The Great War

First off, during the cHaOtiC release of the 3am edition of Midnights, I was fucking right about more songs coming at 3am and I am still riding that high [lol]. I had my whole swiftie group convinced I was right and thank god — I was for once.

The Great War is one of my favorite songs on this release, and the ‘uh huh’ just feels extremely good in my brain. I do see a lineage of many of her songs to this one – and again I need to say that I think that a lot of her songs are about of mix of people – however the story line of these three songs just make sense:

I thought you were leading me on
I packed my bags, left Cornelia Street
Before you even knew I was gone
But then you called, showed your hand
Cornelia Street

I blew things out of proportion, now you’re blue
Put you in jail for something you didn’t do
I pinned your hands behind your back,
oh Thought I had reason to attack, but no

Somewhere in the haze, got a sense
I’d been betrayed Your finger on my hair pin triggers
Soldier down on that icy ground
Looked up at me with honor and truth
Broken and blue, so I called off the troops
That was the night I nearly lost you
I really thought I lost you
The Great War

Taylor always releases songs when I need them. I feel like every album comes out in a time that describes my life – however – art is beautiful in that way because we can take lines and adapt them to what we are going through.

Lyrical Interpretation

My knuckles were bruised like violets
Sucker punching walls, cursed you as I sleep-talked

So obviously this is a metaphor. The emotional turmoil that happens when you are in conflict with someone you love. We find out later in the song there was a sense of betrayal, which caused a lot of this turmoil in the first place – but self created turmoil. Again through this entire album it strings together the narratives of self-sabotage and not being able to trust anyone. I love the threading of all the songs though – between lack of trust, haze of love, self-sabotage, every song is perfectly woven to one another.

Spineless in my tomb of silence

I’ve stared at this line for a while. Spineless, generally speaking means not speaking up, weak, unable to stand. …in my tomb of silence… unable to speak in my own isolation – the place I put myself… walls up surrounding me, in my own cage. My own place of confinement, I rest alone.

Tore your banners down, took the battle underground

During older wars, parades were a thing. Before the battle they’d do these weird, celebratory marches with the military to promote the war for the ‘American freedom,’ dream.

If you didn’t know, I am an art professor, specifically for photography. So I actually study these things a lot. So this line to me is kind of like, the war begun, after it had been announced. It started with an announcement, the roads cleared, the banners taken down by Taylor, the ‘fun’ ended, and the real work began. She tore down the banners of the celebratory phase, took the fighting where no one could see in secret.

And maybe it was ego swinging

We, as fans, have to admit that Taylor has to have an ego. She obviously has insecurities, but there are a lot of aspects to her that are pretty loud in being somewhat full of herself – or hella confident – and nothing is wrong with that, she has earned it [and everyone should carry confidence]. But when your name gets this large, I think it would be only natural to let it get to your head in some aspects. And this is not saying this as a bad thing. I feel this as a photographer sometimes. A lot of people know my name around my city. It doesn’t mean I am a bad person to acknowledge I am good at my job. But it can cause problems if I let it get to me and it starts showing in my work.

Maybe it was her
Flashes of the battle come back to me in a blur

Im not sure if this is a continued sentence- maybe it was her flashes of the battle? – or is her referring to the ego swinging? or is it her, the problem. Maybe it was my ego, or maybe it was her that caused this problem of trauma resurfacing – how I was left – how the battle that ended us feels like it is here again. Flashes of that last relationships battle coming back to me in small moments – causing a war that never needed to occur.

All that bloodshed, crimson clover

So bloodshed is obviously the fight and turmoil. Crimson clover means many things honestly. Crimson is a symbol of pure desire and passion. The bloodshed of the love and passion – but also Crimson clover is a southern-US adapted clover that typically winter kills but may, in a warm winter, survive in Wisconsin. The time of dormant is in the winter. There was a moment of death but it came back alive.

Uh-huh, sweet dream was over

The sweet dream was over in that time of turmoil – the time of dormant – the happiness ended and …

My hand was the one you reached for
All throughout the Great War

During the whole fight this person reached back to her [us, as listeners]. All throughout this giant argument, she was never left alone. The hand was always there – all she had to do was take it.

Always remember
Uh-huh, tears on the letter

I love this analogy because obviously the great war is referencing WWI – and the only way to receive letters or messages was hand written letters. You receive the message, you cry, you react –

I vowed not to cry anymore
If we survived the Great War

But you decided that if this argument is solved, or won, that these same narratives wont make you break down again. If we survive this – I’m good. You’re all I need and I’ll accept what you say.

You drew up some good faith treaties
I drew curtains closed, drank my poison all alone

You gave me some good compromise, and discussion. You tried to make the peace but I sat alone and took in my own created thoughts. You offered logic and reasoning, and I wanted to bask in my self-sabotage.

You said I have to trust more freely

This is a constant narrative in a lot of her work within some of Reputation, a lot of Lover, and within many songs on Folklore and Evermore. Which she circles back to in Anti-Hero. Taylor constantly writes about her guard being up and unable to trust because of past relationships.

But diesel is desire, you were playin’ with fire

I read this line as she was the fire. Desire to be with her was the diesel – pushing on the gas that made her combust. Or that she was simply the fire – uncontrollable, unmanageable, jumping to conclusions, but the desire to overcome this aspect of her is what kept this pursuit.

The fire could also be their love for one another – the fire that burns in the heart for someone else. Wanting them to accept loving of themselves, and love for themselves. The times burned will be worth it in the end.

And maybe it’s the past that’s talkin’
Screamin’ from the crypt

The past relationships coming back to harm her mind – creating narratives that weren’t there based of past pain.

Tellin’ me to punish you for things you never did
So I justified it

This is the line of the continued story from the songs I posted above. And there are many other songs with this lineage too! I think this line is very relatable to most of us. We carry our pain from other relationships. I can tell you when I was 16 I had a boyfriend cheat on me with two of my best friends and it stayed with me – that insecurity – for a decade. I carried that boy’s actions and placed it on to every relationship I got involved in after that – unable to trust a soul for some other boy’s actions.

All that bloodshed, crimson clover
Uh-huh, the bombs were close and

The bombs were so close – the end was so near –

My hand was the one you reached for
All throughout the Great War

Always remember
Uh-huh, the burning embers

The burning embers is a beautiful phrase. A beautiful orange glow – but so dangerous. The remnants of the fire that still severely burn if you revisit or touch them- but in the past

I vowed not to fight anymore
If we survived the Great War

It turned into something bigger
Somewhere in the haze, got a sense I’d been betrayed

I adore this line for the use of somewhere in the haze, referencing the Lavender Haze. Somewhere in the haze of being comfortable and in love, the fight began and it turned into something that it wasn’t. The fights of my past relationships came back to me in waves of memory and I thought you were pulling the same shit my last relationship pulled on me.

Your finger on my hair pin triggers

Hair pin triggers reference the quickest way to ‘trigger’ someone. So “you drew stars around my scars and now I’m bleeding.” You knew the scars that hurt me most – you poked at them and caused me to react in the worst way possible, the fastest way possible.

Really called a hair trigger. It’s a modification made to a gun which makes it respond to very little pressure on the trigger. Allows for faster firing.

You may have heard the phrase hair pin trigger temper referring to someone who reacts strongly when angry. As an adjective hair trigger has been described to mean “easily activated or set off; reacting immediately to the slightest provocation or cause”

Soldier down on that icy ground
Looked up at me with honor and truth

The person fighting the war with me [her] was fighting in nothing but good intention and genuine truthfulness. Showing me that I was the problem – taking it out of context and blowing a smaller thing up into something large out of the fear of being hurt again.

Broken and blue, so I called off the troops
That was the night I nearly lost you
I really thought I lost you

I saw you were genuine, and put my armor down – I thought we were going to be over – and realized this was in my head

We can plant a memory garden

Memorial gardens are areas planted for a specific purpose. That purpose is to remember someone or something special. Memorial gardens are usually planted in memory of people who have passed away. The garden is planted as a tribute to the life or lives that were lost. Documenting a special moment in time where the end was near but the love prevailed. I also see this as a tribute to the things that died during the fight – so kind of like – the part of Taylor that caused the war to happen, being put to rest.

Say a solemn prayer, place a poppy in my hair

A solemn prayer usually happens at funerals – and poppies: The poppy is the enduring symbol of remembrance of the First World War. It is strongly linked with Armistice Day (11 November), but the poppy’s origin as a popular symbol of remembrance lies in the landscapes of the First World War. Poppies were a common sight, especially on the Western Front.

There’s no morning glory, it was war, it wasn’t fair

The morning glory can be symbolic of strength, giving a person the power to realize their hopes and dreams. These flowers are resilient, and they pass this power on to their recipient. It’s believed that the ability to grow through adversity resonates through the flower.

There was no reason for the fight – the fight wasn’t a fair one – there wasn’t any strength or hope of the fight – it was a life lesson rather than a relationship builder.

And we will never go back

To that bloodshed, crimson clover
Uh-huh, the worst was over
My hand was the one you reached for
All throughout the Great War
Always remember
Uh-huh, we’re burned for better
I vowed I would always be yours
‘Cause we survived the Great War

we’re burned for the better – after a big fight a lot of relationships gain understanding.

In my own life I personally feel this. In the moment of pure fighting or honesty, the words can seem very hurtful or blindsiding – but it brings you closer to the person you are arguing with. When all walls are down, all honesty is there, all things on the table – whether the relationship ends or lasts, it has the ability to give full information and true vulnerability. It burned us for the better – it made our communication clearer, it made me get over what I accused you of – and because of that I promise, I vow to be yours ’cause we got thru this. paper rings? what?

Image Representation

We will never go back to that bloodshed, crimson clover

the worst was over

My hand was the one you reached for

All throughout the Great War

Always remember

we’re burned for better

I vowed I would always be yours

‘Cause we survived the Great War

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