Saturday, February 2, 2013

Friday Lyrical Awareness

Not my rats

By JccKeith

Despite the fact that I own three rats in an extra large deluxe cage and every time I pass them they press up against the bars looking at me – and the song line “Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage” runs through my head – I will not be analyzing that Smashing Pumpkins song.  Frankly I just never liked it.  Having the song line run through my mind every day doesn’t help either.

I thought for a change I would enlighten everyone on some old school music, two old songs to be exact.  The first one I have to say I have been wrong about for years.  I read somewhere, probably the internet; that it originated during the plague that nearly wiped out Europe, the Black Death.  It seemed to fit.  It was either that or I never really gave much thought to any real analysis.

Everyone knows the Ring around the Rosie song.  The American lyrics are as follows:

Ring around the rosie
A pocket full of posies
Ashes, Ashes,
We all fall down. 

British lyrics are only slightly different:

Ring a-ring o’roses
A pocket full of posies
A-tishoo A-tishoo
We all fall down.

Other people sometimes change the last two lines to Hush Hush Hush Hush We’ve all tumbled down.  

Frankly, I didn’t know that the British version was different or that there was an alternate ending until I looked it up.  I was looking for an actual reference to how the song referred to the Black Plague.

What I found was that it doesn’t at all.  The whole plague thing was more of an urban legend created much later.  People who interpret these kinds of things – real interpreters not people who do it for fun like me – say the plague thing is false for a lot of reasons. 

The claim was that the ring around the rosie referred to the red rash symptom of the plague.  The pocket full of posies related to the fact that herbs and posies and things were carried around in pockets to ward off the plague.  The Ashes Ashes part was because plague bodies were cremated.  British versions that say A-tishoo A-tishoo relate to the later symptom of the plague being sneezing.  And of course the last line about falling down is death.  Sounds legit, right?

Well professional interpreters say no.  First the symptoms don’t match up.  In some extreme cases the skin takes on a pink hue.  Mostly there is gangrene in body parts, black spots on the body, bloody vomit, and swollen lymph glands.  These pros also say the explanation of it being about the plague came way too late.  And then there is the fact that they say the modern versions of old songs rarely ever are the exact same as the original versions. 

They offer that the “We all fall down” part probably relates to the dancers bowing to each other.  Apparently such phrases were common in dancing songs of yore.  Who knew? Now you do.

The other oldie but goodie I wanted to share is that great Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  The lyrics to this song come from an English poem written by Jane and published by sisters Ann and Jane Taylor (no relation to James).  There are a lot more lyrics than most people realize:  

 Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are. 
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky. 

When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
 Then you show your little light,
 Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.

 Then the traveler in the dark,
Thanks you for your tiny spark,
He could not see which way to go,
 If you did not twinkle so.

 In the dark blue sky you keep,
 And often through my curtains peep,
 For you never shut your eye,
‘Till the sun is in the sky. 

As your bright and tiny spark,
Lights the traveler in the dark.
 Though I know not what you are,
 Twinkle, twinkle, little star.

 Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
 How I wonder what you are.
 Up above the world so high,
 Like a diamond in the sky.

 Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are. 
How I wonder what you are.  

There isn't really anything all that interesting about Twinkle Twinkle little star.  No urban legends, no cool back-story, nothing, it is truly boring.  I'm always one for making things more interesting so I propose we all work together to create some cool urban legend concerning Twinkle Twinkle.  

I'm sure some of you out there are up for the challenge.  Maybe that bright and tiny spark of which Jane speaks was actually a UFO observing her town.  Maybe it was a dragon flying in the night sky breathing fire occasionally.  Maybe it was the ship lights of time travelers from our time journeying back in time to that of the Taylor sisters.  Maybe it was inter-dimensional travelers.  Whatever.  Anything is more interesting than a nifty little ditty about a star.

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