The Great War

Album: Midnights (3am Edition) (2022)
Charted: 26
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Songfacts®:

  • The war of 1914-18 was called "The Great War" until the war of 1939-45. Then, the term "First World War" replaced it, the latter becoming "Second World War." Here, Taylor compares a romantic conflict to the First World War.

    All that bloodshed, crimson clover
    Uh-huh, sweet dream was over
    My hand was the one you reached for
    All throughout the Great War
  • Swift admits to instigating a fight with her lover after overreacting to something.

    My knuckles were bruised like violets
    Sucker punching walls, cursed you as I sleep-talked


    She recounts a similar outburst on the Lover track "Afterglow."

    Swift's beau tries to calm her down, while the singer isolates herself and dwells on their argument.

    You drew up some good faith treaties
    I drew curtains closed, drank my poison all alone
    You said I have to trust more freely


    Their warring came about because of Swift's trust issues. On the Folklore cut "Peace," Swift confesses to a fear of commitment because of previous heartbreaks.
  • Now reconciled, Swift and her paramour are on solid footing. They've learned important lessons, and she wishes to plant a memorial as a reminder of their painful fallout.

    We can plant a memory garden
    Say a solemn prayer, place a poppy in my hair
    There's no morning glory, it was war, it wasn't fair
    And we will never go back


    The red poppy is a symbol of World War I because they grew throughout the Western Front. Western countries commonly use poppies on and before Remembrance Day each year as a sign of remembrance.
  • The song may allude to Swift's early days with her partner, Joe Alwyn. When they first dated, she felt very vulnerable because of public criticism from her feud with Kanye West and a series of romantic relationships that hadn't worked out. She recalls telling Alwyn on the Lover track "Cruel Summer": "I love you, ain't that the worst thing you ever heard?"
  • Swift co-wrote and co-produced "The Great War" with Aaron Dessner. The National band member was Swift's main collaborator on 2020's Folklore and Evermore, as well her 2021 re-recordings of Fearless and Red. He contributed towards two other tracks on Midnights: "High Infidelity" and "Would've, Could've, Should've." All three songs are bonus tracks on the 3am Edition.
  • Dessner played keyboards, synth bass and electric guitar on "The Great War." He also shared percussion and drum programming duties with James McAlister and piano duties with Doveman. The other two musicians were a married couple: Kyle Resnick (trumpet) and Yuki Numata Resnick (violin). Kyle Resnick is part of The National's live setup.

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