Slip Away

Enter me gently I break in the light
Cover my eyes with the rags of my life
Was I dreaming?
Or did you say:
“The frontiers are falling
It’s time to be slipping away”

Let’s slip away
Let’s slip away”

All things fall from me, the vaults and the veils
All things blow by me, my sorrows have sails
Was I dreaming?
Or did you say:
“The empires are fading
It’s time to be slipping away”

Let’s slip away
Let’s slip away”

What am I to do?
Don’t leave me
What is there to say?
I believe we’re just wasting time
Let the night takes its play
Colour my eyes with the dusk of this wonderful day

Let’s slip away
Let’s slip away

Letters from lovers are lining my grate 
Some came too early and some came too late
Were you speaking?
Or did I say:
“The frontiers have fallen
It’s time to be slipping away”

As you call me
My hands they fall open
My mouth it is frozen
The chrysalis crumbles
I’m falling
Slow motion

Lyrics © John Foxx.

Thoughts on the text © Martin Smith and translated from birdsong.
Link to the post by all means, but please don’t reproduce the content without permission.

This is an exceptionally well composed lyric, scanning perfectly with ten syllables to each line opening a verse – classic use of the ‘iambic pentameter’ typical of Latin verse.
Here, pairs of syllables are presented with the stress alternating between them, giving the lines a distinct rhythm and pace.
Foxx changes carefully and regularly throughout the song, introducing variations that in turn lead changes of pace and mood in the music. He maintains the six line verse, two line chorus structure build around the middle verse ‘bridge’. Here, five syllables add a dramatic effect to his pleaful questions.
His opening line is one of pleading – expressing a fragile state of being that demands a careful, loving response. The imagery is implicitly sexual, while the language is submissive and romantic. He goes on to write more about ghosts, half-formed, vaporous people, dissolving and fading. Delicate and temporary. There’s an associated, endearing shyness implied in the second line too. The frontiers represent the interpersonal, society ‘barriers’ between a man and a woman – broken for a time during this sexual encounter during which the couple ‘slip away’ from themselves and their inhibitions, just as they may have slipped away quietly from the cocktail party downstairs… They are perhaps a little drunk, intoxicated with a gentle passion for one another, consenting to drift away for a while to some other, dreamlike place.
The second verse continues the description of this sexual encounter, during which more reservations fall away. A Gothic element is introduced: the room takes on an exotic, even sinister appearance and the story becomes a historical romance. Foxx uses alliteration effectively in both lines, adding to the rhythm of the lyric. He repeats the technique at the beginning of the third verse too, his mastery of poetic language and grammar coming to the fore as an articulate songwriter.
The fall of frontiers, and the fading of empires around the couple suggest an awareness, or at least perception, of decline, decay and disintegration. The precise opposite to their union. It suggests a perhaps a degree of uncertainty about the future, a sense of change which instils anxiety or fear at some level. The idea of running from whatever that is, taking refuge in each other is deeply romantic.
And yet there is also an awareness that the sanctuary of union itself is only temporary.
Speaking now perhaps as the woman as first person, Foxx eloquently pleads a melodramatic “what am I to do?” and you can imagine the back of the hand over the brow of his despairing herione. She speaks as Gloria Patch might, the leading female character in Scott-Fitzgerald’s novel “Beautiful and Damned”, or any one of the Hollywood leading ladies, convincing her lover to stay and extend a wonderful evening. Wasting time is a hobby for Gloria, the entire meaning of an otherwise unfulfilled life. What exactly does one do when one has nothing to do? Let’s get away from this, escape the boredom of routine. Find a place somewhere wild and romantic. How your illusions disillusion me…
Foxx moves the story on in the last two verses, and one sense he is alone again. Reflective and quietly forlorn. The couplet that opens verse three is among his very best writing. These are very evocative lines. Again he is burning memories, the final and decisive act of separation. He has never quite been in the right place and among the right circumstances for a lasting love, and is drifting off with his memories. The lines break down, fractured. Dislocated. Her voice is still in the room, in the walls, wandering through his mind. The chrysalis crumbles – there is no metamorphosis. Just dust, and light.
He awakens. And the frontiers have fallen. The tense is changing and time has passed.
Somehow he drifted off too far…

One thought on “Slip Away

  1. Pingback: Distant Smile | Translated from Birdsong

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