Conceptual metaphors in “Caught Somewhere in Time” by Iron Maiden

Hello, everyone! I am back with the April post. The initial idea was to publish an analysis of one of the Metallica’s songs (I seriously considered “And Justice for All” thing, though in the end I ended up with another song), but the time constraints did not allow me to invest much time into that. Reluctant to publish superficially analyzed text, I made up my mind to recycle one of my older unpublished analyses, one of those I once prepared for a university seminar project.

Enough said, here we go: Irons are back! The choice of this month is “Caught Somewhere in Time” by Iron Maiden, Great Britain (taken from – for me personally – their best work “Somewhere in Time”, released in 1986). Check out the lyrics below:

  1. If you had the time to lose
  2. An open mind and time to choose
  3. Would you care to take a look
  4. Or can you read me like a book
  5. Time is always on my side
  6. Time is always on my side
  7. Can I tempt you come with me
  8. Be Devil may care fulfill your dream
  9. If I said I’d take you there
  10. Would you go would you be scared
  11. Time is always on my side
  12. Time is always on my side
  13. Don’t be afraid you’re safe with me
  14. Safe as any soul can be…. Honestly
  15. Just let yourself go
  16. Caught somewhere in time
  17. Caught somewhere in time
  18. Caught somewhere in time….oh oh
  19. Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing
  20. You try to hide your deepest sins
  21. Of all the things that you’ve done wrong
  22. And I know where you belong
  23. Time is always on my side
  24. Time is always on my side
  25. Make you an offer you can’t refuse
  26. You’ve only got your soul to lose
  27. Eternally… Just let yourself go
  28. Caught somewhere in time
  29. Caught somewhere in time
  30. Caught somewhere in time….oh oh

Temptation begins

Once again, the lyrics are here for you not to forget what is going on.

  1. If you had the time to lose
  2. An open mind and time to choose
  3. Would you care to take a look
  4. Or can you read me like a book
  5. Time is always on my side
  6. Time is always on my side

This song, unlike the previous ones I published, does not overwhelm us with metaphors. It is an easy and relatively short read. Relax and follow.

Consider line 1. This is the realization of the TIME IS A PRECIOUS POSSESSION metaphor. Time is an abstract notion, which cannot be touched, put into the pocket or lost. People can lose an object, which physically exists and belongs to them. It is in their possession and they do not want to abandon it. Here, time is conceptualized as an object in possession. However, unlike other objects, time, if lost, cannot be found or retrieved again. Hence, it is a precious possession. Moreover, there is another time-related metaphor around, which is also rooted in the everyday experience: TIME IS MONEY (it is an extension of a PRECIOUS POSSESSION). Money is a precious possession, so is time. Again, as people can lose their precious possessions and never retrieve them, so they can lose time. The source domain of losing an object is mapped onto the target domain of time.

The second line – An open mind and time to choose – contains two metaphorical expressions: the first with “mind” and the second with “time” again. Consider the expression “if you had an open mind”, which is the case of the MIND IS A CONTAINER metaphor. Mind is something as abstract as time and, normally, cannot be described as being open or closed. There is a similar and more general metaphor, though: BODY IS A CONTAINER, which has a strong experiential basis. People take food, water or pills into the bodies or put clothes on their bodies (similar to wrapping a container). All human live organs are in the body. All these examples evoke the image schema of container. Mind is something that inherently belongs to the body, more specifically, to the brain, and is a part of it. If BODY IS A CONTAINER and mind, being part of the body, may metonymically represent the whole body, then MIND IS A CONTAINER too. As a container can be open, so does the mind metaphorically. As one can take the old things out of container and fill it with the new, so is it with the mind. The source domain of a container is mapped onto the human mind.

Take a look” in line 3 is the realization of the SEEING IS TOUCHING metaphor, where the eyes stand for human limbs, as in the case with “I cannot take my eyes of her”. Here, “a look” is a result of seeing with the eyes, thus it stands with them in a metonymical relation. “Take a look”, thus, is a target domain mapping of “touch” from the source domain.

Can you read me like a book” in line 4 is an idiom, based on simile (a person is overtly compared with an open book).

Lines 5-6 (“Time is always on my side”) bring to attention recently published “Time: The Beginning” analysis (Megadeth), namely the line “You were once my friend” when addressing the Father Time. Arguably, “Time is always on my side” line follows the more or less the same basic logic. It personifies time and employs the INTIMACY IS CLOSENESS metaphor. How does that all work?

Observe that the line does not fit the time passing metaphors (MOVING OBJECT vs. MOVING OBSERVER) and the TIME ORIENTATION metaphor (we are in the present, future is in front of us and past is behind), because what it means is that time is favorably disposed to the storyteller (whatever that may mean in every context he finds himself in). Being on somebody’s side is a metaphorical expression for referring to a person or a group of people, who are helping, supportive or just friendly. A non-metaphorical meaning of it is being located close to an experiencer, on his/her ground, so to say. It seems reasonable to claim that this expression is based on the primary metaphor INTIMACY IS CLOSENESS (or, maybe, RELATIONSHIPS ARE ENCLOSURES?). The experiential explanation for it is “being physically close to people you are intimate with” (Lakoff & Johnson. 1999. Philosophy in the flesh; page 50). Thus, time is personified as a supportive agent.

The next passage is poor in metaphors.

  1. Can I tempt you come with me
  2. Be Devil may care fulfill your dream
  3. If I said I’d take you there
  4. Would you go would you be scared
  5. Time is always on my side
  6. Time is always on my side

These lines feature one more use of the “Time is always on my side” metaphorical expression and a strange adjective “Devil-may-care” (meaning “reckless, bold, daring, careless”). Ironically, it is Satan, who is a protagonist in the story and who is delivering this whole speech – he will care for sure, when tempting a human to sell their soul. Now I ask myself, if the author used “Devil-may-care” with a purpose of this very contrast in meaning and real intention. It is then a pun-like use of “Devil-may-care”, with the meaning in this context “Let the Devil care about fulfilling your dream”. Drop me a line or two about what you think. I simply proceed to the next chunk.

Temptation continues

  1. Don’t be afraid you’re safe with me
  2. Safe as any soul can be…. Honestly
  3. Just let yourself go
  4. Caught somewhere in time
  5. Caught somewhere in time
  6. Caught somewhere in time….oh oh

In line 14 “soul” is an instance of metonymy. The word stands in metonymic relation to a person, a human being. What may be the nature of this relation is uncertain. If a soul is considered as a part of the concept “human being”, then it is PART FOR THE WHOLE. If not, I would suggest it is CONTENTS FOR THE CONTAINER.

Line 15 features “the Self” metaphor (“… let yourself go”). Lakoff and Johnson have a very well written chapter on that in “Philosophy in the flesh” (1999). Here, the metaphorical expression in focus is the realization if the SELF CONTROL IS OBJECT POSSESSION metaphor, where the Self is a physical object and the control of the Self is a possession of the object. This entails that “letting yourself go” is letting the Self abandon you, become out of your possession. In other words, you stop controlling your own conscious actions.

Caught somewhere in time” is a useful, instructive case of why the events happen in time. The underlying metaphor is TIME PASSING IS MOVING ACROSS THE LANDSCAPE (MOVING OBSERVER). Time is static in this case and any duration in time is a distance, covered by an observer. In other words, a period of time is a certain bounded space on the observer’s path – a temporal container (the walls of the container are the initial and final time events, which measure a period of time). Hence, if time is conceptualized as a temporal container, a human may be caught in it – caught somewhere in time.

Let us move on. Next passage.

  1. Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing
  2. You try to hide your deepest sins
  3. Of all the things that you’ve done wrong
  4. And I know where you belong
  5. Time is always on my side
  6. Time is always on my side

I did some thinking on the “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. For those of you who may not know, this expression comes from the Bible, meaning that your true nature will eventually betray itself in your deeds. It is definitely a vivid example of a figurative language, fossilized into an idiom. This is not a conceptual metaphor, so I just leave it as it is. Maybe, it is possible to claim it to be a case of blending an image of a sheep with a nature of a wolf. Folks, if you have ANY thoughts on this or anything else, just contact me and share them. I am very grateful for any feedback from everyone.

To hide your deepest sins” in line 20 is the ontological metaphor ABSTRACT ENTITY IS A PHYSICAL OBJECT. Ontological metaphors, as Z. Kövecses puts it in “Metaphor: a practical introduction” (2010: 38), “…give a new ontological status to general categories of abstract target concepts … What this means is that we conceive of our experiences in terms of objects, substances, and containers, in general, without specifying exactly what kind of object, substance, or container is meant.” Abstract entities “sins” are conceptualized as real physical objects; hence, it is possible to manipulate them in a variety of ways, i.e. hide them. Simple.

Done and gone

We are approaching the end with the following lines. This very song was not much of a challenge.

  1. Make you an offer you can’t refuse
  2. You’ve only got your soul to lose
  3. Eternally… Just let yourself go
  4. Caught somewhere in time
  5. Caught somewhere in time
  6. Caught somewhere in time….oh oh

The closing passage makes use of the metaphors (lines 27-28) we already encountered above and even features the same ontological metaphor (line 26) we just talked about in the previous paragraph. The ABSTRACT ENTITY IS A PHYSICAL OBJECT metaphor underlines the expression “You’ve only got your soul to lose”. However, unlike the case above, what is conceptualized as a physical object here is the soul of the tempted person.

“Caught somewhere in time” belongs to the classical gems of Iron Maiden. It is a beautiful, powerful track about Lucifer tempting a human to sell their soul. As I mentioned above, the Maiden’s album it is featured on, is my favorite one. Whatever song you choose on it is a classic. I will definitely come back to this masterpiece in the future again.

Up the Irons!

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About Andriy Karamazov


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