Love’s Illusions

This Jackson Browne song ‘Fountain of Sorrow’ is about a man who finds an old photo and realizes that what he had with that person is now gone.  Jackson Browne is most likely writing about himself and it is possible that the woman maybe Joni Mitchell.  Photographs that you have not looked at in a while can bring back all types of memories and some of these can be painful.  In this particular picture that he found in a drawer, the woman is laughing most likely with her friends and someone behind her calls out something, being surprised she turns around just as the photo captures her expression of sorrow.

This melancholy song reflects on a failed relationship.  Browne thinks about their past which wasn’t all that long ago and he forms a clearer picture of why they broke up.  He thinks that the cause of the sorrow may have happened because of an affair that she had which is reflected in the lyrics, “so you go running off in search of a perfect stranger.”  He has learned a lesson and he can move on because he knows that she is alright, and he feels that, “it’s good to see her smiling face tonight”, as he is looking at this picture.

‘Fountain of Sorrow’ was on Jackson Browne’s third album ‘Late for the Sky’ which was released in 1974, and although it wasn’t a hit, it is a fan favorite.  This song is a wise and gentle reflection on what happens when you fall out of love with someone because they broke your heart, but he heals as he accepts that they were not meant for each other.  Browne will not admit who he wrote this song about, just like Carly Simon will not say who ‘You’re so Vain’ is about.

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
All 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 alright.
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 alright.
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.

Written for Sammi Cox Aspiring Author Weekend Writing Prompt #54 – Fountain

4 thoughts on “Love’s Illusions

    1. I really screwed the pooch on this one, as when I saw the prompt, I was off to the races writing. I did not realize till after I was done that it had to be a poem and it could only consist of 53 words. I should try to pay more attention next time.

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  1. You may have exceeded 53 words, but you referenced one of my favorite songs of all time. I love this song. My favorite refrain:

    “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.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, that is very profound, as you don’t hear that much about changing the past because that would cause temporal displacement as pointed out in the Back to the Future movie with the Delorean time machine. This song was written 11 years before that movie, so Jackson Browne never thought about creating a paradox.

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