Song Analysis – “Shape of My Heart” Sting

[The title, “Shape of My Heart,” may refer to the speaker’s inner state. The heart was once considered the seat of emotions. “Shape” can refer not only to the physical bounds of an object but also the state or condition of something. For example, someone might ask, “What shape is your car in?” She does not want to know the geometrical shape, but rather the general condition of the car.]

He deals the cards as a meditation
And those he plays never suspect
He doesn’t play for the money he wins
He doesn’t play for respect
He deals the cards to find the answer
The sacred geometry of chance
The hidden law of a probable outcome
The numbers lead a dance

[Sting (from a 1993 promotional interview): “I wanted to write about a card player, a gambler who gambles not to win but to try and figure out something; to figure out some kind of mystical logic in luck, or chance; some kind of scientific, almost religious law. So this guy’s a philosopher, he’s not playing for respect and he’s not playing for money, he’s just trying to figure out the law – there has to be some logic to it. He’s a poker player so it’s not easy for him to express his emotions, in fact he doesn’t express anything, he has a mask, and it’s just one mask and it never changes.”
http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=2845%5D

I know that the spades are swords of a soldier
I know that the clubs are weapons of war
I know that diamonds mean money for this art
But that’s not the shape of my heart

[The speaker recognizes that playing cards can be used for fortune-telling, a practice called cartomancy. He alludes to the symbolism of the different suits. The spades are akin to swords and represent intellect. The clubs are akin to wands and represent power. The diamonds are akin to coins and represent material wealth. The hearts are akin to cups and represent emotions. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartomancy]
He may play the jack of diamonds
He may lay the queen of spades
He may conceal a king in his hand
While the memory of it fades

[Jack of Diamonds is the name of a folk song played by Tex Ritter as well as Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. The Queen of Spades is also the title of a short story by Alexander Pushkin. The Queen of Spades can also be the Old Maid in the game of the same name. I think Sting picked these cards on purpose because they have inspired other works. Sting may have studied Russian culture because here he alludes to Pushkin and in “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” he mentions the novelist Nabokov by name.]
I know that the spades are swords of a soldier
I know that the clubs are weapons of war
I know that diamonds mean money for this art
But that’s not the shape of my heart

And if I told you that I loved you
You’d maybe think there’s something wrong
I’m not a man of too many faces
The mask I wear is one
Those who speak know nothing
And find out to their cost
Like those who curse their luck in too many places
And those who fear are lost

[He can say, “I love you,” but he has difficulty showing his affection with his face, his gestures, and his tone of voice. His significant other might think he’s being dishonest, but really after so much time hiding his emotions, he can’t express them any more. The speaker knows he’s wearing a mask, but he doesn’t think it’s that bad because at least it’s just one mask. This suggests he knows people who wear many different masks and are much more difficult to love. He has developed a kind of moral code. One precept is that most speech is ignorant ramblings – “Those who speak know nothing.” Another precept is that one should not curse his or her luck. It is like he is hearkening to a pagan view of fortune in which Fortuna is a goddess that can be angered or appeased.]

I know that the spades are swords of a soldier
I know that the clubs are weapons of war
I know that diamonds mean money for this art
But that’s not the shape of my heart

He deals the cards as a meditation
And those he plays never suspect
He doesn't play for the money he wins
He doesn't play for respect 

He deals the cards to find the answer
The sacred geometry of chance
The hidden law of a probable outcome
The numbers lead a dance 

I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier
I know that the cloves* are weapons of war
I know that diamonds mean money for this art
But that's not the shape of my heart 

He may play the jack of diamonds
He may lay the queen of spades
He may conceal a king in his hand
While the memory of it fades 

I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier
I know that the clubs are weapons of war
I know that diamonds mean money for this art
But that's not the shape of my heart.
That's not the shape, shape of my heart. 

And if I told you that I loved you
You'd maybe think there's something wrong
I'm not a man of too many faces
The mask I wear is one 

Those who speak know nothing
And find out to their cost
Like those who curse their luck in too many places
And those who fear are lost 

I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier
I know that the clubs are weapons of war
I know that diamonds mean money for this art
But that's not the shape of my heart
That's not the shape of my heart
That's not the shape, shape of my heart.

Click to play audio of “Shape of My Heart” – Sting

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  1. #1 by A. on July 25, 2010 - 9:44 am

    why don’t you analyze poetry instead?

  2. #2 by asad123 on July 25, 2010 - 3:58 pm

    I do analyze poetry as well, see https://asad123.wordpress.com/2010/04/17/poem-analysis-fern-hill-dylan-thomas/, but I prefer analyzing songs. Part of the fun for me is getting to read how others either resemble me or differ from me in the viewpoints. I think it’s easier to generate that kind of discussion with songs because more people listen to music than to poetry.

  3. #3 by maratyv on August 2, 2010 - 10:09 pm

    I would like to exchange links with your site asad123.wordpress.com
    Is this possible?

    • #4 by asad123 on August 3, 2010 - 12:03 pm

      I will add your site to my list of links.

  4. #5 by omid on November 29, 2010 - 9:37 am

    that is a good way to familiar

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