“Once upon a time” Taylor Swift had a fairytale relationship. It began with eyes meeting and included promises to love each other “forever & always.” Now, Taylor Swift looks back in confusion wondering what went wrong.
Literary Device: Monosyllables
The bridge of Forever & Always relies heavily on monosyllabic words:
And I stare at my phone he still has n’t called
And then you feel so low you can’t feel nothing at all
Like all great poets, Swift knows how meter can subtly convey feeling. Swift’s lack of metrical variation and clipped syllables deliver the monotony of waiting for a phone to ring and the numbness that follows an injury.
In Forever & Always, Swift begins to explore a theme that she will perfect in her magnum opus All Too Well. In both songs, Swift looks back in confusion on a beautiful relationship that is coming to an end. In both songs, she insists “I was there.” In Forever & Always, Swift recalls when they met, and when he said I love you, finally declaring “I was there when you said forever & always.” Swift is insisting on the past reality of a love that doesn’t exist in the present. A noted empiricist, Swift provides ample evidence that the relationship happened – eyewitness testimony from herself.
Taylor Swift opens her deposition by saying “I believe it was a Tuesday” and then recalling what she saw, emphasizing repeatedly that she was an eyewitness “I caught your eye”, “You looked me in the eye” and “I looked into your eyes.” Swift also recalls what she heard – directly from the source – you “told me you loved me” and “you said forever & always.” Now, what Swift sees is an unringing phone: “I stare at my phone, he still hasn’t called.” What she hears is nothing: “silence that cuts me to the core” and “we almost never speak.” Swift’s attestation serves not only to prove the truth of this relationship, but to contrast her presence in the past with her boyfriend’s absence in the present.
In previous songs, we have seen Swift concerned that perfect moments from a relationship will fade into mere memories (See Tim McGraw, Mary’s Song, Our Song, Fearless) In Forever & Always we see Swift on the other end – looking back at the past. These memories have not faded at all – they are visceral proof, ready to weaponize against anyone who doubts the veracity of a past relationship – including a hurting and confused Swift herself.