Tristan Gaspadarek

Lions by Tristan Gaspadarek

‘Lions’ does not have a specific rhyme scheme, but there are individual rhyming patterns in amongst the stanzas. For instance, in the second stanza of the text the second, third, and fourth lines rhyme. Then, in the third stanza, lines two and four rhyme.

 There are also instances of half or slant rhyme in the song. These are seen through the repetition of assonance or consonance. This means that either a vowel or consonant sound is reused within one line, or multiple lines of verse. 

It is very clear from the start of this poem that Gaspadarek was interested in telling a story. The verses are complicated, and there are only a few elements that really repeat. Instead, symbolic images are used and reused and struggle and power come out as two of the main themes. The struggle is seen through the speaker’s desire to overcome her “crowd” and find and tame the “lions” mentioned in the first stanzas. The sea, its waves, and the wind represent power and strength as they shuttle the speaker along, with or against her will. 

Lions by Tristan Gaspadarek


Summary of Lions

Lions’ is a song written by American singer-songwriter Tristan Gaspadarek. It was included on her 2017 album Sneaker Waves. 

The song is narrative in nature and follows a speaker who suffers from an inability to fulfill herself and an overabundance of pressure. She attempts to tame those who intimidate her, the lions, but they are not subdued, at least at first. 

There are a variety of powerful images at work in this poem and they speak to a deep well of emotion that the speaker fights against but is unable to quell. 


Analysis of Lions

Stanzas One and Two 

In the first stanzas, or verses of this song the speaker sets the scene and lets the reader know the main thrust of the plot. There are lions on the loose and it is the speaker’s job to “tame them”. For whatever reason, she sees it as her goal to find them, and pacify them, at least make them understand her. To complete this task, she’s going to “be the entertainment”. This is a very broad phrase, but is luckily illuminated in the next section. 

Gaspadarek’s lyrics go on, informing the listener that it had been her intention to soothe the lions with her songs. But, things didn’t work out as she wanted. Rather than bringing the lions to her side, she attracted a large crowd. This crowd is not working in her favor. They are there, 

To champion the future dead

They rescue kittens instead

It’s not entirely clear what she meant through these lines, but their attention is going towards something much safer, kittens. They aren’t interested in helping her accomplish her goals. These first few lines of the song are very easily interpreted as a personal part of the writer’s life. The lions could symbolize those she needs to impress, attract and please with her career as a musician. But rather than accomplishing this goal, she had only managed to attract a faceless crowd. 


Stanzas Three and Four 

The next, lines, which are distinctly different than those that came before, express the speaker’s sorrow at her current situation. She is on a metaphorical ship that is sinking, and there’s nothing she can do about it. In fact, what she is doing, crying, is making it worse. She is “contribution” to the speed at which the ship goes down. If only she could stop for a moment and “bail out the water” things might improve. Again, these lines should be read as a larger metaphor about the speaker’s life. She feels helpless and trapped, and by speaking about those emotions so broadly, it is easy for a listener to relate. 

The next three lines make use of anaphora, or the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. In this case, the word “And” is used three times in a row. These lines are also a refrain, repeated later on in the text. The way they build up upon one another also lends tension to her situation. 

She describes how the “waves” which are propelling her ship/life, are her “backing track,” they are at the root of the music and decisions she makes. Then, there is the moon. It floats up in the sky and lends the scene a certain atmosphere. It creates ambiance. Last, there is the wind. It is the song itself that carries her through her life and allows her to make it to the other side of her troubles. 


Stanzas Five and Six 

With these thoughts in mind about the power of a song, she describes how she, 

sang the boys a slow one

And I asked them to follow me

To the calm of the ocean

To the sand beds of the sea

These lines are interesting as the male figures are new to the text They could refer to a genuine group, or to a more general audience. It is clear at this point that this person, whether it is the writer or not, is able to attract people to her (such as the crowd at the beginning). Now, she has “boys” following her into the depths of the ocean. This seems as though it might refer to gaining followers who truly believe in you, and/or are willing to take a risk for you. 

What is interesting about this section is that it is only implied that the “boys” do as she requests. She never explicitly states that those she requested to follow her, did so. 

The narrative sticks to the seaside and the speaker takes note of the lions again. Now, rather than running from her, they are sleeping. Perhaps this means that she has soothed them somehow. However they were tamed, their passivity allows the speaker the opportunity to sneak away. But, as explained in the third and fourth stanzas, the speaker’s life does not go smoothly. She gets on a broken ship, even though she knew it was “Quite unfit to sail”. 


Stanzas Seven and Eight 

Again, the rains and the waves come and the speaker is brought low. She describes how the water pours out of the sky onto her, as it in spite. It is choosing to sabotage her efforts to get away from the land and from the sleeping lions. 

The lines that desired her tears, and her inability to stop crying, are repeated. 


Stanzas Nine, Ten, and Eleven 

In the last three sections of the poem repetition is the main technique used. This is done for the sake of the song and in order to put emphasis on the power of the images. She twice reuses the lines, 

And the waves are my backing track

the moon is my ambience

And the wind is a song that will carry me through

Then, the song goes into its final section as the singer alternates between the lines “Where my heart is the only beat / And my soul is soloing”. Now that she is out at sea she is completely alone and emphasizing this fact. There are no other beating hearts, nor are there other souls. This means there is at once no one to impress and no one to take comfort from.

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Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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