Song Lyric Sunday — Geometry Test

For this week’s Song Lyric Sunday, Jim Adams is giving us a geometry test by asking us to use “circle,” “polygon,” “square,” or “triangle” as the theme. I had no doubt that, as soon as I saw this prompt, I was going to go with Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game.” Why? Because Joni Mitchell is one of my favorite singer/songwriters and “The Circle Game” is one of my favorite songs of hers.

“The Circle Game” was written by Mitchell in 1967, but was not recorded until it was included as a track on Joni Mitchell’s third studio album, Ladies of the Canyon, which was released in 1970. It was one of the Mitchell’s early signature songs and featured background vocals from David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, and Neil Young on the recording. “The Circle Game” was allegedly written as a response to Neil Young’s “Sugar Mountain,” which was about lost innocence. Young sings, “You can’t be 20 on Sugar Mountain.” Mitchell’s last verse responds with the 20-year-old facing diminished dreams but still with plenty of hope.

In this poetic song, Joni Mitchell tells the story of a child’s journey to adulthood using a carousel as a metaphor for the years that go by. She points out that we can look back, but we can’t return to our past. Although it was never a big hit, “The Circle Game” became one of Mitchell’s most popular songs. It’s also one of her most-covered songs, with over 200 artists recording it.

In the same year that Mitchell wrote “The Circle Game,” The Hollies had a hit with “On A Carousel,” which uses the same imagery to describe the stages of a romance. That song was co-written and sung by Graham Nash, who would become a big part of Mitchell’s life two years later when they moved in together, shacking up in a very, very, very fine house.

Here are the lyrics to “The Circle Game.”

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
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

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 through 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

And go round and round and round
In the circle game

17 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday — Geometry Test

  1. J-Dub December 20, 2020 / 6:41 am

    Love Joni Mitchell and this song is always makes me nostalgic. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  2. J-Dub December 20, 2020 / 6:42 am

    I love Joni Mitchell and this song always makes me nostalgic. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. newepicauthor December 20, 2020 / 7:49 am

    This is my second favorite Joni song after Clouds. She could really write beautiful lyrics.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Carol anne December 20, 2020 / 9:58 am

    and this is a new one to me as I never heard it before! I know joni but not this song!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango December 20, 2020 / 12:43 pm

      It’s great song, isn’t it?

      Like

  5. Jen Goldie December 20, 2020 / 11:54 am

    Joni Mitchell has always been one of my favourites. I almost used Circle Game.
    Great choice!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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