Lyrics: Femme Fatale |
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Femme Fatale

by Clive James and Pete Atkin

It isn't fear I feel, or lack of nerve
Call it just a sensible reserve
Faced with the intoxicating verve
Of anyone who dazzles me like you
The children turning flint-wheels in the mines looked pretty too
And sparks were shaken out like golden rain
And oh so very lovely were the loneliness and pain

It's not because I'm burning out or old
I hesitate to snuggle in the fold
Of body heat that really beats the cold
Though Icarus flew near the sun and fell
The chandeliers above the weeping fields were warm as well
And flares would crumple down like fairy lights
And oh so very lovely were the long and fearful nights

It's all because you are too much for me
Too good to last, too beautiful to be
That you are doomed to be a casualty
Of the night-fight on my deeps of memory
A galleon with fire below falls glowing through the sea
Every mast shall tremble like a tree
And oh so very lovely shine the blast that breaks them free

Note (from Collected Poems)

The ‘weeping fields’ are Virgil’s lugentes campos. Perhaps the best translation of the phrase was by the old scholar J. W. Mackail: ‘the broken-hearted fields’. While at Cambridge I taught myself quite a lot of classical poetry. The circumstances were ideal: there were undergraduates all over the place who had been through the English public schools and could tell you where the best bits of poetry were in the acres of text. In the New Hall annexe where my wife and I had our first apartment, there was a young graduate student from New Zealand who would put her finger right on the indispensable passages in Homer and get me to recite until I could make a fair fist of the metre: sometimes, I learned, the way the rhythm worked was half the point of the line. Disciplinarians might have frowned at the shortcut but we rarely enjoy seeing someone acquire, just from love, the knowledge that was imparted to us at the point of a cane. Pete’s melody makes a subtle virtue of how the final lines of all three stanzas are a metrical match.