Pendulum swinging slow
A degenerate moving
It’s some very clever nerdplay. In physics, a pendulums motion is said to be “degenerate” as friction increasingly slows it down. However, the word “degenerate” can also mean an immoral or corrupt person. Earl is describing the pendulums motion as well as saying he is a moral/corrupt person who is becoming more corrupted with time.
Rolling on, “pendulum swinging slow” is a twist on “chain swinging low” lines that’s common in rap. A pendulum looks a lot like the medallions found on the end of chains. I also think Earl isn’t a fan of ‘bling bling’ rap lines, which would be why he wants to play off those lines with a possible Poe reference, giving some depth to an otherwise shallow idea.
This could possibly be a reference to Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Pit and the Pendulum.” In the story, a prisoner wakes up to find himself strapped to a wooden board by ropes. When he looks up, he sees a gigantic pendulum swinging slowly back and forth. To his horror, it is also slowly sliding downwards. As the pendulum reaches a point inches above his heart, he is able to break free of the ropes
The Poe interpretation is very interesting. However, it only works if we consider the completion of the line to be “a degenerate moving.” The first suggestion seems more accurate as he continues with “a degenerate moving through the city with criminal stealth.” Most importantly, there is no mention of the pendulum bearing a scythe like the one found in Poe’s story.
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