Chapter 2- Wooden Horse
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Solitude Standing is a profoundly personal, hermetic musical statement. Every song draws us deeper into a memoryscape of imagery, metaphor, and symbology. Chief among these is the image of the lone traveler, the orphan, the introspective dreamer. Even the relatively sprite songs -- "Tom's Diner" or "Gypsy" -- are set firmly in the dark terrain of Vega's imagination, her inner life-of-the-mind.
"Tom's Diner" establishes the motif of fantasy and dreams through the inner monologue of a distracted, day-dreaming narrator. The call of far-off church bells would seem an intrusion of the "real" world into her dream life, but it is equally likely that the bells are a phantom of her active imagination. As she runs off to catch her train, we do not necessarily return to "real life", but instead we set forth with her into her dreamland, starting with her recollections of Luka. At no point, for the remainder of the album, do we "emerge" from Vega's world. Since "Cracking," we have continuously inhabited her realm, her universe, with its own symbols and logic. It is, indeed, a dreamland we'll stay within for as long as Vega continues to make music.
The lone traveler is Luka, is the the narrator in "Cracking," is the spector of Solitude in "Solitude Standing," is the day dreamer of "Tom's Diner." The orphan/ waif/traveler takes us through the streets of the city and through her imagination in "Ironbound/Fancy Poultry," she shows us the secret life behind the door "on the second floor" in "Luka," and then gives a hint at the inner life of the woman who "fingers the ring/Opens her purse and feels a longing." But perhaps most compellingly, the wanderer is the mute, frozen orphan, Caspar Hauser, a boy who emerges from a physical, psychological, and spiritual Deep Freeze.
"Wooden Horse (Caspar Hauser's Song)" is one of Vega's most accomplished pieces. Perhaps 16 years old when he was discovered in Germany in 1828, Caspar Hauser, or so his name was supposed, was apparently an abandoned child kept for his entire life to that point in a small underground cell. The boy could only say a few words, and kept repeating one phrase variously reported as "I want to be like my father" and "I want to be a rider like my father". Caspar described his home for years as "six or seven feet long and four feet wide, there were two tiny windows eight or nine inches high and wide, and the ceiling was like in a cellar. There was nothing in it but the straw I lay and sat on, and the two [wooden toy] horses, the [toy] dog, and the woolen blanket, and in the earth beside me a round hole where I did my business, and the water jug; and apart from that there was nothing, there wasn't a stove either." 
Caspar's wooden toy horse is an immensely important symbol not only in this song, but a central metaphor of Vega's entire oeuvre. The wooden horse is as frozen, as immobile as was Caspar, a concrete manifestation of his imprisonment. Like the wooden horse, he is trapped in a deep freeze. The toy is important as the kind of small object and hard, tangible surface that lurks beneath much of Vega's music -- the marble that is "cool and smooth," the "brittle branches," the cold of metal against skin, the tactile feel of glass and ice. One can imagine Caspar cradling the wooden horse, rubbing the wood smooth year after year.
One imagines Caspar in his dark cell, chin to knees as he crouches in the corner alone. One sees Luka huddled in his dark room wishing to be alone. We see the black silhouette of Solitude as she "stands in the doorway," the crowd "sitting all together in the dark in the warm." Throughout Solitude Standing Vega takes us to the darker corners of her imagination. In "Night Vision" we search through the darkness to "find the line, find the shape," to give oneself over to Darkness, "who takes you/With her hand across your face." What did Caspar see in the darkness of his cell? Did he see "though the grain" of darkness, the outline of his toy horse and toy dog? Even as "Luka" dominated the pop charts, even as Vega was as close to a pop star as she ever would be, Solitude Standing conveyed a dark, shadowy landscape, a twilight of profound isolation and introversion.
By day give thanks
By night beware
Half the world in sweetness
The other in fear
I came out of the darkness
Holding one thing
A small white wooden horse
I'd been holding inside
Throughout Solitude Standing are shadowy, ghostly images. From the cover of the album, which features a ghostly image lurking over Vega's left shoulder, to the faint image on the back page of the CD liner notes, to the reflections in the windows of "Tom's Diner," to the "imprint of fear" and "silhouette" of "Solitude Standing," to the ephemeral words in "Language" that are blurs in the brain that fly by and are gone. Gone. Gone.
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