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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

You’re the Top!

How many metaphors can you squeeze into a poem or a song? If you’re Cole Porter, a new one every line. In this song, the witty, urbane, suave, sophisticated lyricist compares his beloved to cellophane, to a turkey dinner, to the nose on the great Durante, among many other things.

Porter’s snappy pace makes it work. You’re the top! he begins. Each item he then adds to his collection becomes a metaphor for the best. No explanation is needed. No justification is provided.

The tempo, the rhythm, the rhyme, and the sheer chutzpah turn this list into a romantic lyric.

The enchanting Miss Ella makes music of all this nonsense.

(A note: “a Berlin ballad” refers to Irving Berlin, not to Berlin
during the Weimar period, as depicted in this video by the poster of The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill)


At words poetic, I’m so pathetic
That I always have found it best,
Instead of getting ’em off my chest,
To let ’em rest unexpressed.
I hate parading my serenading
As I’ll probably miss a bar,
But if this ditty is not so pretty
At least it’ll tell you
How great you are.

You’re the top!
You’re the Colosseum.
You’re the top!
You’re the Louvre Museum.
You’re the melody from a symphony by Strauss,
You’re a Bendel bonnet,
A Shakespeare sonnet,
You’re Mickey Mouse.
You’re the Nile,
You’re the Tower of Pisa,
You’re the smile of the Mona Lisa.
I’m a worthless check, a total wreck, a flop,
But if, baby, I’m the bottom,
You’re the top!

You’re the top!
You’re Mahatma Gandhi.
You’re the top!
You’re Napoleon Brandy.
You’re the purple light
Of a summer night in Spain,
You’re the National Gallery,
You’re Garbo's salary,
You’re cellophane.
You’re sublime,
You’re a turkey dinner,
You’re the time of the Derby winner.
I’m a toy balloon that’s fated soon to pop,
But if, baby, I’m the bottom,
You’re the top!

You’re the top!
You’re a Waldorf salad.
You’re the top!
You’re a Berlin ballad.
You’re the nimble tread
Of the feet of Fred Astaire,
You’re an O’Neill drama,
You’re Whistler’s mama,
You’re Camembert.
You’re a rose,
You’re Inferno’s Dante,
You’re the nose
On the great Durante.
I’m a lazy lout who is just about to stop,
But if, baby, I’m the bottom,
You’re the top!

~ Cole Porter (1891-1964), American composer and lyricist

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