Joanna Newsom – Anecdotes Lyrics
Anecdotes Lyrics by Joanna Newsom
This is a melodic exegesis, functioning through the conceit of war, on time, birds, and, in the final stanza, family life, with a reference to John Donne.
Joanna Newsom’s fourth album begins with the hum of synths, a drone. The suspension of a single note mirrors a suspension of time—one “cannot say what [drones] may do,” when they will end etc., thus, prolepsising the coming cogitations on time and life that pervade the album.
Also, beginning with “Anecdotes,” the concept of the musical leitmotif is introduced. In particular the use of woodwinds seems to merge the naturalistic level (of the birds, classically represented with flutes) and repeated in the coda of “Sapokanikan”, reflecting the “idling bird calls.” The military musical elements of “Sapokanikan” are anticipated here too, juxtaposed with the tender and melancholy melody.
Sending the first scouts over
Back from the place beyond the dawn:
Horse, bear your broken soldier
Eyes frozen wide at what went on
And Time, in our camp, is moving
As you’d anticipate it to
But what is this sample proving?
Anecdotes cannot say what Time may do
I kid with Rufous Nightjar
When our men are all asleep:
“It ain’t about how rare you are
But how hard you are to see
Take, you and me—”
“When are you from?” said he
In our blind of winter leaves
As we sighted out their fliers
In the grayscale of the night
Fumbled on the bare ground
To bury round landmines
While the dew lay down and dried
We signal Private Poorwill, when morning starts to loom:
“Pull up from your dive!”
Till we hear the telltale Boom
Hotdogging loon, caught there
Like a shard of mirror in the moon!
Now they’ve stopped giving orders
But I follow anyway
Laying in our state of torpor
Waiting out the day
While the dew burns away
Rushing, tearing, speeding home:
Bound to a wheel that is not my own
Where round every bend I long to see
Then all along the road, the lights stream by
I want to go where the dew won’t dry
I want to go where the light won’t bend—
Far as the eye may reach—nor end
But, inasmuch as that light is loaned
And, insofar as we’ve borrowed bones
Must every debt now be repaid
In star-spotted, sickle-winged night raids
While we sing to the garden, and we sing to the stars
And we sing in the meantime
Wherever you are?
In the folds and the branches
Somewhere, out there
I was only just born into open air
Now hush, little babe
You don’t want to be
Down in the trenches
Remembering with me
Where you will not mark my leaving
And you will not hear my parting song
Nor is there cause for grieving
Nor is there cause for carrying on
—and daughter, when you are able
Come down and join! The kettle’s on
And your family’s round the table
Will you come down, before the sun is gone?
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