1 2 3
SO REMEMBER THOSE WHO WIN THE GAME
LOSE THE LOVE THEY SOUGHT TO GAIN
IN DEBENTURES OF QUALITY AND DUBIOUS INTEGRITY
THEIR SMALL-TOWN EYES WILL GAPE AT YOU
IN DULL SURPRISE WHEN PAYMENT DUE
EXCEEDS ACCOUNTS RECEIVED AT SEVENTEEN
These are lyrics from a Janis Ian song "at seventeen"; could you please help me understand what's in bold?

PS: shouldn't it be "when payment'S due"?
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Hello,
I think here the 'small- town eyes' is the metaphoric value for the public opinion, and they grant you a sort of bond for recognition of their debt(metaphoric value for respect)in form of 'quality and dubious integrity,or simply, they sheepishly respect you, but with some doubts in their minds.
Cheers
Full Member186
Cher Ami, merci for your explanations... Yet I need some more:
What is a/- "debentures" ?
I'm not a calculating/money person...
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I edit "when payment due" < payment's due. It would be wrong. Forget this part of my question!
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'reconnaissance de dette'
An alternative suggestion:

If a debenture = 'a bond backed by the general credit of the issuer rather than a specific lien on particular assets':

Then these 'debentures' are 'bonds backed by the issuer's quality and integrity', where the issuer = 'those who win the game', and 'bonds' = 'an obligation made binding by a forfeit', i.e.

1. 'obligations backed by the quality and integrity of those who win the game'.

i.e.

2. 'in emotional matters, those who will win the game (hereafter 'TWWWTG') have certain obligations towards Janis, and will lose their quality and integrity if those obligations are not met'.

Now it gets tricky: what does she mean by 'accounts received'?

Well...I suppose she could mean 'statement of account'.

So TWWWTG receive Janis's emotional statement of account; however, the figure at the bottom of the statement is less than the 'payment due' – e.g. Janis says:

3. 'Here is your statement of account, which = x. However, here is your bill, which = 2x.'

Understandably, they 'gape in dull surprise'. This is not normal.

Putting the two parts together...perhaps:

4. 'In emotional matters, TWWWTG have certain obligations towards Janis. This includes paying her emotional bill. However, Janis presents a bill which is more (2x) than the figure on the statement of account (x). (She is very demanding.) It seems therefore that TWWWTG will query the bill, and perhaps refuse to pay it. If so, they will not have met their obligations, and will therefore lose their quality and integrity'.

Which probably means they will 'lose the love they sought to gain'.

MrP
PS: Please don't send me into the corner again.
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Hello'
Since there is no punctuation, the interpretations could be different.
Hello x.m.

I think you're right. Mine is only one alternative. I didn't mean to imply that yours was wrong!

MrP
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MrP, I've never sent you nor will I ever send you to any corner! Emotion: smile

Maybe the context will be clearer with the complete lyrics? Here they are:

I LEARNED THE TRUTH AT SEVENTEEN
THAT LOVE WAS MEANT FOR BEAUTY QUEENS
AND HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS WITH CLEAR SKINNED SMILES
WHO MARRIED YOUNG AND THEN RETIRED
THE VALENTINES I NEVER KNEW
THE FRIDAY NIGHT CHARADES OF YOUTH
WERE SPENT ON ONE MORE BEAUTIFUL
AT SEVENTEEN I LEARNED THE TRUTH

AND THOSE OF US WITH RAVAGED FACES
LACKING IN THE SOCIAL GRACES
DESPERATELY REMAINED AT HOME
INVENTING LOVERS ON THE PHONE
WHO CALLED TO SAY - COME DANCE WITH ME
AND MURMURED VAGUE OBSCENITIES
IT ISN'T ALL IT SEEMS AT SEVENTEEN

A BROWN EYED GIRL IN HAND ME DOWNS
WHOSE NAME I NEVER COULD PRONOUNCE
SAID - PITY PLEASE THE ONES WHO SERVE
THEY ONLY GET WHAT THEY DESERVE
THE RICH RELATIONED HOMETOWN QUEEN
MARRIES INTO WHAT SHE NEEDS
WITH A GUARANTEE OF COMPANY
AND HAVEN FOR THE ELDERLY

SO REMEMBER THOSE WHO WIN THE GAME
LOSE THE LOVE THEY SOUGHT TO GAIN
IN DEBENTURES OF QUALITY AND DUBIOUS INTEGRITY
THEIR SMALL-TOWN EYES WILL GAPE AT YOU
IN DULL SURPRISE WHEN PAYMENT DUE
EXCEEDS ACCOUNTS RECEIVED AT SEVENTEEN

TO THOSE OF US WHO KNEW THE PAIN
OF VALENTINES THAT NEVER CAME
AND THOSE WHOSE NAMES WERE NEVER CALLED
WHEN CHOOSING SIDES FOR BASKETBALL
IT WAS LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY
THE WORLD WAS YOUNGER THAN TODAY
WHEN DREAMS WERE ALL THEY GAVE FOR FREE
TO UGLY DUCKLING GIRLS LIKE ME

WE ALL PLAY THE GAME, AND WHEN WE DARE
WE CHEAT OURSELVES AT SOLITAIRE
INVENTING LOVERS ON THE PHONE
REPENTING OTHER LIVES UNKNOWN
THAT CALL AND SAY - COME ON, DANCE WITH ME
AND MURMUR VAGUE OBSCENITIES
AT UGLY GIRLS LIKE ME, AT SEVENTEEN

The least we can say is that they give off a strong flavour of bitterness and disillusion...
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