Wild Horses by The Rolling Stones (lyrics by Mick Jagger)
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The lyrics to “Wild Horses” are deceptively simple. The refrain sets up a simple metaphor – wild horses could not drag the narrator away from his love and their situation. However, at the end of the song, the narrator says “Wild horses, we’ll ride them someday”, acknowledging that the phrase “wild horses” also indicates excitement and death-defying possibility.
The basic plot of the song is straightforward. The first lyric “Childhood living is easy to do” refers to young love, and its ease compared to the more complex love of adulthood. “The things you wanted, I bought them for you” is a simple statement about desires easily fulfilled. However, the song grows darker as it progresses and it becomes clear that the love between the narrator and his love object has grown more complex.
“I watched you suffer a dull aching pain/Now you decided to show me the same” is a couplet that is ambiguous, but clearly indicates that the narrator’s lover has suffered and is acting out against her partner. A brief theater metaphor is used in the lines “No sweeping exits or offstage lines.” A sweeping exit is a dramatic one – the narrator is not leaving. An offstage line is one spoken from the wings, presumably upon exit. The narrator again refutes the possibility of his leaving with these words.
He refers again to some dispute between them with the words “Faith has been broken, tears must be cried.” But he challenges this dim appraisal with the lyric “Let’s do some living after we die.” The song ends on a hopeful note for the couple.
Lyrically, the song follows a simple couplet rhyming structure, with the “Wild horses” lyric as a refrain. The majority of the rhyming is slant (ie. “am” rhymed with “hands” and “pain” rhymed with “same”, among others.) Assonance appears throughout the song, most noticeably in the first stanza, where most of the vowels are “oo” sounds. Instances of alliteration are present in the line that refers to “sweeping exits” and “off stage lines” as well as the line fragment “Let’s do some living.”
Overall the song exemplifies well-written clear English poetic lyrics with simple metaphors and pleasingly phrased lines. The refrain is simple, but compelling and the song has been covered by many artists for its ability to be rendered with a variety of interpretations.