Monday, October 20, 1997

Analyzing the Fourth Greatest Song

"I have no answer for you little lamb, I can help you out, but I cannot help you in."

The opening line to Little Lamb Dragonfly the fulcrum fifth song on Paul McCartney's emotional 1973 masterpiece, Red Rose Speedway, is as intriguing as it is ambiguous. It sets the moody stage (or is that the stagy mood?) for a song as philosophical as it is charming. The singer is offering support while admitting it is easier to show someone the way to the door than it is expressing an intimate feeling. Immediately the song is equal part comfort and sadness. It's about the connection of a relationship realized too late just as it is about to end. It's the offer of friendship while admitting the friendship is already over.

"Sometimes you think that life is hard, but this is only one of them. My heart is breaking for you little lamb, I can help you out, but we may never meet again."

Like McCartney's ultimate and most moving masterpiece, Hey Jude, the singer in Little Lamb Dragonfly seems to be seeking self comfort through the benefit of trying to comfort another. By empathizing with the heartache of another, the singer comes to terms with his own loss. The bridge of the song reveals however that the loss the singer feels is from the soul he is trying to console.

"Dragonfly fly by my window. You and I still have a way to go. Don't know why you hang around my door, I don't live here anymore. Since you've gone I never know, I go on, I miss you so."

Here the singer admits confusion. He has said he finds it easier to help someone out rather than reveal himself. Now that the person he misses is outside his door (taking up his offer to leave) he doesn't know how to let them back in so he tells them to keep on moving. The nature of the relationship is as confusing as the splintering of communication and the singer's own confessed inner shortcomings. The singer wants the other to help him figure things out yet at the same time it is the other that has created the feelings of loss and sorrow in the first place. There is the feeling that the friendship has more to offer yet at the same time it might be better to separate and get on with life.

"Dragonfly don't keep me waiting. When we try we'll have a way to go. Dragonfly, you've been away too long. How did two rights make a wrong? In my heart I feel the pain, keeps coming back again."

We now get a glimpse of how the separation became a fracture. The singer has done wrong but feels the time and distance has only caused things to get worse. Despite the difficulty he finally does show the other what it all means- the feelings in his heart.

"Dragonfly fly by my window, you and I can find a way to see. Dragonfly, the years ahead will show, how little we really know. Since you've gone it's never right, they go on, the lonely nights. Come on home and make it right. My heart is aching for you little lamb, I can help you out, but I can't help you in."

The window which seemed like a barrier of separation before now is used as a metaphor of transparency to what is inside. The singer seeks hope in his heartache. He realizes that time will open up even more revelations both in the relationship and within himself. He also realizes to complete his transformation he needs the other to still be a part of his life. And through the self revelation, the healing process has begun. The heartache isn't growing (breaking) but rather it has been replaced by the longing to continue (aching). His friend the lamb (silent and passive) offers hope and inspiration through its transformation into a dragonfly (a symbol of flight and freedom). Though the loss may be permanent, the singer has grown and gained insight in the process.

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