woman the singer addresses. But when I came and read his answer, I felt there was still ...
Chaim's user avatar
  • 614
7 votes

Did the recipient receive twelve partridges or just one?

TL;DR: The text does not say. The feature of the text that most strongly suggests that my true love might have sent twelve partridges is the word ‘On’ at the start of each verse. But this word is an ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
  • 58.8k
7 votes

The meaning of the line "and from your lips she drew the Hallelujah" in "Hallelujah"

It's yet another context switch. It doesn't directly continue on from the Samson story. It doesn't seem to connect to any specific Biblical story; there are non-biblical images in the stanza ("she ...
Joshua Engel's user avatar
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7 votes
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Is the song "Mabel Grey" by Brown Bird an allusion to a real ship?

According to an interview (link) with surviving band member Joe Fletcher, "Mabel Grey" is in reference to a real ship of the same name, but was written by the late David Lamb and details about the ...
BESW's user avatar
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7 votes
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Does this phrase deliberately sound like "blackjack"?

There is no proof that the lyrics were supposed to sound like "blackjack". Donald Fagan and Walter Becker of Steely Dan wrote the lyrics to this song. I have not found any first hand source from them ...
steelersquirrel's user avatar
7 votes
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What was the "cyclops' smoky band" to which Ewan MacColl's father belonged?

In the work of the Greek poet Hesiod, the three cyclops, Arges, Brontes, and Steropes (Bright, Thunderer, Lightener)—[...] forged the thunderbolts of Zeus. Later authors made them the workmen of ...
Spagirl's user avatar
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7 votes

Summer Wine: what was the 'unfamiliar line' with which the girl reassured her lover?

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 ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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7 votes
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Name of this lyrical device comparing oneself to something that's described by the same word, but in another sense of the word?

That rhetorical device is called zeugma. Merriam-Webster defines zeugma as follows: the use of a word to modify or govern two or more words usually in such a manner that it applies to each in a ...
verbose's user avatar
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7 votes
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"I saw the thunder and heard the lightning, and felt the burden of his shame"

This is an instance of the figure of speech hypallage, which Collins Dictionary defines as a figure of speech in which the natural relations of two words in a statement are interchanged. I ...
Peter Shor's user avatar
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7 votes

Why must "she" perform impossible tasks in order to be "a true love of mine" in "Scarborough Fair"?

Seemingly impossible tasks appear in mythology quite frequently, but often with a loophole. In the Welsh Mabinogion, Lleu Llaw Gyffes "... cannot be killed during the day or night, nor indoors ...
Simon Crase's user avatar

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