This poem is primarily about what it is to be in intellectual solitude… to have an ideology consume your life and become the lens by which you view the world. In the poem, a singer from old tavern culture forsakes his jovial lifestyle with his band for a political cause. I did not write this as an advocation for a political cause, rather as an acknowledgement of the fate of people throughout history who have sought radical change and have faced a tragic demise. His former naïve state is lost forever; no more can he sit idly by and be a drunken musician. He finds a sadder tune to sing, one which paints his world picture. This is the purpose of the third stanza.
There is a shift in both time and place at the start of the fourth stanza, with the narrative suddenly becoming located in South America- largely because communist revolutionaries from this region of the world often found such brutal ends. The singer gathers a following amongst people who are susceptible to his cause yet he is the only intellectual. Despite having a following he is still alone, his supporters only understand his cause on a surface level. He is therefore eventually abandoned yet the singer is so consumed by his own ideology that he cannot give up. As a result, he meets a sad death which is a metaphor for the ability of a mindset or ideology to cause turmoil in a person. In his final moments his fate is contrasted with the rest of his band who have remained happy in their simple lifestyle, signifying the fate of the intellectual.
Words by Jimmy Benjamin. Read his poem below:
Tavern to tavern
Euphony. To sing, to be well versed in
The townsmen embrace,
Bitter and Brandy spewing from their noses,
He was one of their own.
Accordion and Lute, bar wench and ale,
Man and song, woven tapestry of Olde.
A caravan of creeds, transient and uniform.
The chimes of midnight, waving through the bright stars
Together they had rung.
Mid Song the voice croaked and cracked,
Under cover of darkness the singer fled
Following the scent of the cold hard
Sickle. The metallic nangs pounding in his head.
It flushed the world into a grey gloaming.
Soledad, starved and sober,
The grain of the Andes, the sweat of the jungle,
The singer comes and goes.
He spreads word and lays down the line,
A gospel to the men of young and old.
Out of the pastoral he emerged,
Into the mines, satanic indeed.
The storm clouds of concrete besmirched.
His hoard came with him to the city gates,
Yet with the key produced, behind them they stayed.
Affluence offended, a lynching was called.
They carried him away, bloody leaves marring their souls.
Strung to an oak with nothing but an acoustic,
A brooding tune he sighed, the strings resolute.
On the other side of the world, the band raved on,
While he hung resolute.