Simon & Garfunkel: The Boxer Meaning
Song Released: 1969
The Boxer Lyrics
I’ve squandered my resistance for a pocketful of mumbles, such are promises
All lies and jest, still the man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest, hmmmm
When I left my home and...
anonymous May 8th, 2012 5:27pm report
One could read the speaker as an immigrant or a hippie or Bob Dylan as much as he likes, but the fact that it is so vague is what gives it its universal appeal. To my mind, the speaker and the boxer are the same, albeit perhaps at different times or in different personae. The first few stanzas are "the reminders of ev'ry glove" that wounded him at one time. Now, however, no longer "running scared" or "laying low," he has finally "cried out in his anger and his shame," and, though the "poor boy" has left, "the fighter still remains." The same speaker, albeit with a different attitude. However, in his recollections of the past, the boxer still seems somewhat plaintive, and acknowledges that he too is the poor boy in the unrecorded verse, that "after changes, we are more or less the same." The boxer's stoic attitude seems to square with that of the speaker of one of Simon's other songs, "I Am A Rock," suggesting that certain attitudes may be right for certain times and certain seasons, though we always remain as we are. A very deep and moving piece: I recognize myself in the poor boy ten years ago, in the boxer over the past five years, and today, as a man who needs to stop fighting.
OldDogNewtrix Nov 13th, 2010 11:11am report
I think this is a song of both desperation and hope in the face of desperation. A young man has gone off to the city and is surrounded by fear and loneliness. He seems to be at a crossroads. There is a verse of the song that sometimes gets included - "now the years are rolling by me, they are rocking evenly, I am older than I once was and younger than I'll be but that's not unusual. No it isnt strange. after changes upon changes we are more or less the same, after changes we are more or less the same" This is one of the predominant themes of the song. The boy is who he is. The Boxer is who he is. Despite the pain and the punches and misery, he can't give up on who he has been. He is a fighter and will always be. I assume there is honor and glory in who he is, as well as the pain and suffering he has endured. I see this as ultimately a song of hope and inspiration in the face of adversity.
I often wonder if the image of the "Boxer" is taken from a real life character. During the 60's an x-boxer, seemingly an alcoholic or "punch drunk" would hang out at the newsstand at the Roosevelt Ave. subway stop in Queens. Considering where Paul Simon lived he must have seen him late at night shadow boxing and talking to the newsstand operator.His face clearly showed the scars of boxing.
anonymous Jan 8th, 2020 1:59pm report
Songs about all of us who have to endure cold winters and old age. Some of us work heavy labor jobs with long hours that drain our very life and, like the fighter, plug along year after year. Recoiling from tragedies as we watch our closest friends pass away. Such is life. My dear friend Johnny and I listened to this tune as the winter winds of northern Illinois battered his small house. He finally moved to Florida but his weak heart gave out and he died at 58 yrs. I'll never forget being there and hearing this song for the first time. It tells all of us to never put down your gloves but only a true fighter will stay on to endure adversity for no other reason then to prove they can go the distance, even if it's only to themselves. rla
anonymous Jun 4th, 2016 6:16pm report
One of ''The Greatest'' songs sung by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel seeing yourself as a fighter while relating to ''The Boxer'' when growing up poor in N.Y. city that needed positive male role models to look up for some strength and guidance to help you psychologically and spiritually to overcome the struggles out of all the shame and anger that you had to endure with and through your role model sometimes called The Boxer. When one day he just had to leave us, but the fighter in him that he left in us still remains in us to be remembered like a old Warrior of a great book.
anonymous Jul 20th, 2014 7:24pm report
The scars of trust and deceptions leading to a hardened heart and never being able to trust again. The fight of the boxer to never let his guard down to never be fooled or tricked again. Instead of taking the risk of having friends he has his books and poetry.
Fight the good fight. Trust no one.
songthinker Dec 10th, 2013 12:52pm report
Simon used literary works as song inspiration many times. This song always reminded me of Hemingway's "The Battler" in which a young drifter (Nick Adamas) meets a down and out punch drunk boxer.
The first part of the song could be about the travails of Adams as he wanders the country looking for work.
The second part, where the boxer appears is much shorter. "In the clearing ....." is Simon's take on Nick's reaction to him. The man is a shell of himself, but "the fighter still remains" in him, as in the story where the boxer wants to fight with Nick.
In the story, Nick sees similarities between himself and the boxer and that this is where he is headed if he doesn't change.
stephen_melinger Mar 11th, 2013 3:42pm report
The song is about a boxer in New York City. Simon refers to athletes frequently including Joe Dimaggio and Frank Lloyd Wright who might have been a substitute subject for Garfunkel who was an architect student. The boxer in the song refers to either Joe Louis or Jack Dempsey.
anonymous Feb 15th, 2013 2:16am report
Lila means "god's play" according to Hinduism, God gets his entertainment through human suffering and triumph. Could the chorus be "Lila", vs. "lie la"? Just a thought.
anonymous Apr 3rd, 2011 4:48am report
I lived through the 60's and Nam and agent orange and the "poor boy was probably 4A I believe it is called and instead of puncturing an eardrum- remember the ears brought home from Nam-significant--well, he left home to escape the war effort...laying low and then meeting a boxer, Clay changed to Ali in those days and don't forget "rope a dope". So much was happening- ever hear the term "mummbley- peg--cribbage-break down the word crib/baby and age/dead - the fighter wasn't a loser but a winner because he got out in time--lie, la, lie as a child there was Santa and the Easter Bunny he grew up fast. Some don't. Thank you. The O in Simon on Paris album has crosshairs in it! Think of the point in time as per Watergate statements PIT-point in time came from that hearing. Guess the 60's were the pits for some but now that I'm older I understand this song. Do you? BTW for those who never played cribbage - you use a peg board and "think"! mummble to one's self while playing- THE SONG!
anonymous Feb 3rd, 2011 2:38am report
A "pocketful of mumbles" is a drug reference, pills that make you incoherent. Paul must have seen a few speed freaks in New York.
mirasharpe..123 Jun 24th, 2010 6:54am report
I think that this song is the story of a person that tried to see the world and live to be happy, like most of us. When this person realised that the best life was the one that they left behind, pride kept him in the lonely place of their own making,instead of going home. Boxer is symbolic, the soul of fighter in any arena, that choses to go on with misery,pain,lonliness,instead of swallowing pride for love and family.
anonymous Oct 25th, 2009 10:46am report
I know a chap who lived in Hornchurch in Essex (England) in the 60's the same time as Paul Simon, Kathy Chitty and a successful English boxer by the name of Billy Walker. They knew each other. He knows that Billy related to Paul how tough it was for him at a New York gym as part of his training, he was homesick, unloved (visiting prostitutes) how is it autobiographical PS is from New York?
Pamlico_140 Jul 9th, 2009 7:40pm report
The Boxer is a classic Rock song that portrays it's moral and meaning through two examples- A Poor boy entering New York City, and seeking work, he cannot get himself out of poverty but keeps trying. The second is A boxer, who has great presistance. These are symbols of the moral and message of The Boxer- which is to keep trying, not to give up. It also tells of how failure happens, even with effort, as the poor boy tried to find work but "got no offers". yet he kept trying.
"pocket full of mumbles", his poetry? Is it autobiographical? Probably. But the very first time I heard it, in high school all alone in my room and suicidal, I thought it was about me, foreshadowing the journy my life would take. And it has. Never give up is its message. We are all boxers and fighters by our trade.
Paul Simon often represented the 'poor working class' in his songs. If any one knowns the story of NYC where Paul Simon grew up, one can tell exactly the setting and background of the song. During the huge emigration movement from Europe(Ellis Island ring a bell?) There were boat loads of people daily entering New York City. Also there were a lot of people moving from the rural areas to the big cities. The problem was there weren't enough jobs to go around. Employers could pay what they wanted, you didn't have a choice and the work coditions were horrible. It is about a young man who left his home to move to the city, struggling to make a living and suffering from loneliness almost gives up on his dream. It is a common misconseption that the young man is the boxer but he isn't. He looks at the boxer and admires him for the his persistance and endurance and how he draws stength from his passed fights. He uses this to inspire himself to get back up and fight. Paul didn't not intentionally write this about himself but says during recording he came to the realization it truly was autobiographical.
Paul Simon uses the Boxer as a metaphor for his own life as a musician. Leaving home, starting out broke, playing small clubs, etc. Perhaps by 1970 he felt 'beat up' by the pressures of being a singer/songwriter, so he used The Boxer to represent himself. "A pocket full of mumbles" seems to hint in the song that he's really writing about himself.
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