Photo: Isak Engström

Fields of Gold

“You have got me again over the Path not taken & no mistake…I doubt if you can get anyone to see the fun of the thing without showing them and advising them what kind of laugh they are to turn on.”

Edward Thomas to Robert Frost — July 11, 1915

Many, many people misinterpret the meaning of Robert Frosts’ poem, ‘The Road not Taken’. A while back, in conversation with a close friend of mine he offered, “why does it matter? Surely what makes a great poem great is that people can reinterpret it from the authors original meaning. Giving it a new life and new understanding”

On reflection, my friend is correct. And this Reflection is on such a reinterpretation by me, of a song. For what’s true of poetry is true of any art form. In considering the subject, the reader, viewer, or listener brings their own emotions, experience, or belief to bear.

Take Dali’s well known, ‘The Persistence of Memory’, the painting inspired by Camembert cheese melting in the sun. However, the Art World took it that Dali offered a view on Einstein’s theory of relativity. The melting clocks representing the fluidity of time and space.

Or there’s the misinterpretation of Bruce Springsteen’s, ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ as a song about American patriotism. In fact, the piece is the very antithesis of that and is a criticism of the government of the USA.

Even in literature, misinterpretation happens. Take ‘The Great Gatsby’, a favourite novel of mine. Fitzgerald himself said of it, “Of all the reviews, even the most enthusiastic, not one had the slightest idea what the book was about”. Little read for decades after publication, the novel became part of pop culture with the term ‘Gatsbyesque’ emerging after the release of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 film. I’ve written before that the story is not character or plot-driven but language-driven. A great novel because, as my friend offered re poetry, it is continuously open to reinterpretation. Even by the same reader. Read it in your teens, and it offers one thing. Read it in middle age, and it will offer another.

So, what is the song I’ve reinterpreted of which I made mention earlier? It’s ‘Fields of Gold’ written by Sting. Although in listening, I prefer the Eva Cassidy version below. There was a purity to Eva’s voice; I find it both haunting and engaging. I write ‘was’ as sadly Eva died from cancer in 1996 aged only thirty-three.

Sting’s inspiration for the song was the Barley fields that surrounded his then house. That inspiration then developed to underpin the theme of the permanence of true love, from the first meeting to death and beyond.

I recognise all that. However, in my interpretation, I see a late August day of many years ago. A harvest-gold sun burning in an azure sky clear of cloud. A young family on holiday. Walking. Taking a pathway through a field of barley. Traversing an ocean of shimmering bleached yellow. Two small children almost lost within the tall stalks. Boisterous. Happy laughter fills the air. Fleeting golden moments. A memory across decades. Kindled by a song.

“Many years have passed since those summer days among the fields of Barley

See the children run as the sun goes down among the fields of gold”

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