Friday, February 01, 2008

(Music and) Lyrics by Sting - a Poetry Friday post

First off, I should note that I set out to write a Poetry Friday post related to it being National Wear Red Day here in the U.S. (an initiative designed to raise awareness of heart health issues that causes everyone to wander about looking like a Target employee). And I'll get there, I promise. Just stick with me for a few minutes.

The post title came to mind because I've been watching the movie Music and Lyrics repeatedly since it's in heavy rotation on HBO and I love-love-love the movie, which holds up extremely well to repeat viewings. Some of you (I'm looking at you, Christy, Liz and Colleen!) may recall that I said I was going to purchase Sting's latest book, Lyrics, back in October. And I bought it. And I read it. And I enjoyed it. And I totally forgot to blog about it, which is odd because due to some lucky happenstance involving a coupon plus a percentage off, I got the book for dirt cheap, which would've been worth mentioning on its own. But I digress.

First, the technical stuff. This book is really well-made. The white hardcover is covered with a gold-hued replica of Sting's handwritten lyrics. On the front, "Message in a Bottle" and "King of Pain"; on the back, bits from "Roxanne", complete with doodles. And covering the hardcover is a tan vellum that allows those bits to peek through a bit. The book contains a foreword and the lyrics from the first Police album, Outlandos D'Amour through Sting's solo, Sacred Love. It has two indices - one by first line, one by song title; the song title stuff includes copyright info, which is cool, but should have added the album titles, I'm thinking. Also in the book? Photographs, as one might expect. And here and there, some clarification from Sting.

You can read the complete foreword over at the Barnes & Nbble site (and probably elsewhere as well). What Sting notes first is that separating lyrics from their music can be a dicey thing, as they are mutually dependent beings.

The two, lyrics and music, have always been mutually dependent, in much the same way as a mannequin and a set of clothes are dependent on each other; separate them, and what remains is a naked dummy and a pile of cloth. . . . I have set out my compositions in the sequence they were wrritten and provided a little background when I thought it might be illuminating. My wares have neither been sorted nor dressed in clothes that do not belong to them; indeed, they have been shorn of the very garments that gave them their shape in the first place. No doubt some of them will perish in the cold cruelty of this new environment, and yet others may prove more resilient and become perhaps more beautiful in their naked state.

As one might expect, a song like "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da" does not hold up well. Others, such as "You Still Touch Me" and "The Wild Wild Sea" seem richer to me having read them without the music playing. And some of my favorites are, as I expected them to be, fantastic when read as text. One that I played in near-continuous loop when The Soul Cages came out was "Why Should I Cry for You?", which is a spectacular song, and the lyrics, read alone, are heart-breaking. I recommend this book highly for Sting fans.

But they lyrics I'm putting up as today's poem are from the following album, Ten Summoner's Tales, which came out in 1992.

Shape of My Heart
by Sting

He deals the cards as a meditation
And those he plays never suspect
He doesn't play for the money he wins
He don't play for respect

He deals the cards to find the answer
The sacred geometry of chance
The hidden law of a probable outcome
The numbers lead a dance

I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier
I know that the clubs are weapons of war
I know that diamonds mean money for this art
But that's not the shape of my heart

He may play the jack of diamonds
He may lay the queen of spades
He may conceal a king in his hand
While the memory of it fades

I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier
I know that the clubs are weapons of war
I know that diamonds mean money for this art
But that's not the shape of my heart

And if I told you that I loved you
You'd maybe think there's something wrong
I'm not a man of too many faces
The mask I wear is one

Well, those who speak know nothin'
And find out to their cost
Like those who curse their luck in too many places
And those who fear are lost

I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier
I know that the clubs are weapons of war
I know that diamonds mean money for this art
But that's not the shape of my heart
That's not the shape, the shape of my heart
That's not the shape, the shape of my heart

Structurally: the verses are rhymed ABCB, the chorus is in couplets (with slant rhyme between soldier and war). Tarot afficianados will recognize the source of the chorus's lines. In Tarot, spades are swords (which correspond to "air" and represent intellect), clubs are wands (which correspond to "fire" and represent work/career), diamonds are coins/pentacles (which correspond to "earth" and represent material concerns like wealth and goods), and hears are cups (which correspond to "water" and represent emotion).

The cards of a regular deck are related to the minor archana in Tarot. They can be used to play card games, of course, but they can also be used for personal meditation, with meanings attributed to various cards. "Jack of diamonds" signifies patience; "queen of spades" signifies vulnerability. The kings of diamonds, clubs and spades have positive meanings: contentment, foresight and victory, respectively; the king of hearts is known as the "suicide king", and represents the throwing away of oneself for selfish or worthless causes. Whether Sting considered these meanings in selecting the specific cards referenced is doubtful, since the book contains a note stating that he went for a walk and came back with the whole thing written in his head; still, fun to ponder/add on there, I think.

To watch the video, which contains the haunting tune that accompanies this poem:


sheila said...

Sigh, that was great. I have had a crush on Sting for what seems like forever, much to my husband's chagrin (he likes the music but thinks Sting's a bit of a ponce). Whenever I hear a Sting song I think of Emma Thompson in Love, Actually: "Joni Mitchell taught [me] how to love, and true love lasts a lifetime."

iseng iseng said...

sting ohhh sting.. i love it.. ;0)