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A Whiter Shade of Goddess
A Whiter Shade Of Pale - Procol Harum
My Interpretation of the "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" lyrics
We skipped the light fandango
turned cartwheels 'cross the floor
I was feeling kinda seasick
but the crowd called out for more
The room was humming harder
as the ceiling flew away
When we called out for another drink
the waiter brought a tray
The first verse simply describes a drunken party, but saying that, "the ceiling flew away", suggests they were also taking hallucinogenic drugs
And so it was that later
as the miller told his tale
that her face, at first just ghostly,
turned a whiter shade of pale
In the chorus line, it is recognized by most people that the song's lyrics were referring to "The Miller's Tale" in "Canterbury Tales" by Geoffrey Chaucer written in the 14th century. This is an extremely crude story, about two student s who lust after a carpenter's wife. Where one gets tricked into, ""kissed her naked arse full savorly". This behaviour is symbolic of an extreme act of worship. A Goddess likewise would be expected to be worshipped. wiki/The_Miller Tale.
Then in the last line of the chorus we are told that, her face turned "A whiter shade of pale". At the time these lyrics were written was a fairly popular book called, "The White Goddess" by the poet Robert Graves. The very fact that this mysterious woman had a ghostly white face suggests she was the White Goddess as portrayed by Robert Graves. She hints at this in the next two lines
She said, 'There is no reason
and the truth is plain to see.'
But the narrator of these lyrics refuses to take the hint.
But I wandered through my playing cards
and would not let her be
In these two lines he shows he not only doesn't recognize her as a Goddess, but was also disrespectful of her as well
one of sixteen vestal virgins
who were leaving for the coast
The references to Vestal Virgins is interesting, as they worshipped the Goddess Vesta. This priestess order was older than the Roman Empire as it seems that Rhea Silvia, the mother of Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, was a Vestal Virgin
At the beginning of the Roman Empire the Vestal Virgins held high status in Rome, as they were the " Keepers of the Flame", and if it was to go out, then it was believed, Rome would fall. But over the years their status was slowly undermined
Then when Rome became Christianised, the Vestal Virgins were turned into nuns, and the sacred flame was put out. Then true to the ancient prophecy, Rome started to deteriorate through civil war and invasion by Huns and Goths until it finally collapsed. wiki/Vestal_Virgin.
and although my eyes were open
they might have just as well've been closed
So even though, again, there was another hint at her Goddess status, the narrator still refuses to recognize who she was
She said, 'I'm home on shore leave,'
though in truth we were at sea
The fact they disagreed if they were on shore or at sea, might be about their mental states, she felt safe and secure with her "feet on the ground" but he was, "all at sea."
so I took her by the looking glass
and forced her to agree
Again he is very disrespectful and forces his opinions onto her
saying, 'You must be the mermaid
who took Neptune for a ride.'
He is now willing to recognize her supernatural status by saying she is a mythical mermaid but is still is not willing to see her as a Goddess.
But she smiled at me so sadly
that my anger straightway died
She is obviously trying to save him and was clearly sad, he was rejecting her help.
If music be the food of love
then laughter is its queen
It seems he was still intoxicated and enjoying the party he was in
and likewise if behind is in front
then dirt in truth is clean
The paradoxes in these two lines suggest he was unable to see the reality of his situation, which was the opposite of what he thought it was
My mouth by then like cardboard
seemed to slip straight through my head
He is now saying he has a hangover.
So we crash-dived straightway quickly
and attacked the ocean bed
These two lines suggest he was drowned. So the moral of the story is that because he failed to recognize and respect a Goddess, he was left to drown in his path of self destruction.
Robert Graves in his books would say this is true of the whole human race. We once worshipped Goddesses and revered and respected women but with the rise of male gods and patriarchy the human race has been ever since on a course of self-destruction.
© 2012 William Bond