Time it took us
To where the water was
That's what the water gave me
And time goes quicker
Between the two of us
Oh, my love, don’t forsake me
Take what the water gave me
And oh, poor Atlas
The world’s a beast of a burden
You’ve been holding on a long time
And all this longing
And the ships are left to rust
That’s what the water gave us
Because they took your loved ones
But returned them in exchange for you
But would you have it any other way?
Would you have it any other way?
You couldn’t have it any other way
Because she’s a cruel mistress
And a bargain must be made
But oh, my love, don’t forget me
While I let the water take me
So lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the overflow
Pockets full of stones
Out of personal evaluation, one of the first and probably most important songs made by Florence Welch, the lead singer of Florence and the Machine, is “What the water gave me”, whose lyrics are attached above. This is because she managed in such an early stage of her songwriting career to already summarize the highlights of her musical genre, the softness of her aesthetics and the strength of her image- and word making. It is not only the power of the musical mastery, but the combination of the sources of inspiration that basically succeed to blow my mind: That is Frida Kahlo’s series of paintings that are depicting herself lying in the bottom of her bath, surrounded by nightmarish imaginary, coupled with the image of Virginia Woolf, who drowned herself after walking into a river with her pockets filled with stones. Although the element of water is continuously repeated throughout the album “Ceremonials” for different reasons, the focus on drowning that distinguishes this one from the rest of the collection, gives water an interesting quality: that of the punisher and the daredevil at the same time.
Florence parallelizes the overwhelming feeling of drowning with that of utterly falling in love for the first time. She even describes during her interview for NME how she sat at the bottom of a swimming pool, while on family-holiday, screaming at the top of her voice, to manically express her encapsulated feelings for the first boy she fell in love with. Despite such a parallelization, the most dramatic description she gives in her lyrics, out of issues of personal concern (in the statement: “They took your loved ones and returned them in exchange for you but would you have it any other way”) is that of the parents who dive into the sea to rescue their children, yet due to their weight, if it is for the one party to survive, then that will now be the parents: as if the survival of the one necessitates the sacrifice of the other. Because of the erotic aura that swings above the feeling of the song, even that sacrifice can be appreciated as a sort of self-abnegation, or as an indication of the realism which nevertheless underlies the relationships that are characterized by intense emotion.
However, the part of the song that fully captures me, is the lyric “So lay me down, Let the only sound, Be the overflow” due to its cruel simplicity and its penetrating allurement, which summarizes the feeling of the long summer-dives that take your breath away and make the water-plop the only affordable sound. It summarizes the moments of honest and all-embracing solitude: when the body gets loose under the mild oscillation of the water streams, when the eyes are only opened to perceive the play of light on the upper levels of the water-curves, when the fingers wrinkle in order to make the grasping of the slippery water-form elements still possible, when the lungs are ready to explode yet their destruction feels more right than ever before. When there is no guilt and no worries because the heavy weight of both, dissolves under the very rules of the nature. When disappearance is enabled for as long as the lungs permit: ironically revealing how magic can still be employed by the abilities of the body. When the shadows of the bottom cannot be terrifying, since the pure coordination of the rules of nature with those of the body, leave one way possible: and that is to be lifted upwards.
Dedicated to A. together with whom I was introduced to the mesmerizing world of Florence, which keeps us connected despite the long pathways of the actual world.
Lensed and written by Marianna Serveta,
Special thanks to Eleni Konidari for modelling for me.
Featuring “Echo” Bikini.