linger (v.)

English is very good at changing nouns into verbs. Or maybe not changing them but instead simply using them as nouns. Toboggan, for example, the last word in the series can be used as a verb in a sentence like The weather was so beautiful, we stayed outside tobogganing all afternoon. Linger, however is a ‘genuine’ verb and, in fact, the first verb featuring in this little word of the week series.

I came across this on one of my favourite artist’s CDs, namely Kate Bush‘s second album “Lionheart” from 1978. The song is called “In the Warm Room”. In the original vinyl release it was the second title on the B-side, on the CD it’s track 7. Among the things happening in the warm room is this:

In the warm room
She prepares to go to bed.
She’ll let you watch her undress
Go places where your fingers
long to linger.

Fingers long to linger – one of the most poetic lines of pop song lyrics I have come across; one of the most perfect alliterations, too. The minimal pair finger/linger is in itself beautiful but the sensuality is intensified displaying it as – for the moment – unfulfilled desire, adding longing.
This is an instance where you really do feel what poetry can do. Namely freeze a moment into words making it last. It is what Shakespeare calls “eternal lines” in his famous eightteenth sonnet, preserving fleeting moments or fading beauty in verses that will remain beautiful, no matter how brittle the “papers, yellowed with their age” (sonnet 17) are on which they are written.

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