Monday, January 29th, 2018...5:42 amVictoria

“Blazon” Literary Term In Music

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Definition of “blazon” in the Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms:

“A poetic catalogue of a woman’s admirable physical features, common in Elizabethan lyric poetry: an extended example in Sidney’s ‘What tongue can her perfections tell?’ The Petrarchan conventions of the blazon include a listing of parts from the hair down, and the use of hyperbole and simile in describing lips like coral, teeth like pearls, and so on. These conventions are mocked in the tradition of the counter-blazon, of which the best-known example is Shakespeare’s 130th sonnet, ‘My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun'”.

I chose two songs to represent the term “blazon” because I think they both represent the term in different ways. The first song I chose was “Your Body Is A Wonderland” by John Mayer. I chose this song because of these lyrics: “Your skin like porcelain / One pair of candy lips and / Your bubblegum tongue”, as well as “Your body is a wonderland” and “you look so good it hurts sometimes”. The first set of lyrics relate to blazon because of the simile “your skin like porcelain” and the hyperbole of the phrases “candy lips” and “bubblegum tongue”. The woman Mayer is addressing of course does not possess those attributes in the literal sense, but in choosing to describe her physical features in such a way, he is highlighting them in a more dramatic, poetic fashion, which is the purpose behind blazon. The second set of phrases are less specific in their description but also emphasis this woman’s physical beauty. The phrasing suggests an awed, almost reverent tone.

The second song I chose was “Hell On The Heart” by Eric Church. The lines I want to focus on are “She’s as pretty as a picture / Every bit as funny as she is smart / Got a smile that’ll hold you together / And a touch that’ll tear you apart”. These lines, although not as poetically physically descriptive as the Mayer song, also describe a woman’s physical features in the form of similes. Church’s phrases are more abstract than Mayer’s, and also include a description of the woman’s personality instead of solely focusing on her body.

I thought these examples of blazon were interesting because they both fit the term in different ways. Church’s song, though more polite and abstract, as well as less suggestive, was also less poetic in terms of its description. Listening to the two songs, I was struck by their contrasting sounds. Mayer’s song was soft and melodic, while Church’s was a more fast-paced country song. I felt that it would almost make more sense if the lyrics between the two songs were switched to each other’s separate melodies. It made me think of how blazon is a very general term and can be used in different tones to produce varied effects, even if the writers/lyricists are technically employing the same literary device.

 



5 Comments

  • I love that you used “Your body is a Wonderland” by John Mayer to illustrate the use of blazon. I would have never thought that this song was one that used blazon because I’ve never closely looked into the lyrics of the song. You make a great point that he uses descriptions such as “candy lips” and “bubblegum tongue.” I think that because John Mayer’s song is so soft and slow-paced I never thought of the image that it portrayed on women. The image that John Mayer portrays is that women are like candy and does not illustrate any part of their intelligence or anything beyond their physical features. By contrasting this slow-paced song with Eric Church’s “Hell on the Heart” and the use of smilies to describe the women’s physical features, it provides a different look into your term. Not only does Church illustrate a women’s physical features, but he goes beyond to illustrate their intelligence and personality. In my opinion, Church uses blazon in a way that is less about solely introducing women for only their physical features. I think that the contrast more throughly indicates that blazon is a term that is not completely defined and there is more than one way to use it.

  • P.S. Here are the links to where I found the lyrics:

    https://genius.com/John-mayer-your-body-is-a-wonderland-lyrics

    https://genius.com/Eric-church-hell-on-the-heart-lyrics

  • Before reading this post, I had no clue what blazon meant. However, after reading this, I thought “Oh, it shouldn’t be too hard to think of a song that describes the admiral features of a woman’s body! There are so many.” However, after sitting and thinking for a while, I realized that my go to choice would be “Your Body Is A Wonderland” by John Mayer, which you already chose. As I was thinking some more, I realized that admirable probably meant something different to me than it does to male songwriters. With the current push to irradiate female stereotypes, I was more so looking for a song that appreciated a woman’s figure, while also appreciating what’s on the inside. Unfortunately, I think it’s harder to find songs like these (although, I do recognize that there certainly are some out there). This is why I appreciated that you picked two songs because “Hell On The Heart” describes both the outward and inward features of a woman. While I may wish that blazon could require a relationship between the physical appearance and her inward qualities, I now understand the meaning of blazon.

  • After reading your article, I realize that “blazon” is a technique that is widely employed in lyrics writing. To me, your post evokes many questions, one of which being the vexed issue of sexual objectification in our current society.

    The striking difference between the two songs used in this post clearly demonstrates a fine line between showing admiration for a woman’s physical features and objectifying her. Compared to John Mayer’s “Your Body is a Wonderland”, Eric Church’s “Hell on the Heart” is apparently less descriptive and graphic. However, the latter song portrays the female character in a more delicate and respectful manner, praising her for both outer and inner beauty. In other words, this song regards the woman as an ideal lover who possesses not only a pretty appearance but also a personality that melts a man’s heart. On the contrary, the former piece deems the woman as a desirable object of sexual desires. Even the series of images that John Mayer includes in his song (“skin like porcelain”, “candy lips”, and “bubblegum tongue”) depicts an attractive, yet rather doll-like and soulless woman. Put another way, this song does not portray the female character as a whole person with emotions and feelings.

    Your article serves is a reminder to the problem of sexual objectification, especially in music and literature. There is certainly no harm in employing “blazon” to describe a charming woman poetically. However, this literary device should be utilized carefully so that it will not turn into a tool for sexual objectification.

  •   Professor Seiler
    February 5th, 2018 at 8:58 pm

    Victoria–great start to the blog here, and lovely to see the conversation your post sparked, too. Like your peers, I’m so struck by the aptness and variety of both of your examples. Your post demonstrates at once how *common* blazon is and how variable the trope can be. As Marissa and Trang note in response to your good insights, blazon can be remade in a less… objectifying mode.

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