For the first part see here:Paul Simon: “The Boxer” (2.Analysis – first part)
Now the years are rolling by me
they are rockin’ evenly
I am older than I once was
and younger than I’ll be and that’s not unusual.
No it isn’t strange
after changes upon changes
we are more or less the same
after changes we are more or less the same
The original song included this verse that is missing from the “Bridge Over Troubled Water” album, where it was replaced by a musical bridge, purely for aesthetic reasons. However, it often sung in concerts: it highlights the passage of time and how we are affected by it, and may confirm that the lyrics are largely autobiographical.
On 30 March 2020, when Simon released a YouTube version of the song dedicated to fellow New Yorkers during the coronavirus pandemic, he included this verse.
Time has passed, the narrator has endured great hardship, but he is still the poor boy he was in the beginning.
The repetition of “we are more or less the same” suggests that new things, good and bad, always happen, but. basically, we are not different.
Then I’m laying out my winter clothes
and wishing I was gone
where the New York City winters aren’t bleeding me,
bleeding me, going home
He is “laying out [his] winter clothes.” to prepare for the winter but he longs for the milder winters of the place of his boyhood. He wants to go home to a safe environment, maybe to escape the poverty he has to endure, yet he remains in the city that continues to exploit him.
The “bleeding me,/ bleeding me” part highlights the torture the city is inflicting on him, making him eventually decide to go home.
The syntax, here, breaks down, as if the speaker is trying to gather his thoughts.
In the clearing stands a boxer
and a fighter by his trade
and he carries the reminders
of every glove that laid him down
or cut him till he cried out
in his anger and his shame
“I am leaving, I am leaving”
but the fighter still remains
In the final verse, the narration changes to third person and the boxer is mentioned for the first time. By now, he has become a metaphor for each of us, when we try to make a better life for ourselves, and the result is the scars, both physical and emotional, that remain. Life is a boxing match against not only the people who are fighting against us, but also ourselves.
The shifting from the first person to the third may imply that some sort of change has happened, some modification of mental state or perspective.
The “clearing” is strange, since it is a place in a forest, which does not exist in New York City. Has the boxer been able to gone home, to a rural place? The term might also designate the boxing ring: the narrator wants to leave New York and the boxer wants to leave the ring because they’re both facing serious problems, but in the end they both remain.
The metaphor “And he carries the reminders/ of every glove that laid him down” describes the reminders that we all have of everything we have failed at. The boxer will carry those reminders for his entire life, no matter the progress he has made, because people can never escape from their own memories. All the cuts and marks he carries are symbolic of all the times life has tried to bring him down, and even though he sometimes was tempted to giving up, he has not, and never will, because he is a fighter.
The boxer who “cries out” that he’s leaving while the fighter remains means that despite losing the battle, his spirit will never be defeated. But, although the boxer may be seen as a symbol of perseverance, the last lines, “the fighter still remains, / still remains” suggest his sad resignation: he will continue to fight and be beaten by life, with the drums symbolizing every blow he takes.
The boy has become a fighter, and although he is not a winner, he is not loser either, simply because he endures and perseveres (“remains.“). This is his triumph: he “stands,” despite it all.