“Bridge Over Troubled Water”
Simon & Garfunkel
When you’re weary, feeling small,
When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all;
I’m on your side. When times get rough
And friends just can’t be found,
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.

When you’re down and out,
When you’re on the street,
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you.
I’ll take your part.
When darkness comes
And pain is all around,
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.

Sail on silvergirl,
Sail on by.
Your time has come to shine.
All your dreams are on their way.
See how they shine.
If you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind.
Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s duo, Simon & Garfunkel, is one of the most beloved duos of all time. Their music has inspired generations, and they influenced the lives of millions. Paul Simon wrote this song in the aftermath of the assassination of president John F. Kennedy. This song’s success propelled them to popularity beyond their wildest dreams. Simon was the primary writer for the duo, and at the peak of their success in 1970, they split. Tensions were always high between the two. Their split makes you wonder how much more they could have done if they had stayed together. Simon went on to have a successful solo career, and he pulled in 12 Grammys. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and he was selected as one of the “100 People Who Shaped the World” by Time Magazine.
Poetic Technique
Refrain: A phrase or verse reoccurring at intervals in a song or poem, especially at the end of each stanza.
At the end of each stanza, “like a bridge over troubled water” is repeated twice. Between each utterance apart from the last, the line “I will lay me down” is repeated. At the end of the last stanza, the line changes to “I will ease your mind.” This change really makes you pay attention to the lyrics, and listen to the meanings of those words. The title of the song is also named after the refrain.
This song is beautiful. Art Garfunkel is the reason for the song’s beauty and depth, simply due to the  way he sings it. There are really two ways in which this song can be interpreted, and they are polar opposites.
The first way has to do with the happiness and inspiration in the “bridge.” This “bridge over troubled water” gets you through hard times, and makes you stronger in the meantime. “When you’re weary, feeling small” implies that when you are in a period of darkness, and cannot necessarily see the light, something will act as a bridge and get you out. The “troubled water” serves as the metaphorical problems. Whatever can make you better has a positive impact. By saying “all your dreams are on their way” implies that this “bridge” has been able to push you through the darkness directly into the light. The dreams can now be fully realized because, simply, the person has made it through. In this sense, the “bridge” is almost a guardian angel. It drags the person through the muck and eventually, the person finds the strength in them self to move on.
On the other hand, this bridge can be a negative thing.
When you’re weary, feeling small,
When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all;”
These two lines show that when a person is sad or depressed, it can serve as a helping hand, and dry their tears. This, at first, seems positive. However, at the end, when the “dreams are on their way,”  dreams could be representative of death. Or, at least, an end. The events in the poem imply that as the person gets sadder and sadder, they become more reliant on this “clutch,” and as a means of escape, lose themselves. The bridge eventually weans this person off of life itself, and takes the person away. This is best supported by the line “I will ease your mind.” The easing of someone’s mind is something induced by narcotics or alcohol, and they are both heavily addictive. This song could serve as a plea by one of these addictive objects (not necessarily something as tangible as alcohol or drugs, mind you) to return to them. They can, in fact, ease your mind from the troubles you face. They seem so helpful and positive to the person at that time, but sadly, they are the worst things to become attached to. The conclusion that I can draw out of this poem is that even while a temporary form of relief is preferable, it can do more damage than construction.
bridge over troubled water visual
Visual Explanation
Despite the pretty melodic exterior of this song, I see it as more sad. These cigarettes are meant to represent this “bridge over troubled water,” which in this case, can be a coping mechanism through harm times. The line “I will ease your mind” really strikes a chord, and makes the song seem more sad than it already is. Cigarettes, alcohol, self-harm, and prescription medication are all coping mechanisms for demons that we cannot understand. They ease your mind from the problems at hand and keep your focus elsewhere. Granted, not everyone copes with things such as depression in such a destructive way, but it is more common than not. This visual represents the theme of the poem, which is that even the most pleasurable means of relief are not always constructive.

One thought on “Refrain

  1. I’m so surprised that you know the music of Simon and Garfunkel. This is such a beautiful lyric whose big ideas are seminar worthy.

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