my mockery of his statements about lyrics being better off simpler, some of Sondheim’s simplest lyrics have been haunting my head for the past few days. Particularly those from “Ever After.” Happy now and happy hence / And happy ever after!
I have been auditing an undergraduate music theory course this semester, and if I can bring myself to dispel the mystery, I will eventually know why that one particular chord change is so good. I think it will only make me like it more to know what he is doing.
But chords aside, we’re here to talk about lyrics, right? I have been thinking of INTO THE WOODS for poetic purposes, wanting to write about it, and this is the song that says the most to me at the moment. Here is the last stanza, narrative aside, when the poet sums up, when the poem expands, when the lyrics inflate to their most “statemental.” And I cannot, at present, wish them more complicated. It’s a great song. Risks vulnerability, risks sentimentality, probably achieves both. But it’s a great song.
Herewith, last stanza of I KNOW THINGS NOW (from Into The Woods)
And I know things now,
Many valuable things,
That I hadn’t known before:
Do not put your faith
In a cape and a hood,
They will not protect you
The way that they should.
And take extra care with strangers,
Even flowers have their dangers.
And though scary is exciting,
Nice is different than good.
Now I know:
Don’t be scared.
Granny is right,
Just be prepared.
Isn’t it nice to know a lot!
And a little bit –
– Stephen Sondheim
Whatever else I may or may not have done, I have lived while he is still living. Sondheim is alive, somewhere. In New York. I could get on a bus and be there in four hours, right? I feel so strongly about his work that it reminds me of Matthew’s play, the speech where Androcles says that he rejoices in Syntyche’s existence regardless of what else may happen for him. I am glad to have been alive in an age of theater he helped make. When I think of it that way, I ought never to complain about theater again. Ever.
You say honestly. Rest you merry. Or, as the Germans would say, “noch ein mal,” which means, one more time. Better luck tomorrow, RRH. See you then. Gentlemen: let us repair to The Coal Hole in the Strand.