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Meaning of the song ‘Would That I’ by ‘Hozier’

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Released: 2019

Let’s dive into Hozier’s “Would That I” – a melancholic musing that elegantly traverses through metaphors of love and loss, where Hozier conjures images of a love that was once alight, but now only smolders in ashes. He portrays the personal transformation he experienced through various relationships using tremendous symbolism tied inextricably to nature and fire.

When Hozier mentions the woman’s hair as “like the branch of a tree” and her love as a “willow dancing on air”, he utilizes nature as an allegory for his feelings. The branch represents the spontaneous and energetic nature of his love. But alas, this love is as fleeting as a “willow dancing on air”, a symbol of his transient relationships and unrequited love. And here come our potent pop culture history references – we can see echoes of the ’60s and ’70s flower power aesthetics, where romanticism and nature were deeply intertwined.

Furthering this journey, the line “True that love in withdrawal was the weeping of me/That the sound of the saw must be known by the tree” alludes to the deep pain of love’s withdrawal. Here, Hozier compares himself to a tree being felled – he knows (feels) the pain before the final cut, signifying the end of a relationship.

And then, amidst this heartache, we have Hozier’s hook or chorus expressing a stubborn hope – “And it’s not tonight (oh, oh)/Where I’m set alight”. He overlays the luminescence of relationships with the metaphor of fire, signifying his yearning for lost passion and the sudden ignition of love.

Conversely, in “With each love I cut loose, I was never the same/Watching still living roots be consumed by the flame”, his hurt is palpable. Again, with the wood and flame metaphor, he speaks of moving on from relationships, only to watch previously rooted love smoulder to nothing – a poignant symbol of heartbreaking loss and change.

Ultimately, as the song concludes, Hozier returns to his lover’s goodness, like a moth drawn to a flame, serenading – “Oh, but you’re good to me”. Proving that despite the pain of past relationships, he acknowledges their transformative power, and expresses his adoration for his partner.

“Would That I” is a testament to Hozier’s ability to transform raw emotions with lyrical complexity into a universal pop song, subtly teaching us that, like nature, love grows, shines, burns, and even dies, but the beauty of the flame will keep us coming back for more. And isn’t that pop culture at its best?

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