The analysis of conceptual metaphors in “Do Not Resuscitate” by Testament

Hi there! This is Andriy and you are reading the Digging Metalaphor blog, which is my personal little online stash with the musings on the metaphors in the lyrics of metal. This time I am offering you yet another fine piece of the Bay Area thrash metal: today we are going to take a look at the song called “D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)” by Testament (taken from the “The Gathering” LP, released by Spitfire Records in 1999). Hey, a new band on the blog! Let’s go straight to the lyrics:

  1. Lies… broken dreams
  2. Dismal past
  3. is there more in life…
  4. should I… know.
  5. Ending wars… ending pain
  6. Ending of mankind is insane
  7. and there’s all the possibilities
  8. some will fail and some will achieve
  9. Even through in my youth
  10. I didn’t know but what can I do.

Chorus:

  1. And I may not ever see
  2. In my pain, my suffering
  3. Cannot live for the rest of my life
  4. N.R. Do not resuscitate me…

Verse 2

  1. Life… lost unseen
  2. behind the mask
  3. and with the open arms will I grasp
  4. Open doors… open minds…
  5. Ending all the madness I hate.

Chorus

Interlude

  1. Wings of sadness… will
  2. hold my prayers
  3. all this madness… will
  4. end my fears
  5. contempt in life
  6. Conceptualize, wrong or right
  7. The ending of life…
  8. God save me now…

Verse 3

  1. Time… end it now
  2. No going back
  3. Can you see the light as you pass
  4. Ending wars, ending pain…
  5. Waited all my life to be saves

Chorus

To be honest, I am not a fan of Testament, but they have a few songs I like and “D.N.R.” is among them. Speaking about the conceptual metaphors in this text, the lyrics are rather clear and if you are a devoted reader of the blog, you may have already spotted the instances of figurative language. Anyway, I will guide you through the text, trying to keep things straight and simple.

Verse 1

Here goes verse 1:

  1. Lies… broken dreams
  2. Dismal past
  3. is there more in life…
  4. should I… know.
  5. Ending wars… ending pain
  6. Ending of mankind is insane
  7. and there’s all the possibilities
  8. some will fail and some will achieve
  9. Even through in my youth
  10. I didn’t know but what can I do.

We encounter the first metaphorical expression in the very first line of the song: it is “broken dreams”. Naturally, dreams cannot be broken or manipulated in any other sensorimotor way, because they are an abstract concept. However, we may still reason about them as if they were tangible objects if we conceptualize them as such with the help of the ABSTRACT CONCEPTS ARE PHYSICAL OBJECTS metaphor (or simply objectification). If you have been following this blog for some time, you would have already noticed that ontological metaphors in general (personification and objectification) are among the most widespread conceptual tools in the repertoire of the figurative thought. “Lies” in Line 1 may be claimed to be of the same nature on the premises of its countable noun form.

Line 2 offers us an interesting ambiguous case. The noun phrase “dismal past”, if you ask me, might be treated as an instantiation of the metaphor TIME PASSING IS MOVING ACROSS THE LANDSCAPE, if we think of “dismal” as of just “dark” or “obscure”, or it may be considered to be a simple metonymy, if we focus on another sense of “dismal”, namely, “sad/bad”. I opt for the latter, because according to the etymology of the adjective, “dismal” is derived from the Latin dies (day) + malus (bad), that is “bad day”. Why is it metonymy? I guess the “past” in its wholeness stands here for the separate events, dramatic or simply bad events, which happened in the past. As a result, we get here a kind of whole for its parts relationship.

Yet another metaphor waits for us in Line 3: “is there more in life”. The prepositional phrase “in life” is a metaphor, as it combines the preposition “in”, denoting a static position in closed or bounded space, and an abstract concept “life”. Life, generally speaking, is a state of being alive. We, humans, usually reason about the states in terms of locations or containers by the STATES ARE LOCATIONS and STATES ARE CONTAINERS metaphors (this is a result of the containment image schema being imposed on an abstract state of matters – you can read about it online). These two can be seen in the expressions like “I am falling in love” (inward movement into the love-container), “I am going out of my depression” (outward movement out of the depression-container), “I am in love” (static position in the love-container) and many others. In line 3, therefore, life is metaphorically conceptualized as a bounded space and everything, related to life, is within its limits, inside it. Such reasoning allows for the use of the pronoun “in”.

Finally, line 9 features the metaphorical expression “… in my youth”. The explanation for it is the same I provided just above when speaking about the case of “in life”.

Let’s turn to the chorus now.

Chorus

Below I provide the lines for your convenience:

  1. And I may not ever see
  2. In my pain, my suffering
  3. Cannot live for the rest of my life
  4. N.R. Do not resuscitate me…

This chunk of the text has three metaphorical expressions: one in line 11 and two in line 12. We will first concern ourselves with line 12.

In my pain, (in my) suffering” are two expressions, based on the STATES ARE CONTAINERS/LOCATIONS metaphor, which was introduced earlier to explain line 3 “Is there more in life”. The states of pain and suffering are conceptualized as physically existing bounded space entities, which makes it possible to reason about them in terms of spatial movement. Note, however, that the picture changes if we say, for instance, “My pain has left me/My suffering is gone”. These are not the STATE metaphors anymore, because “pain” and “suffering” are in agentive roles here. As far as I am concerned, these are the instantiations of the PHYSICAL/MENTAL STATES ARE ENTITIES WITHIN A PERSON metaphor.

Now, line 11 may not seem as metaphorical at a first glance to some of you. I would claim, however, that “see” in this context stands for “know/understand”. This yields us the KNOWING IS SEEING metaphor, which is one of the first metaphors any child learns because of its straightforward experiential grounding: getting most of the information about the surroundings visually. Simply put, if you see it, you know it. Such an explanation of line 11 is rather coherent with the rest of the chorus. In a state of pain or suffering a person is too busy with putting an end to physical discomfort and cannot carry out any significant mental activity. In other words, when you suffer, you are more concerned with your pain and not with the ways of reaching your life goals or opportunities to succeed.

Verse 2 and Interlude

This chunk is relatively poor in metaphoric language. Let’s take a closer look:

  1. Life… lost unseen
  2. behind the mask
  3. and with the open arms will I grasp
  4. Open doors… open minds…
  5. Ending all the madness I hate.

Chorus

Interlude

  1. Wings of sadness… will
  2. hold my prayers
  3. all this madness… will
  4. end my fears
  5. contempt in life
  6. Conceptualize, wrong or right
  7. The ending of life…
  8. God save me now…

Line 15 – “Life… lost unseen” – holds the first metaphor for us. Arguably, even two metaphors. They are the objectification of “life” (ABSTRACT CONCEPT IS A PHYSICAL ENTITY and LIFE IS A PRECIOUS POSSESSION subsequently) and once again KNOWING IS SEEING. I suppose, it is easy to understand the first one. Life is an abstraction and, thus, cannot be lost. As I argued on multiple occasions, it is very common for human mind to reason about abstractions in terms of physically existing objects (e.g. broken dreams from line 1). In Line 15, “life” is conceptualized as a possession: something that belongs to the person in context of the song and that may be acquired or lost. It is worth noting that it is also a very valuable possession; once lost, it cannot be acquired back.

The case with the second metaphor in this line echoes the instance of KNOWING IS SEEING from line 11 (And I may not ever see). Exactly the same explanation is applicable to “Life… lost unseen”, meaning that life was lost without even realizing it.

Open minds” in Line 18 is the next metaphor we are going to consider. This is surely not the first and even the second time that this noun phrase pops up in the songs analyzed on this blog. “Open minds” is the linguistic realization of the MIND IS CONTAINER metaphor. Any prototypical container can be opened or closed in one way or another. When the containment image schema of the source domain of the metaphor (CONTAINER) is imposed onto something that is not a container in the target domain (e.g. MIND), some of its salient features, like an ability to be open or closed, may be transferred as well. Another question is why mind can be conceptualized as a container in the first place. I remember I have already speculated once on this topic, choosing the following line of reasoning. Mind is the name for the collection of cognitive functions of a brain. As Hank Green put it in the Crashcourse Psychology, “The mind is what the brain does.” The brain is located in the head, which is a natural container (as the entire human body). Now, the brain itself may be viewed as a sort of container, if you imagine the grey matter as the outer walls of the box which houses the structural parts of the brain. Therefore, if the brain may be theoretically conceptualized as a container, its activities (mind) may be too through the process of metonymy. What do you think about this?

There is an interesting case of figurative language in lines 20-21: “Wings of sadness will hold my prayers”. Upon reading this clause we almost instantaneously understand its meaning, which is the following: a sad person (actually, it is our protagonist) prays to God. It can also be rather confidently assumed that it is sadness that causes the protagonist to pray, because it is this mental state and not the main hero, who is an agent in the clause. So, it may be claimed that sadness is personified here. But why “wings”? I would go for the GOOD IS UP metaphor here. When people think about God or Heaven, they usually imagine both somewhere high in the sky. Thus, when addressing God with a prayer, it ‘goes up’ to Heaven, i.e. ‘flies’. This explains the reference to “wings”. Finally, why GOOD is conceptualized as UP and BAD, correspondingly, as DOWN? Maybe, we can approach the problem in a few ways, the easiest, however, is to base the argumentation on the human sensorimotor experience: a living, healthy individual functions in a vertical position (UP). On the contrary, a sick or dead person is positioned horizontally (DOWN). This pretty much explains, why people imagine Heaven (eternal life) high in the sky and Hell (eternal death) deep under the surface of the Earth.

Line 24 – “contempt in life” – offers us the last metaphor of this section, which is – again – STATES ARE CONTAINERS/LOCATIONS. Please, refer to line 3 above for the explanation.

Verse 3

Let’s check out the last passage of the song once again, before we analyze the figurative language in it:

  1. Time… end it now
  2. No going back
  3. Can you see the light as you pass
  4. Ending wars, ending pain…
  5. Waited all my life to be saved.

Here we will deal with two conceptual metaphors.

Lines 28-29 construe the lifetime as movement. It is the LIFE IS A JOURNEY metaphor, which we meet basically in every song published on the blog. Alternatively, if you do not agree with me that “Time” in line 28 refers to the lifetime of the main hero, then the line is based on the TIME PASSING IS MOVING ACROSS THE LANDSCAPE metaphor – another frequenter of Digging Metalaphor posts. I have provided the explanations to these metaphors so many times in so many articles that I am going to skip them here. Please, check other posts to learn about them.

The last metaphor we will concern ourselves with in this article can be found in line 30: “Can you see the light as you pass”. In this context, the word “pass” refers to dying by the DEATH IS DEPARTURE (LIFE IS BEING HERE) metaphor, which is rather widespread way of thinking about death, I must admit. Expressions like “He is still with us; He left us; He passed away; He is no more with us; He went to the better world; He is on his last journey; He left the world of the living ones” etc. – all of them are structured by the DEATH IS DEPARTURE metaphor. I guess, the experiential grounding of this instance of figurative thought is clear. Death of a living organism is a change of state of this organism with the subsequent disappearing of the body of the deceased from the world in the course of the funeral.

That’s it, folks. The song was easy to crack, but in case you have any questions or just want to say hello, please, drop a line in the comments section below. I do not own any CDs of Testament: as I pointed out earlier, I am not really a fan of the band as such. I have never seen them live as well, which is a bummer, because the band performs outstandingly. To finish the post, I refer you to the link below, so that you can get you daily dose of great thrash metal. Ciao!

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About Andriy Karamazov


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