Saturday, March 04, 2006

(Have Some) Madeira, M'Dear

Flanders & Swann The Limeliters RCA 1961
She was young, she was pure, she was new, she was nice She was fair, she was sweet seventeen. He was old, he was vile, and no stranger to vice He was base, he was bad, he was mean. He had slyly inveigled her up to his flat To view his collection of stamps, And he said as he hastened to put out the cat, The wine, his cigar and the lamps: Have some madeira, m'dear
A cute little Edwardian ditty. And more word-play. First we see the scheme of anaphora twice repeated, first the six she was clauses, followed by the five he was clauses. Then there is the trope of syllepsis, which appears three times in the song: one verb or verb phrase (to put out, in this case) is here made to do quadruple duty, used in four different senses with four different objects: 1) the cat, 2) the wine, 3) his cigar, and 4) the lamps.
She lowered her standards by raising her glass, Her courage, her eyes and his hopes.
Another syllepsis, combined this time with the contrast (antithesis) of the lowering her standards with the raising of the other things. The next example requires a little more of the lyric to make sense:
Then there flashed through her mind what her mother had said With her antepenultimate breath, "Oh my child, should you look on the wine that is red Be prepared for a fate worse than death!" She let go her glass with a shrill little cry, Crash! Tinkle! it fell to the floor; When he asked, "What in Heaven?" She made no reply, Up her mind, and a dash for the door.
Never fear: He gets her in the end!

And how about that use of antepenultimate? Her penultimate breath would be her next to last, and her antepenultimate breath would be the one before that!


At March 19, 2009 8:48 PM, Blogger said...

To be honest, I found this song more amusing before I realized it was about rape.


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