Friday, June 27, 2008

"And the leaves that are green..."


In 1967, I was ten years old, and my twenty-seven-year-old mother bought the Simon and Garfunkle album Sounds of Silence, which had just come out the previous year, and my four brothers and I played it over and over and over until we'd learned the lyrics to all eleven songs, so I had time to puzzle over the opening lines to Paul Simon's twenty-four-line song "Leaves That Are Green":
I was twenty-one years when I wrote this song
I'm twenty-two now but I won't be for long . . .
Turning those lines over in my ten-year-old mind until the words were almost tangible, as with a Zen koan, I wondered, "If he wrote the song at twenty-one, how can he 'remember' it as if he were twenty-two?"

I still puzzle over this.

Paul Simon was born in 1941. Did he write that song in 1962 or 1963? It was first released in 1965, when it appeared on a single's disk backing "I Am a Rock." Did he write it three years before then . . . or two?

Maybe I should just email Paul Simon and inquire personally . . . as I did with Philip Bobbitt. Anybody know Paul Simon's email address?

Meanwhile, go and listen...

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17 Comments:

At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Charles said...

I'll take a stab at it (thus taking all the fun out of the koan): he was twenty-one years old when he wrote the song, and the second line originally went "I'm still twenty-one now but won't be for long..." Yet he didn't get around to recording it until he had turned twenty-two, and thus he changed the second line. I believe it is a comment on the ephemeral nature of time and life.

And I wrote all that with a straight face.

 
At 11:12 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Charles, you're probably correct, for on You Tube, I first found a version in which the second line sung was "I'm twenty-three now but I won't be for long...."

Yet, the conundrum increases, for why is the first line in the past tense? Did he originally write: "I'm twenty-one years as I write this song..."? And the next line? As George Carlin would like to have said, "It's a mystery."

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:29 PM, Blogger Malcolm Pollack said...

Jeepers, Jeffery, what a dope I am - I've been familiar with that album since it came out, and I never noticed that logical wrinkle. How could I have missed that?

 
At 12:43 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Malcolm, you must have been overwhelmed by the beauty of the music, which overwhelmed your logical faculties -- as Plato warned about in his Republic, thus necessitating the outlawing of music.

Besides, you had other fish to fry in your childhood . . . such as gazing at the louring skies and correctly predicting tornadoes.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:47 PM, Blogger Malcolm Pollack said...

Well, there was that, yes.

Thanks, I feel better now.

 
At 12:50 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Actually . . . it's possible that your impressive mental powers caused that tornado.

Please use with caution...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:32 PM, Blogger Malcolm Pollack said...

Yes, I'm afraid that's about what my mental "powers" amount to: a swirl of overheated air, going round and round in circles, with no constructive result.

 
At 1:42 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Destruction also has its uses. Have you considered government employment?

Your nickname could be 'Storm' . . . or is that already taken?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:52 AM, Anonymous Caroline said...

It's possible that Paul Simon was thinking about something totally unconnected when he wrote the lines, like what he was going to eat for supper that night, so he may have written these lines absentmindedly, and kept them because they sounded cute.

But if we are to spend time contemplating the depth of meaning in Paul Simon's lyrics, how better than to think about:

People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one deared
Disturb the sound of silence!!

 
At 6:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you consider the period of time during which the process of gestation occurs?

Now realize I didn't do the math but if say, one was born in January, and if, as some say. Well I'll leave that there.

And I seem to recall Mr Simon crafting some other pretty metaphysical kinda lyrics.

JK

 
At 6:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Caroline,

As I was typing I find you've illustrated for me.

Thanks.

JK

 
At 7:58 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I think that we need to ask Paul Simon himself . . . if we 'dear' to ask him.

And what were you thinking about, 'dare Caroline', as you were typing "Sounds of Silence" from memory?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:03 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, possibly . . . if Paul Simon hadn't been born in October.

Speaking of inattentive typing -- not that anyone was -- I especially like the line: "And then the people bowed and brayed...."

Just kidding, but we do make asses of ourselves about religious stuff, don't we?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep.

S'why I try to sneak up on a point: whisper "tag", then run.

JK

 
At 9:42 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

You can't touch without being a little bit touched...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:56 AM, Blogger Malcolm Pollack said...

"to the knee on God they made..."

 
At 12:09 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Ah, yes, I remember -- and how "Like a mammery it falls, Soft and warm."

Jeffery Hodges

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