Forum: “viva la vida” poetry analysis

English 300OL
“Viva La Vida” Poetry Analysis!!!

For this discussion, we are going to consider contemporary songwriters as contemporary poets. In addition to poetic lyrics, music offers us melody and rhythm. Please consider both aspects of this genre AND our How to Analyze Poetry handout as you analyze meaning. So, let’s get our semester “rocking!”

Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida” takes its name from a painting by 20th century Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, and translates as “Long live the life” in Spanish. The album’s artwork features the painting Liberty Leading the People (La Liberté guidant le peuple) by French painter Eugène Delacroix, commemorating the July Revolution of 1830. Please view the painting online:Liberty Leading the People

Scroll down our Moodle page to watch the YouTube video of “Viva La Vida!” 


Here are the song’s lyrics – please read carefully:

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemies eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing:
“Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!”

One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt, and pillars of sand

I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can not explain
Once you know there was never, never an honest word
That was when I ruled the world

It was the wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in.
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People could not believe what I’d become
Revolutionaries Wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king? 

I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can not explain
I know Saint Peter won’t call my name
Never an honest word
And that was when I ruled the world
(Ohhhhh Ohhh Ohhh)

Hear Jerusalem bells are ringings
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can not explain
I know Saint Peter will call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world
Oooooh Oooooh Oooooh


In your response to this song, I would like you to consider the following poetic elements and the Basic Questions for Rhetorical Analysis :

1. Who is the speaker in this song? What is the rhetorical situation (the situation/problem/conflict for the song’s speaker)?

2. What occasion or event (historical or personal) may have compelled the song writer to write this song? Is this song about the life of one person or are the song’s themes of religion and power universal to humankind?

3. What is the speaker’s intention? Coldplay’s album cover displays a famous painting regarding Napoleon’s French Revolution. Is this song about Napoleon? Is it about revolution? Personal or national liberty? Are there parallels to today’s leaders?

4. Who is the intended audience? What values does the audience hold that the author or speaker appeals to? Their are several references to Christianity in this song. What do the references symbolize? What do the references mean to the speaker of the poem? What is your personal reaction to “hearing” this song and “reading” the lyrics?

Please post an initial response of 500 words.  Kindly post a 3-4 sentence response to five (5) of your peers.  Please be specific, thorough, and POSITIVE in your responses.

Good luck and have fun!

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