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perfect lyrics

Andy7 04 Apr 18 - 07:42 PM
mg 04 Apr 18 - 08:35 PM
GUEST,Jerry 05 Apr 18 - 03:47 AM
Richard Mellish 05 Apr 18 - 04:47 AM
Raedwulf 05 Apr 18 - 03:14 PM
Andy7 05 Apr 18 - 04:29 PM
mg 05 Apr 18 - 06:50 PM
Deckman 05 Apr 18 - 07:10 PM
Jim Carroll 05 Apr 18 - 07:16 PM
GUEST,Anne Lister 07 Apr 18 - 06:31 PM
beardedbruce 07 Apr 18 - 06:46 PM
meself 08 Apr 18 - 12:14 AM
GUEST,Jerry 08 Apr 18 - 05:34 AM
Backwoodsman 08 Apr 18 - 06:19 AM
Jim Carroll 08 Apr 18 - 06:49 AM
GUEST,Kristoffer Ross 08 Apr 18 - 08:02 AM
oldhippie 09 Apr 18 - 06:50 PM
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Subject: perfect lyrics
From: Andy7
Date: 04 Apr 18 - 07:42 PM

Very few lyrics are actually 'perfect'; but this, the first verse of 'Drink to Me Only' would be my nomination, if ever there was such a competition!

"Drink to me only with thine eyes,
    And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss within the cup,
    And I'll not ask for wine.
The thirst that from the soul doth rise
    Doth ask a drink divine;
But might I of Jove's nectar sip,
    I would not change for thine."

The romance, and pathos, in this poem would be very difficult to improve! Added to which, it includes four '-ine' rhymes, that fit perfectly with the song and with its sentiments.

(Although even so, if I was being particularly critical, I might suggest that "I would not change ..." would sound a little better as "I'd never change ...", to place the word emphasis more appropriately)

What would you nominate as your favourite 'perfect lyric'?


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Subject: RE: perfect lyrics
From: mg
Date: 04 Apr 18 - 08:35 PM

McAlpine's Fusiliers.


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Subject: RE: perfect lyrics
From: GUEST,Jerry
Date: 05 Apr 18 - 03:47 AM

Drink to Me Only also has two other subtle rhyming couplets within, albeit one being a consonant rhyme. More importantly, for songs anyway, the whole thing scans simply, with largely alternate long and short syllables in alternately equal length lines, which so many writers now don’t seem to bother with or understand. I don’t know why people say I’m old fashioned.


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Subject: RE: perfect lyrics
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 05 Apr 18 - 04:47 AM

We could waste a lot of time debating what constitutes perfection in song lyrics, but perhaps the OP could at least set out his criteria.

His example, Drink to Me Only, has some significance for me because my grandfather taught it to me when I was a nipper. He told me that an ancestor of ours, Colonel Henry Mellish, was responsible for the tune. Subsequently I have learnt that we may be descended from a brother or cousin of the Colonel rather than from him. I have also learnt that one set of words can have more than one musical setting. It may or may not be true that the tune that I learnt came from the Colonel.

As a child I learnt the words parrot-fashion. I didn't understand them until I revisited them many years later. So they are certainly not "perfect" for a child.


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Subject: RE: perfect lyrics
From: Raedwulf
Date: 05 Apr 18 - 03:14 PM

Perhaps Andy should rename himself to 'Lyric Provocateur' (just stay away from the mathematical theory...)! ;-)

Richard hits it rather closer than Andy, I think. The perfect lyric is the one that speaks to YOU. What it says to anyone else doesn't matter a crap, nor does the technical construction, rhyme, scan, blah (yes, Jerry, you are old-fashioned, but what the hell's wrong with that? ;-) ).

If you want evocative, emotive lyrics, combined with clever word play, look no further than Elizabethan airs; those of John Dowland especially, the chief, perhaps, amongst many. You also get musical complexity, if you want it. It might be "Come, Heavy Sleep", where the vocal line is a completely different melody & rhythm to what you're playing (which is all sorts of fun!). Just be warned, they're melancholy buggers - one of Dowland's most noted oeuvres begins "In Darkness Let Me Dwell..." Says it all really! ;-)


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Subject: RE: perfect lyrics
From: Andy7
Date: 05 Apr 18 - 04:29 PM

I love those old Elizabethan songs! I once (many years ago, while a student) sang tenor with a madrigal choir. They are so enjoyable to sing, beautiful harmonies, and as you say, Raedwulf, musically complex.

Richard, it's fascinating to hear about your family connections with the song 'Drink to Me Only'. It makes it more alive, somehow, reminding us that, despite its age, it was written by real, ordinary people just like us.

It's interesting that you suggest setting out the criteria for a 'perfect' lyric. That's rather hard to do! In the example I gave, it's just that it all fits together so well, and works perfectly. For me, that is; but also for many others, I assume, else it would never have survived for so long.

Incidentally, I don't hold the second verse of the song in such high regard. It loses its way a bit poetically, I think, and also introduces an unnecessary melancholic note. Almost as though the author, having written a beautiful first verse, suddenly thought, hey, I'd better write a second verse if this is going to make it as a song!

But again, that's just my opinion.


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Subject: RE: perfect lyrics
From: mg
Date: 05 Apr 18 - 06:50 PM

orphan train


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Subject: RE: perfect lyrics
From: Deckman
Date: 05 Apr 18 - 07:10 PM

I will nominate the American cowboy song "Billy The Kid." The poetry flows beautifully and tells the story well. I've often said that this ballad "sings itself." bob(deckman)nelson


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Subject: RE: perfect lyrics
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 05 Apr 18 - 07:16 PM

Gil Morris's mother confessing he is her abondoned child
"I ance was full of Gil Morris as the hip is of the stone"

or Sir Patrick Sens description of a haloed moon

"For I saw the new moon yestere'en with the auld moon in her arms

Or Bonnie Peggy

"For I would lie in Jimmy's arms though his grave was growin' green"

They don't write them like they used to
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: perfect lyrics
From: GUEST,Anne Lister
Date: 07 Apr 18 - 06:31 PM

On the old question of syllable count - it doesn't actually work for English as a language. Not all syllables are of equal weight, so it's more important for the stresses to come in the right place for the melody. As for rhyme - assonance will do quite well! But most important of all is for the melody to work with the lyrics and for both to actually mean something to either the singer or the listener, but preferably both.
As for perfect lyrics ...where to start? So many to choose from down the centuries, and they're still being written.


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Subject: RE: perfect lyrics
From: beardedbruce
Date: 07 Apr 18 - 06:46 PM

Her bright smile haunts me still.


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Subject: RE: perfect lyrics
From: meself
Date: 08 Apr 18 - 12:14 AM

Andy7: I agree with you about both verses of Drink to Me Only. The first verse - well nigh perfect. The second? Not so much. The first seems to express genuine feeling; the second, genuine artifice - it's as if the conventions of the time required he come up with a Verse 2 (which may be the case; I don't know). And it all builds up to the 'rosy wreath' smelling 'not of itself, but thee' - which I've never found appealing. In fact, it rather reminds of an off-colour joke from my schooldays, about a woman relieving herself in a rose garden - but let's not go there.

How about Silver Dagger ('Don't sing love songs outside my window') - as sung by Joan Baez (I assume there are other versions)? I can't imagine changing a word of that one. Now that I think about it, it seems to me that there are a number of folk songs that have at least one 'perfect' version, lyrically.


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Subject: RE: perfect lyrics
From: GUEST,Jerry
Date: 08 Apr 18 - 05:34 AM

I agree that there is more to scansion than syllable count, given the varying weight of syllables. When you look at Shakespeare’s writing you find most of his lines have ten syllables each. If I remember rightly, the rhyme is iambic pentameter, with five pairs of syllables per line, and the varied weighting allowed for by using dactyls, trochees and other devices that auto correct probably can’t recognise. Of course poetry doesn’t have to follow such strait jacketting, but it does work well for songs because of the inbuilt rhythm.


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Subject: RE: perfect lyrics
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 08 Apr 18 - 06:19 AM

"For in drink I'll keep good company,
My ears will ring with the tavern's laughter,
And I'll hear not her last sweet sighs,
For who's to know, in the morning after,
That I Long for her dear, dark eyes?"


Archie Fisher, "Dark-Eyed Molly".

The usual disclaimers apply......IMHO, YMMV etc.


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Subject: RE: perfect lyrics
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Apr 18 - 06:49 AM

"Nursing her anger - to keep it warm" still gives me a buzz - not a song though
Iim Caeeoll


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Subject: RE: perfect lyrics
From: GUEST,Kristoffer Ross
Date: 08 Apr 18 - 08:02 AM

Backwoodsman,
    I was about to nominate Dark Eyed Molly, too!
My other suggestion:
    I find Red is the Rose ideally suited to its melody. (Even thought, technically, the melody was Loch Lomond's first). I've just sung it at my brother's wedding yesterday.
Best wishes,
    ~Kristoffer


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Subject: RE: perfect lyrics
From: oldhippie
Date: 09 Apr 18 - 06:50 PM

Maybe not perfect, but this verse of "Through" by Jack Hardy, always tugs me.

i was far away, so far
when i heard what she had done
but it was not my star
laid out on the horizon
only half have the nerve
only half have the heart
only half get what they deserve
out on that boulevard


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