by Larry Fyffe
Things have changed once the over-zealous creed on strictness in sexual matters (brought to the Promised Land of America by the Puritans) became fodder for serious criticism by open-minded artists as well as by artists who favour burlesque – satire through poetry and song that mocks the instructive prescriptions of puritanical morality, or satire through the suggestive movements of dancers on stage that imitate actual sexual activity.
Standing in the way of these artists – the “morality police”, leftovers from the days of Puritan America. In the heyday of the American Romantic Transcendentalist writer sex is considered a vitalistic force operating quite unbounded throughout Nature, but they find it’s hidden behind closed doors in human social structures. Necessary for them be a secret code.
Some of these writers depict God Himself as pantheistic and sexual, and express this vision through double-edged diction such in the image of a hanging jewel:
The young men float on their backs, their white bellies bulge to the sun They do not ask who seizes fast to them They don't know who puffs, and declines with pendant and bending arch They don't think whom they souse with spray (Walt Whitman: Song Of Myself)
A latter-day follower of Whitman double-downs on these sexually-oriented neo-Transcendentalists by burlesquing them through the burlesquing of the boom/boom movements of the burlesque dancer while making use of arcane metaphors rather than those that are quite obviously meant to be sexual:
And white legs waken salads in the the brain You pick your blonde out neatly through the smoke Always you wait for someone else though, always (Then rush to the nearest exist through the smoke) (Hart Crane: National Winter Garden)
A British music group of progressive rockers produce the following lyrics, double-edged the lyrics be in that the title of a record album of theirs is referenced therein:
Brain Salad Surgery It will murder you, it murdered me Made it for our enemy Brain Salad Surgery
(Emerson, Lake, And Palmer: Brain Salad Surgery~ Emerson/Lake/Sinfield)
The lyrics of the poem ‘National Winter Garden’ could well be the source of ‘brain salad surgery”, an arcane metaphor for sure, a stand-in for the sexual act of fellatio – though it’s claimed by others that the term originates from the lyrics below:
I been running trying to get hung up in my mind Got to give myself a good talking to this time Just need a little brain salad surgery Got to cure my insecurity
(Dr. John: Right Place Wrong Time)
A contributor to the song above journeys down the same shadowy road, but he’s deliberately careful with the kind of diction that he chooses – “I’m on the right trip/But in the wrong car” – as well as with the words he uses below:
There's a woman on my lap, and she's drinking champagne Got white skin, got assassin's eyes .... This place ain't doing me any good I'm in the wrong town, I should be in Hollywood .... Ain't no shortcuts, gonna dress in drag All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie I'm in love with a woman who don't even appeal to me (Bob Dylan: Things Have Changed)
The singer/songwriter’s persona above takes on a double disguise. At other times, as in the lyrics below, it’s more blatant what the pen is talking about:
Well, the sword swallower, he comes up to you, and then he kneels He crosses himself, and then he clicks his high heels And without further notice, he asks you how it feels And he says, "Here's your throat back, thanks for the loan" And you know something is happening But you don't what it is, do you, Mr. Jones? (Bob Dylan: Ballad Of A Thin Man)
Arcane, the following lyrics are surely not:
Saddle me up my big white goose Tie me on'er, turn her loose Oh me, oh my Love that country pie (Bob Dylan: Country Pie)
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