Song Lyric Sunday — The Carousel of Time

For this week’s Song Lyric Sunday theme, Helen Vahdati chose “game.” To be honest, last August, in response to a WordPress one-word prompt, “carousel,” I used the same song I’m using today. Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game.” I hope it’s okay for me to double-dip this song for your prompt, Helen.

Anyway, Joni Mitchell wrote this song for her third studio album, Ladies of the Canyon, which was released in March 1970 to critical acclaim. In the song, she tells the story of a child’s journey to adulthood. She uses a carousel as a metaphor for the years that go by, pointing out how we can look back, but we can’t return to our past.

The song opens with a young boy enjoying the wonder of youth, but looking forward to getting older. In the second verse, he is sixteen and driving. The final verse finds him at twenty, with his dreams tempered a bit, but still with high hopes for his future.

In an interview in 1994 for a music magazine, Mitchell said: “I didn’t write ‘The Circle Game’ as a children’s song, but I’m very pleased to see it go into the culture in that way.”

Although it was never a big hit, “The Circle Game” became one of Mitchell’s most popular songs.

Here are the song’s lyrics.

Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star

Then the child moved ten times round the seasons
Skated over ten clear frozen streams
Words like when you’re older must appease him
And promises of someday make his dreams

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game 

Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now
Cartwheels turn to car wheels thru the town
And they tell him take your time it won’t be long now
Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There’ll be new dreams maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

19 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday — The Carousel of Time

  1. newepicauthor July 1, 2018 / 6:48 am

    My High School English teacher made us analyze this song and explain the meaning for an essay writing grade.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango July 1, 2018 / 7:42 am

      Do you still have that essay? Probably not. I don’t have any of my writings from back then. I wish I had kept them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Suze July 1, 2018 / 6:58 am

    how serendipitous…I just pulled that album out this morning to listen to it. Haven’t done that in at least ten years.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango July 1, 2018 / 7:31 pm

      I never thought of it as a children’s song, but I guess some see it that way.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Dlrands July 2, 2018 / 9:10 pm

    Absolutely love this song. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Like

  4. leigha66 July 3, 2018 / 12:37 pm

    I’d never heard this one before… good one. Thanks for the introduction.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Helen Vahdati July 8, 2018 / 2:49 pm

    What a beautiful song. I’ve always loved Joni’s voice. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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