Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Decemberists -- "The Hazards of Love 2 (Wager All)" (2009)

Take my hand, cradle it in your hand
Take my hand to feel the pull of quicksand.

[NOTE: This is the third in a series of 2 or 3 lines posts about the Decemberists' album, The Hazards of Love.  Click here to read the first post in that series.]

If this song doesn't get to you, you're a better man (or woman) than me.  

(Yes, it's "than me" in this case -- not "than I."  Click here if you don't believe me.)  

Our third featured song from the Decemberists' 2009 album, The Hazards of Love, is the second song on that album to be titled "The Hazards of Love."  

It's subtitled "Wager All," which is exactly what our hero William chooses to do.  He wagers the immortality that the Queen of the Forest, his adoptive mother, has granted him in order to be with Margaret, the fair maiden who encountered him in the taiga, quite by chance, at the beginning of The Hazards of Love.  

"The Hazards of Love," by SnittyCakez
In this song, William serenades the pregnant Margaret after they meet a second time in the forest, where they will lie in "amorous entwine" once more.  

And here I am, softer than a shower
And here I am, to garland you with flowers
To lay you down in a clover bed
The stars a roof above our heads

Part of the price William had to pay for immortality was the loss of part of his humanity.  Now that he has become fully human -- accepting the mortality that is part and parcel of being a man -- William experiences emotion so powerful that it is manifested physically:

And all my life
I've never felt the tremor . . .
That now disturbs my fingers

Songwriter Colin Meloy -- the Decemberists' frontman, who performs the role of William -- plays it relatively straight in this song.  But what one reviewer called "his peculiar fondness for arcane and obscure vocabulary" breaks through in this couplet:

And we'll lie 'til the corncrake crows
Bereft the weight of our summer clothes

The corncrake is a medium-sized member of the rail family than lives in Europe and western Asia and migrates to southern Africa in the winter.  Male corncrakes have a very loud mating call (which birders sometimes refer to as an "advertising" call), which peaks in volume and frequency between midnight and 3 A.M.

A corncrake crowing
Meloy presumably uses a corncrake to let us know that William and Margaret don't fall asleep after their "amorous entwine" until daybreak (when a rooster would crow and wake them up) but rather lie awake in one another's arms until sometime in the wee hours, when the corncrake's mating cries are at their loudest and most insistent.

("Bereft of the weight of our summer clothes" is certainly much more civilized than "buck nekkid" -- don't you agree?)

Lying with Margaret on their bed of clover, William pledges his troth to her, promising to "wager all" -- including his life, if necessary -- on "the hazards of love."  

Will he get lucky?  Or will he lose his wager?  The lines quoted at the beginning of this post speak of the power of a lover's touch, but also hint at the dangers of giving oneself up to love completely:

Take my hand, cradle it in your hand
Take my hand to feel the pull of quicksand.

"The Hazards of Love 2 (Wager All)" is followed by "Isn't It a Lovely Night?" -- a calm, lighter-than-air duet in which the happy young lovers reflect on the beauty of their surroundings.

Colin Meloy
The song, which is in 3/4 time, features an acoustic guitar, upright bass, accordion, and pedal steel guitar.  It is the closest thing to a country song on the album.

"Isn't It a Lovely Night?" ends with William and Margaret recollecting the pleasures of their "amorous entwine."

And here we died our little deaths
And we were left to catch our breaths
So swiftly lifting from our chests

La petite mort -- "the little death" -- is a French euphemism for an orgasm or the moment of unconsciousness or transcendence that immediately follows an orgasm.  Here, "our little deaths" carries a double meaning.  Sadly, William and Margaret will later be unable to "catch our breaths," but the cause won't be post-orgasmic bliss.

Here's "The Hazards of Love 2 (Wager All)":

Click here to hear "Isn't It a Lovely Night?"

Click here to read the next post in this series.

Click below to buy the album from Amazon:

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