Paul Simon: “The Boxer” (2.Analysis –second part)

(pixabay: Art Tower

For the first part see here:Paul Simon: “The Boxer” (2.Analysis – first part)

Verse 4

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.

Verse 5

Then I’m laying out my winter clothes
and wishing I was gone
going home
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.

Verse 6

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
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.

45 thoughts on “Paul Simon: “The Boxer” (2.Analysis –second part)

  1. Wonderful! We can perceive more how great is this song. As you mentioned, the passage: “Now the years are rolling by me they are rockin’ evenly… ” is added after publishing the LP. I heard it at the first concert and I was very surprised, as the audience; they all began to clap their hands 😄 would never forget. Grazie mia cara Amica 🙏💖

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve always admired Paul Simon’s lyrics, and this songs is one of my favorites. I enjoyed reading your take on his words. Also, I didn’t know about the extra verse. Interesting and informative post.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I thank you for your kind nomination and I am really honoured that you thought of me 🙏 I’d love to participate but I prefer to use my blog time to visit my friends’ blogs and comment on their wonderful posts. I also feel that their valued comments, their words of supports, their appreciations are my awards.
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  3. Hello Luisa. After some time away from the blog, I find myself with this pleasant surprise of your so complete analysis of the song The Boxer.
    The 70s was my college days and I was a fan of the duo. I did not imagine the content of the lyrics of the song. Only your keen analytical insight can bring the story to life. I have enjoyed reading as well as reminding me of old times with the music that shook the world.
    A great post from start to finish.
    My regards Luisa
    Manuel Angel

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Bellissimo il finale, il senso del tutto, la morale!!! Provarci sempre, non mollare, non arretrare… è uno splendido invito a fare altrettanto. Grazie!!!! Ciao cara Luisa 😘😘🌹🌹

    Liked by 1 person

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