the wind in the willow

Untill now the partsongs were dealing with true love. But, as the summaries confirm, this is by definition not the subject of the covered story that should be there. And as the first trace of a cryptic message is found in the centre of Sweet Day, its key is the centre part of the overall song.

It is music that does not exist

Whatever Desdemona may think of it; willows never sing. The Song of Willow is therefore irrelevant; only the spoken word counts here. And Shakespeare aptly inserts quite a lot of them. Beginning halfway:

‘Othello; the Moor of Venice’ – Act IV; iii

… fell from her, and soften’d the stones;
Sing, willow…
‘Lay by these.’

At first sight this is an instruction to roommaid Emilia, but a more carefull look in the New Webster’s Dictionary reveals that this says in old English something like: ‘Song in itself’. Desdemona resumes singing, and the audience therefore hasn’t heard enough allready to call it a song. To people taking a singing willow for granted, the effect is that Shakespeare apparently claims this stage song to be nothing but some incidental music. Which produces a contradiction to the obvious fact that this song is purposedly inserted as a dramatic turn of the screw that will unavoidably squeeze Desdemona to death. And so there can be little doubt that the interruption in fact to announce that the real song is not in the singing, but in the inserted prose. Then, within seconds, follows:

…willow, willow,
‘Prithee, hie thee: he’ll come anon’,

In modern English this says: ‘Please go, he will come at once. And ‘to come’ is in daily use just a word, so there should be absolutely no reason whatsoever to suppose that Desdemona refers to sex. The word only shifts to crude language in close connection with ‘to lay’ anyway.

But who is ‘he’? Not husband Othello, only turning up in the dead of night to strangle her. Her long waiting for him to join her between the very sheets that were in use during their first wedded night, is therefore nothing compared to human life. So she indeed announces her untimely end; it is Death who comes to her at once. And he comes in raging passion: a strangulation involves very close body contact and strong sexual feelings.

A ‘ladykiller’ is known to make lots of women ‘die’ in passion. The sexually deranged literal version is almost by definition a strangler. Domestic violence may result in a severely battered lady, but repulsive as it is, this kind of abuse is only applied to control her and therefore never kills on purpose. 

 …Sing all a green willow must be my garland.
Let nobody blame him, his scorn I approve.
‘No, that is not next.  Harke, who is’t that knocks?’
Emilia: It is the wind.

Again; her words might have nothing to do with making a baby – Death himself is at her door – but Emilia’s answer certainly has: one can imagine lots of sounds produced by the wind in the willows, but knocking ones..?

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