Basically, this song from the musical “Les Miserables” speaks of Fantine’s pain , anger, and sadness on having been left by Tholomyes, with nothing but a child to look after.. Despite her ugly past, she still hoped that this man would come back and that they would spend their lives together.
Analysis of this song will be by line or stanza.
There was a time when men were kind
And their voices were soft
And their words inviting
There was a time when love was blind
And the world was a song
And the song was exciting
There was a time….
Then it all went .. wrong
Gone were the days that all men would practice chivalry and be gentle to ladies, with their sweet caressing words and perform acts of kindness. Rarely would you hear them nowadays speaking to women softly. This was how Fantine felt right after her lover , Felix Tholomyes , left her with nothing but a child to feed and care for. Everything went wrong for her – getting fired from a job (because of her jealous co-workers’ misconception of her) , forced to go through prostitution just to earn money and feed her child, and almost getting into jail for allegedly hitting a man who harassed her.
I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high and life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving
Fantine dreamed of living a life that was worth living, where everything will be just alright, hoping that Tholomyes’ love for her would be the same as it was. She dreamed that God would be merciful enough to forgive her for her wrong deeds. Just like Fantine, we all dream of this kind of life, where everything will go smoothly , but sadly we had to go through tough times and face the ugly truth of what the real world shows us.
But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dream to shame
The word ‘tiger’ in the stanza simply refers to our enemies (either human beings or our emotions like fear). They may come to crush all our hopes and dreams, turning them to frustrations. The line ‘With their voices soft as thunder’ is an ironic expression. No matter how soft their words may be, you could just feel the harshness behind it, especially with how they utter words.
He slept a summer by my side
He filled my days with endless wonder
He took my childhood in his stride
But he was gone when autumn came
Fantine felt all alone when Tholomyes, the father of Cosette, abandoned her. There are instances when we feel like our loved one would someday leave us, just like how Tholomyes left Fantine. We feel like we’re already unloved and all alone, like no one cares for us anymore. But we’re not. It’s just that they are not good for us or that we deserve guys who are better than them.
And still I dream he’ll come to me
That we would live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather
Fantine still felt hopeful that the love of her life would come back to her and spend the rest of their lives together. But everything turned out the other way. There are dreams that just don’t come true for everyone. There are times that we feel like life is being unfair to us whenever things don’t go our way, but in reality, it is not what God wills for us and that He has better plans for us. The word ‘storms’ here refers to our fate. We cannot control them, no matter how hard we try to do so.
I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I’m living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed a dream
Almost all of us could relate to Fantine’s fate. She hoped to live a better life than what she had experienced – which was a hellish one for her. She wished that it would be a different one. It’s like the life that she lived destroyed her dream to live a happy one.