Sunday, January 26, 2014

Decemberists -- "The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid" (2009)

You delivered me from danger, then
Pulled my cradle from the reedy glen
Swore to save me from the world of men
Still the wanting comes in waves

[NOTE: This is the fourth in a series of 2 or 3 lines posts about the Decemberists' The Hazards of LoveClick here to read the first post in the series.]

The two songs from The Hazards of Love discussed in the previous 2 or 3 lines -- click here to read that post if you haven't already -- describe the happiest moments that our young lovers experience.  The dramatic arc turns sharply downward in the succeeding song and -- spoiler alert! -- continues to go south until William and Margaret meet their death.

"The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid" -- a duet featuring William (voiced by Colin Meloy, the Decemberists' frontman) and his mother, the evil Queen of the Forest (voiced by Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond) -- is perhaps the musical and dramatic high point of the album.  If you were staging The Hazards of Love, this song would be the final song of Act One.

Shara Worden
It begins with a recitative passage that is more spoken than sung by William, and which contains the lyrics quoted above.  

William acknowledges that the Queen has given him immortality, saving him "from the world of men" in which death is inescapable.  But now he has met Margaret, and living forever is no great prize if that means that he can't be with her.  

His overwhelming desire for Margaret is as powerful and unceasing as ocean waves crashing on a beach:

Still the wanting comes in waves
In waves
And waves
And the wanting comes in waves
And the wanting comes in waves
And I want this night!

The Queen's response is introduced by a recurring electric guitar figure -- a leitmotiv that is used to signal the Queen's presence at various points in The Hazards of Love.  

The evil Queen of the Forest
(from The Hazards of Love album)
Before she responds to William's request to be released from his enchantment and made a man again so he can live with Margaret, she reminds him that she alone is responsible for him being not only alive, but immortal:

I made you
I wrought you
I pulled you
From ore I labored you
From cancer I cradled you . . . 
This is how I am repaid?

In other words, the Queen plays the Mommy card -- "How can you speak to me that way when I suffered through childbirth to give to you?" etc., etc.  In other words, if your kids are too big to intimidate into obeisance, lay a big-ass guilt trip on them.

William's lines say that the Queen found him as a baby, abandoned in a reedy glen, and I am guessing that his account is closer to literal truth than the Queen's claim to have fashioned his body from the earth and given him life.  But her words are not inaccurate when viewed metaphorically -- she might have as well as have sculpted him from clay and blown life into his lungs.  

William is determined to be with Margaret, but knows that he can't win a head-to-head battle with his mother.  So he negotiates.

The Queen stands firm, setting forth the only terms she will consider.  She's a possessive, jealous, grasping woman -- a poor excuse for a mother -- completely uninterested in William's happiness.  

She is an-eye-for-an-eye type, determined to have the debt William owes for her granting him life repaid in full.  She wants more than a pound of William's flesh -- she wants every bone, muscle, and drop of blood he possesses.

And if I grant you
This favor to hand you
Your life for the evening
I will retake by morning
Consider it your debt repaid!

One night with Margaret in exchange for placing himself in thrall to the Queen forever -- take it or leave it, William.

Of course, he takes it.

Here's "The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid":

Click here to read the next post in this series.

Click below to buy The Hazards of Love from Amazon:

No comments:

Post a Comment