As important as I believe good lyrics are to a song, I confess to either not knowing or understanding the words of some of my favorite songs. For example, I had no idea what Lou Reed’s “Sword of Damocles” was all about. But the visual of the lyric, “The Sword of Damocles hangs above your head,” intrigued me enough to research its origin.
The reference to Greek mythology is an allusion of the “imminent and ever-present peril faced by those in positions of power,” according to Wikipedia. The story goes like this:
A subject, Damocles, was pandering to his king, Dionysius, about how truly fortunate his leader was to have such great authority and wealth. King Dionysius offered to switch places with Damocles to give him a taste of the magnificence firsthand. Damocles accepted and sat down in the king’s throne. The stipulation, though, was that a huge sword should hang above the throne, held precariously by a single horse hair. Damocles soon begged the king that he be allowed to vacate the seat; realizing that with power comes too great responsibility and danger.
Shakespeare’s “Henry IV” expanded on the theme that with power comes fear of failure or tragedy: “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.”
As with much classic Greek mythology, the moral is as relevant in modern times as it was 2000-plus years ago. So, perhaps one more consideration when evaluating presidential candidates, who among them possesses more intelligence than arrogance, more confidence than conceit, and more humility than pride, to handle the extraordinary power and peril that comes with the job. And, as Lou Reed proposed, who is more willing and able to “Take a walk on the wild side.”