Taylor Swift loves a classic phrase turnabout. In this example of Swiftonance, even the title of the song is a misdirection. A champagne problem usually means an insignificant matter or something that holds no substance. But in this song, the issue described is in no way champagne.
The Cursed Golden Touch
“Your Midas touch on a Chevy door,” writes Swift. This reference is probably the best known, given the fame of Midas, King of Phrygia in Greek myths. He had a wish granted by the god Dionysus: everything he touched would turn into gold. At first sight, it was a blessing of great fortune. Then his boon turned out to be a veritable self-imposed curse. The flowers he touched turned to gold, so they lost their scent. The food he ate turned to gold, so they lost their taste. Eventually, even his daughter, who embraced him, became a lifeless golden statue.
The lyric in question is bittersweet. Swift is saying that the proposer made her ordinary life prosperous. Just how the Midas touch turned stone to gold, the suitor brought her bliss and comfort. But all that glitters is not gold. “I never was ready,” she says shortly after. The relationship was shiny, but it was not free of its troubles. Like Midas‘ boon that turned out to be a bane, the narrator’s relationship ultimately ends on a sad note.
For me, this passage of the song is what makes track two of evermore one of the saddest and strongest works of Swift. The gold and golden color, usually associated with happiness and triumph in Taylor’s lyrics, take a cruel twist. It suggests that something good and promising has been ruined, turned into a sad and tragic memory. It is in line with what we already know about the story of the song. Two young people meet, one proposes, and the other rejects the proposal, thus ending the relationship.
Read about RED by Taylor Swift here.
The Weaving of Immortal Love
The lyrical self shows her hope that a new woman will make her ex-lover happy, making a subtle reference to the myth of Penelope, wife of Ulysses. He was a victorious warrior in the Trojan War. While away from home, his wife Penelope remained steadfast and faithful, waiting many years for his return.
Ulysses did not arrive. Consequently, Penelope’s father was pressuring her to remarry. In order not to displease him and remain faithful to her beloved husband, Penelope agreed. But, she imposed the condition that she would only remarry after she had finished weaving a tapestry. So, during the day, Penelope would weave the tapestry, and during the night, undo the entire day’s work. She repeated this every day to buy time and waited for Ulysses.
Swift is referencing the tale by saying that she wasted the proposer’s time in the relationship. The act of undoing the tapestry dramatizes how much the lyrical self did not want to marry her ex-beloved. She undid the work they put into building their life, thus shredding the tapestry, for which she is sorrowful and apologetic. It is once again an example of Swiftonance as Taylor Swift cleverly turns a tale of eternal love into a love story that ends badly.
8. The Gardens of Babylon
“Now you hang from my lips like the Gardens of Babylon,” says Taylor Swift illegally in cowboy like me. (This is a personal favorite lyric of this co-writer.) The song is about two con artists looking for a target. Instead, they end up falling in love with each other. It is curious to think that what brought the two rogues happiness was something they never sought.
Swift, through her character, compares her love to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In particular, the only one of the seven whose existence is widely doubted and debated. Her love is something grand, beautiful, worthy of legends, myths, and gossip. But at the same time, is it real?
At the core of the two hearts, is the feeling true? Swift is thus acclaimed for her songwriting because she can capture in small expressions the subtleties of so many strong and conflicted emotions, tenuous and grand at the same time.
The Swiftonance in Myths
Swift does it again with the saying “hanging on one’s lips.” It means closely listening to someone with obsequious attention. Meanwhile, The Gardens of Babylon symbolize something mythical, almost unreal. These gardens were a marvelous structure made to resemble a green mountain. King Nebuchadnezzar built the gardens to gratify his wife Amytis as she missed her homeland, Media.
Swift switches up the known phrase one more time. Now instead of hanging on her lips, the subject is hanging from them. It means that they are kissing, and she likes it. Also, she says that the fellow cowboy listens to her intently, but she is unsure whether his feelings are real. Despite the insecurity in her heart, she is comforted by his attention, just like Amytis in The Hanging Gardens. It signifies something beautiful and soothing, even when there is no proof of it being sincere.
Crazy how Taylor Swift successfully conveyed through one sentence, something that I am still processing.
9. Underworld Myths of Swift’s Cottagecore
The song ivy opens with, “How’s one to know? / I’d meet you where the spirit meets the bones / In a faith forgotten land.” It immediately brings to mind the image of two people meeting in the Underworld. As discussed, Hades kidnapped and tricked Persephone into staying there.
So she became the Queen of the Underworld. In some versions of the story, Persephone learned to love Hades, who was kind and affectionate. There are instances of him arranging dances for her entertainment and them playing knucklebones to make her happy. Maybe she fell in love with him (Stockholm Syndrome), but she also fell out of it.
The Mortal Adonis
Adonis was a result of the illegitimate union between King Theias of Smyrna and his daughter Myrrha. The King offended Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and sex, by failing to make a sacrifice in her name. In her fury, she urged Myrrha to make relations with her father, which he did not reciprocate.
In the dead of night, Myrrha lured her father out in the open and laid with him in the cover of darkness. As dawn broke, Theias learned about his daughter’s deceit and ran after her to kill her. To prevent her murder, Aphrodite transformed Myrrha into a myrrh tree. Consumed with anger, Theias shot an arrow into the tree trunk and split it open. It was where Adonis was born.
Aphrodite took the child with her and began raising him herself. She became so obsessed with Adonis that she began neglecting her duties. To prevent the world from descending into darkness, the goddess put the child in a box and gave him to Persephone. She also did it to keep Adonis away from prying eyes.
Over and Under
As time passed and Adonis grew up, Persephone began to love him as well. When Aphrodite came to take him with her, she straight up refused. An argument broke out between the goddesses. To stop the conflict, once again, Zeus intervened. He decided that Adonis would spend four months each with the two women and four months alone.
Adonis grew up to be a handsome young man who was a good hunter. After one of his visits with Aphrodite, he decided not to return to the Underworld. It made Persephone angry, and in her rage, she sent a wild boar to kill him. Some versions of the story say that the boar was Ares, one of the lovers of Aphrodite, who attacked Adonis in his jealousy.
Aphrodite heard her beloved screaming and rushed to his side. She sprinkled some nectar over his wound to ease his pain as he passed away in her arms. The drops of nectar blossomed into beautiful red anemones, and his blood formed the river, Adonis. He entered the Underworld, where Persephone welcomed him back with open arms and embraced him.
Myths of Swift’s Wife
Persephone, deprived of love in the Greek Inferno, fell for the young Adonis. Similarly, Taylor Swift sings about the union of two people in a “faith forgotten land.” When she says, “the old widow goes to the stone every day, but I don’t, I just sit here and wait,” she is unknowingly or knowingly alluding to the mythical tale. The old widow can be viewed as her mother Demeter, or even Aphrodite, and the other woman as Persephone as they wait for their time with Adonis.
Despite being married to Hades, Persephone falls for another man. Similarly, Aphrodite falls for Adonis despite being married to Hephaestus. Swift sings about a similar situation about the hand promised to another. Like the goddesses, the narrator in the song can’t help falling for the young man, “I can’t stop you putting roots in my dreamland.”
Legend stands divided on if Hades knew about his wife’s affair. Scholars claim that he probably saw him as her son, as she did raise the boy. Swift says, “I wish to know / the fatal flaw that makes you long to be / magnificently cursed.” Here, the narrator is asking her love why they choose to be with her, given that they cannot ever be together. She also says that the narrator never committed to the husband as her heart was with her lover. It is similar to the Greek tale.
Longing And Waiting
Adonis spent spring and half summer with Aphrodite. It was the time of the year she desperately looked forward to each year. So was their love, that even the four months Adonis was supposed to be alone… he was with her. The sun shone bright and the lands were fertile. Swift compares spring to a time of joy and merriment as her lyrical self is with her lover. Once again, it makes one think of the mythical tale.
“Spring breaks loose, but so does fear,” says Swift as her characters live in fear of getting found out by the husband. Since legend is ambiguous on whether Hades knew about Adonis, I will assume that he knew about him as a son but did not know of the love affair. Swift’s lyrics are directly applicable to the situation in the Underworld. The same can be said about Aphrodite and Hephaestus.
These lyrics can be aptly used for Persephone’s and Aphrodite’s stories as their time with Adonis was indeed borrowed. Both women had an illicit affair right under their husband’s noses. “My house of stone, your ivy grows,” is Swift saying that the character’s life was as good as dead until the lover showed up. One can view the house of stone as the Underworld and the ivy as the love of Adonis.
Taylor Swift finishes the song repeating the words “I’m covered in you,” emphasizing just how much the lover meant to the narrator. Similarly, Adonis was the one true love of Persephone even though he loved Aphrodite. She was willing to do anything to be with him, including killing him.
10. The Virgo Constellation And The Poetry of Running Away
The last two songs on folklore and evermore talk about the same thing- leaving when you feel like you deserve better. This concept is called escapism. Escapism is not giving up but a way of finding your true path and your true self. Thus, one chooses to fight different obstacles along this new pathway. The escapism that Taylor Swift sings about is poetic. She points it out in the final minutes of The Long Pond Studio Sessions. It has been written before by many poets and philosophers. Indeed, it has been the subject of the myth of Astraea, daughter of Zeus and Themis.
Remember when Pandora opened up her box and let all sorts of evil loose in the world? Well, this gave birth to a mythological period called The Iron Age. It was a time of wars, famines, poverty, hard work, and sadness. It resulted in all gods flying away and settle on Mount Olympus for good. All gods abandoned the mortal lands, all except for one.
The goddess Astraea chose to stay on earth and live among the humans. She was associated with purity, kindness, and justice. She holds the scales of justice that weigh out the deeds of man. But that did not last forever. Ultimately, she flew away too, unable to bear the cruelty, misery, and injustice on earth.
It is similar to what Swift sings about in The Lakes. It is a sentiment of not belonging to a world full of “cynical clones.” Taylor’s and Astraea’s “heart-stopping waves of hurt” cause them to leave the public scene and the earth, respectively. Swift sings about it again when she says, “that old familiar body ache that snaps from the same little breaks in your soul.”
As Astraea flew away, Zeus turned her into a constellation – her name Αστραια means the starry one. Thus, the Virgo constellation, a symbol of purity and humanity, was born. Even in the sky, she still carries her scales, with the Libra constellation right by her side. As the red rose that “grew up out of ice frozen ground with no one around to tweet it,” Astraea had her brightest moment because she fled. “Sometimes to run is the one thing that will find you the right thing,” says Swift on It’s Time To Go.
Astraea is said to return to earth when a new Golden Age comes for man. Some English writers even identified her with Elizabeth I. She was the virgin queen, credited with bringing a new Golden Age to England. However, for now, the only imagery of Astraea we may get is the Virgo stars and the two closing songs from Taylor Swift’s best albums.
Thank you for reading!
Go to Home