This is a chorus of a song called "Exercises in Futility VI" by a band called Mgła.

Self crucified - missed the right tree.
Tore the wrong eye out.
The hissing of hellfire.
Self crucified - missed the right tree.
For this I've gained a victory.
I burn as I ought to.

As we see, almost all words are in Past tense (Self crucified, missed, Tore and gained). It appears the author is talking about past events. However, there is an odd line which is not.

I burn as I ought to.

My opinion is that the use of the phrase "I burn as I ought to." might be wrong. It should be "I burned as I ought to." to fit the whole paragraph and because all of it appears to already have happened.

My questions are:

  • Am I correct? Is this line wrongly phrased?
  • If I am wrong and this is indeed valid english, what does the line mean? Why is it in present tense?

closed as off-topic by MetaEd Sep 12 '18 at 17:51

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I only see one reasonable explanation: the past-tense verbs are in the past tense because they refer to things in the past, and the present-tense verb is in the present tense because it refers to a thing in the present. The singer is saying that because of those past events, they currently "burn as they ought to".

This interpretation is reinforced by the fact that "I've gained a victory" is in the present perfect rather than the simple past. The use of the present perfect in "I've gained a victory" implies that the speaker is currently still benefiting from the victory. If the benefit were come and gone, then the speaker would have said "I gained a victory".

(Apparently, the "benefit" in this case is that the speaker is burning. That doesn't make much sense, but rock and metal lyrics don't usually make much sense anyway.)


In the penultimate line, "I've gained" is present perfect -- not past tense. The final line is habitual. It seems only natural to proceed from past to present as the lyrics progress.

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