Song Lyric Sunday — Love’s Illusions

This week’s theme from Helen Vahdati for her Song Lyric Sunday prompt is “picture/photograph.” For anyone who has been following my blog, you know that I’m a big Jackson Browne fan. And perhaps my favorite Jackson Browne song is “Fountain of Sorrow.”

“Fountain of Sorrow,” written by Browne, was released as his second single from his 1974 album, Late for the Sky. Because of its lenght (6:42), it never made it to the Billboard Hot 100 listing, but it’s still considered one of his best known, best loved songs.

The song starts out with someone looking through some photographs and is surprised by what he sees. According to Browne, the song “talks about disappointment, but in a forgiving way.” He explained that “it acknowledges that people are always looking for something in each other that they may not find. The song says that not only is that okay, but what’s more enduring is the goodwill and acceptance of each others’ right to be on this search and to make your own choices, and that one’s longing or sorrow is part of your own search, not a byproduct of somebody else’s.”

Some have suggested that the song was inspired by Browne’s brief relationship with Joni Mitchell, another one of my favorite artists. One quality of this song, and of many of Browne’s work, is his ability to make very personal experiences seem almost universal.

There are so many great lines in this song, but a few, like “What I was seeing wasn’t what was happening at all / Although for a while, our path did seem to climb,” and “And while the future’s there for anyone to change, still you know it seems / It would be easier sometimes to change the past” stand out in particular. And this one makes me feel quite sad, because it has happened to me: “When you see through love’s illusions, there lies the danger / And your perfect lover just looks like a perfect fool.”

Here are the lyrics to “Fountain of Sorrow.”

Looking through some photographs I found inside a drawer
I was taken by a photograph of you
There were one or two I know that you would have liked a little more
But they didn’t show your spirit quite as true

You were turning ’round to see who was behind you
And I took your childish laughter by surprise
And at the moment that my camera happened to find you
There was just a trace of sorrow in your eyes

Now the things that I remember seem so distant and so small
Though it hasn’t really been that long a time
What I was seeing wasn’t what was happening at all
Although for a while, our path did seem to climb

When you see through love’s illusions, there lies the danger
And your perfect lover just looks like a perfect fool
So you go running off in search of a perfect stranger
While the loneliness seems to spring from your life
Like a fountain from a pool

Fountain of sorrow, fountain of light
You’ve known that hollow sound of your own steps in flight
You’ve had to hide sometimes, but now you’re all right
And it’s good to see your smiling face tonight

Now for you and me it may not be that hard to reach our dreams
But that magic feeling never seems to last
And while the future’s there for anyone to change, still you know it seems
It would be easier sometimes to change the past

I’m just one or two years and a couple of changes behind you
In my lessons at love’s pain and heartache school
Where if you feel too free and you need something to remind you
There’s this loneliness springing up from your life
Like a fountain from a pool

Fountain of sorrow, fountain of light
You’ve known that hollow sound of your own steps in flight
You’ve had to hide sometimes but now you’re all right
And it’s good to see your smiling face tonight

Fountain of sorrow, fountain of light
You’ve known that hollow sound of your own steps in flight
You’ve had to struggle, you’ve had to fight
To keep understanding and compassion in sight
You could be laughing at me, you’ve got the right
But you go on smiling so clear and so bright