Listening to Mumford and Sons’ version (out of curiosity), it dawned on me that I knew the song quite well, and had been waiting the whole length of it for the part that enamored me of it in the first place:
In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of ev’ry glove that layed him down
Or cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
“I am leaving, I am leaving”
But the fighter still remains
And I thought, “Why do I know this?” whereupon I remembered the Simon & Garfunel’s Greatest Hits CD I’d bought after attending a writing workshop as a teenager and meeting a girl who self-identified as obsessed with S&G. So I’d dutifully gone out and tried to fall in love with them too. And really, I thought after remembering this, I’ve done that a whole lot: been close to people who’d gone and tattooed something on their heart, be it Simon and Garfunkel or evangelical Christianity or non-evangelical Christianity or James Joyce or Bob Dylan or Oe Kenzaburo or tallships or hobbits. I have gone and tried, every time, to feel what they feel, and it has never worked lastingly. I come away knowing a little more of who the person was, maybe, or why people in general feel the attraction to this or that, but I also carry with me incidents of frailty; faults in the logic or beauty of the thing they most admire, and I can’t shake those faults. And because I can’t shake them, I cannot share their loyalty to this or that artist or cause or philosophy, and can’t join their clubs. I slip away and am left alone, panting, as the jostling crowd makes its way past me to do something felt and believed in communally.
But let it not be said that I did not try, dammit.