We end the month of Love by looking at a broken relationship, still tied together but with one person’s having a guarded heart.
“Fortress Around Your Heart”
Sting is above other songwriters for this singular reason: he never seeks
the mundane metaphor that everyone else is selecting.
In “Fortress”, a guarded heart is a walled city, guarded because of constant emotional hurts.
The love who caused the emotional damage—by something as simple as continual slights or inconsistencies or as painful as unfaithfulness or perfidy—must besiege the city to conquer the guarded heart.
Of course, the relationship is already doomed. Love is not a battlefield (Sorry, Pat Benetar.) As e.e.cummings told us (see the 2/14 blog here), relationships should be between two equally independents who are enriched by the love and the loved one.
Neither of the two people in “Fortress” are so enriched. The speaker recognizes “the walls” he caused. He’s done so much wrong with her and to her and away from her and without her that just approaching her is crossing a minefield. Every step brings up a trap partially buried. Not even partially, really.
He recognizes the “chasm” between them that his idiocy caused—but he still wants to try. He wants to build a bridge: span that deep chasm of trouble and avoid the minefield, connect to her guarded heart and burn out—with passion—the walls protecting her heart.
Poor, gullible woman: she believed him. She must have, for in Stanza 2 they had declared a truce. That “tattered flag” they made, it’s still flying.
But he’s repeating his sins. He goes off, leaving her behind, to pursue his own goal. And she, when she thinks about him and their relationship—well, she keeps it going, but she wishes she didn’t have to do so.
Is this Separation Worthy?
Is he a soldier, sent off to war? Nyah. That’s too simplistic.
Is this Sting and his pursuit of fame and fortune at the expense of his relationship? Maybe.
Is this all of us? Bingo!
We involve ourselves in a relationship, but we devote ourselves to other things: jobs, hobbies, grown-up toys (Bass boat, painting, coaching, shopping with friends, gaming, children). We leave no room for couple-time, and when the partner expresses dissatisfaction then increasing complaints, we ignore or cast them off.
Stanza 3 repeats most of S1, except for the first two lines, the key ones: When we cause too much emotional damage, then the hurt heart will place themselves in a prison, and everyone will suffer.
Last Words on Lost Love
The unusual extended metaphor builds a depressing little song for a depressing little condition. The problems are never quite enough to explode, and everyone serves a sentence of pain.
Catchy tune, though: bright chords, interesting brass line—juxtaposed with the bleak lines. Great irony here: we can’t have our passion-fruit cake and eat everything, too.
This series of blogs is for poetry lovers, hosted by Emily R. Dunn of Writers Ink Books. Visit our page on every multiple of 7 (7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th) to see which poem has inspired a lesson in thinking and writing.