Song Meaning, Song Lyrics and Music Analysis: “The End of the Game” (by Sting)

So I’m trying something new today: music analysis. This is totally new territory for me, as my musical knowledge literally borders on absolutely nothing. If it isn’t an anime theme or from one of the Transformers albums, I probably don’t know it. And if you think that’s an exaggeration, you’d be wrong.

In my mind, music has always had no purpose outside of being related to another form of media that it’s been connected to. However, lately I’m coming to accept the idea of music as a type of literature that may have some meaning or value to be found within it. And while my musical background is non-existent, if it’s literature, then I should be able to analyze and understand it. At least, that’s the idea…

...It's an album cover. *wind blows*Jen gave me approximately 130 Sting songs, which I am slowly working my way through. Thus far I’m having a really hard time deriving meaning from most of the songs besides what’s obvious from the surface. (And that’s not me trying to  say there’s nothing deeper there–I’m a novice at this, remember.) I wasn’t really sure I’d connect with any of the songs, but one finally resonated with my soul. The one true gem I’ve come across thus far is “The End of the Game” from the “Symphonicities” album, which I first heard at the Sting concert I took Jen to back in July.

Commentary: I went into studying this song pretty wary and biased against it, as I was horrified at the live concert when Sting introduced this song’s plot as being about a pair of foxes who are at the end of their lives and fail to escape being hunted and killed by dogs. Having listened to it and spent some time interpreting the lyrics, I understand it better now…

Lyrics:

The fox had done running
And the beast is at bay
He’d run them in circles
By the end of the day
They chased him through bramble
They chased him through the fields
They could chase him forever
But the fox would not yield
And some saw her shadow
On the crest of a hill
And the hounds were distracted
Away from the kill
One day we’ll reach a great ocean
At the end of a pale afternoon
And we lay down our heads just like we were sleeping
Controlled by the drag of the moon
We ran through the forests
And we ran through the streams
We ran through the heather
Though we ran in our dreams
And you were my lover
And I was your beau
We ran like the river
What else did we know?
One day we’ll reach a great ocean
At the end of a pale afternoon
And the dogs are all worn out
And the horses all lame
Oh the hunters they’re hunted
At the end of the game
Our love was a river
A wild mountain stream
In a tumbling fury
On the edge of a dream
And they chased us through the brambles
And they chased us through the fields
They’d chased us forever
But the heart would not yield
When the fox has done running
At the end of the day
I’m ready to answer
I’m ready to pay
And this river’s done running
And my time will come soon
Carried to the great ocean
By the drag of the moon

Summary: A pair of foxes (lovers) are being hunted throughout their lives by hunters and dogs, and spend their lives together surviving by escaping on a day-to-day basis. Though they know the inevitability of eventual death, they continue to run and persevere until they are finally caught and killed, reaching “the end of the game”.

Analysis: After spending some time with this piece, I think it’s certainly the most compelling of the couple dozen Sting songs I’ve gone through thus far. As advertised, it is a song about death, but it’s written in such a touching, poignant way that it’s actually inspirational, not tragic.

I love that the foxes are aware that they must–and will–lose “the game” one day, but refuse to yield over and over again in spite of the certainty of eventual death. Even with a fatalistic perspective that fate cannot be circumvented, the foxes refuse to give up until they have lost totally.

And even when death comes, the foxes still aren’t broken and somber–they’re satisfied having lived a full life and having done their best. They accept their fate and their deaths, having lived fulfilled lives.

That seems like a pretty good way to live (and die).

This song is also metaphorical, of course. Mortality is obviously not reserved for the foxes–humans and all other living things are always running a doomed race against dogs of suffering and the grim hunter, Death. The foxes fight on unrelentingly striving to live fulfilled lives, though, regardless of the pain and hardships they encounter. I’m not sure that humans have that same will to live or if they’re just surviving because they’re conditioned to…

I wonder if people can be like those foxes…

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6 Responses to Song Meaning, Song Lyrics and Music Analysis: “The End of the Game” (by Sting)

  1. Dave says:

    Ah conditioning, is there anything you can’t do?

  2. I’m still learning from you, while I’m making my way to the top as well. I absolutely liked reading everything that is posted on your blog.Keep the posts coming. I enjoyed it!

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  4. Anil Patel says:

    Every song that Sting writes/sings has a deep meaning hidden in some metaphor. That is one of the prime reasons why his songs and lyrics are evergreen. I heard him for the first time in 2000 (Desert Rose and Brand New Day) and then I scoured the internet for his discography (India, specially my city, does not offer all of his albums on the shelf in the music stores). After listening his songs (almost all) over and over again for 11 years, every single time I play some of his song, I find a totally new meaning which keeps me going back to the song over and over again!

  5. Sandi says:

    You missed the fact that the female distracted the dogs, getting the attention of the hunters, essentially acting as a decoy so her lover could continue to survive…..she potentially sacrificed herself acting as a decoy…this song is also about the teamwork between a man and a woman and self-sacrifice, highlighting what true love is really about….a woman’s perspective on this lovely song…

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