"life I never see..."
I hear a few of you mutter "De gustibus non disputandem est."
Unfortunately, I don't know much Latin, so I've had to look that up in Wikipedia's list of Latin phrases, which informs me that "there is not to be discussion regarding tastes." Well, that's certainly a conversation-stopper.
No matter. I'll talk to myself. On blogs, you can do this without being considered crazy.
As I was saying, I consider "Green-Eyed Lady" a great song. However, I find it rather flat as a poem. Minus the music, it doesn't work, and those of you who've never heard the song have probably wondered why it hit me so powerfully.
Nevertheless, this song does achieve something of literary quality in its last two lines, and it does so by a clever linguistic trick:
Green-eyed lady feels life I never see,How are we supposed to take these final two lines? Does the life that my green-eyed lady feels include her experience of setting suns and lonely, if free-spirited lovers? Or does she possess some mysterious, magical power for setting free those suns and lonely lovers?
Setting suns and lonely lovers free.
That ambiguous word "free" at the very end forces us to wonder at the meaning. Is is an adjective: free(-spirited) lovers? Or is it part of a phrasal verb: to set free?
In his book Surprised by Sin: The Reader in Paradise Lost (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1967, 1997, Second Edition), Stanley Fish argues that Milton's intentionally ambiguous syntax draws the reader into an intricate maze of language that calls attention to itself and to the reader's own, fallen condition. For example, of the fallen angels who awaken in hell, Milton writes:
On this, Fish remarks:
Nor did they not perceave the evil plight
In which they were, or the fierce pains not feel; (PL 1.335)
"The double negative is unexpected and for an instant the sense of the line remains unresolved. Do they or don't they perceive? Actually, they do and they don't and by forcing the hesitation Milton leads the reader to understand how the alternatives he hovers between are equally true .... 'Nor did they not perceive' is particularly nice since a defect in language is only the visible phase of a problem in perception" (Surprised by Sin, 99-100).Without delving any deeper into the marine depths of Fish's analysis of Paradise Lost, we can at least latch onto his linguistic insight into how ambiguous syntax can hook the unwary reader.
In unsubtle terms, every pop song needs a hook, and "Green-Eyed Lady" has one in the ambiguity of that dangling word "free" in its final clause, "Setting suns and lonely lovers free."