Is the use of the Present Simple grammatically accurate in these lyrics, or is it an example of so-called poetic license that allows for violating grammar rules for the sake of rhyme:

It is the evening of the day
I sit and watch the children play
Smiling faces I can see, but not for me
I sit and watch as tears go by

If we read the lyrics as a prose text, wouldn't the Present Continuous be a more correct choice here since the text describes an ongoing process at the particular moment? The whole scene can also be seen as a picture requiring the Present Continuous for its description too.

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    Pop song lyrics are usually written after the tune, and they are required to fit that. Grammar is not a consideration. – Michael Harvey Jun 20 '19 at 21:05
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    The Rolling Stones have said in interviews that they pick the vowels for their songs before the pick the actual words. (Keith Richards calls it “vowel movement”). – ColleenV Jun 20 '19 at 22:35

Simple present is correct. This is an example of "commentary", the speaker is describing something as it happens, which is a use for the simple present. It is rather rare, as we don't normally describe things as they happen.

It would also be possible to use a present continuous, and in prose that tense would be more common.

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  • Thanks! Are the present simple and present continuous interchangeable, when commenting? The present continuous is used in "Tom's Diner" by Suzanne Vega. – Alexey Platonov Jun 20 '19 at 21:31
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    I would call it a "narrative present". – Colin Fine Jun 20 '19 at 21:44
  • Do you see any difference between the simple and continuous forms in regard to commenting? – Alexey Platonov Jun 20 '19 at 21:51
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    Also the "narrative present" is sometimes used in children's stories, "Benny the Badger looks out from his hole. "What a lovely morning it is!" he thinks." – Andrew Jun 20 '19 at 23:28
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    @AlexeyPlatonov Note that "Tom's Diner" uses a mix of both present simple and present continuous. I think Suzanne Vega picked the continuous tense because the "-ing" form of verbs all have a similar accent which matches the rhythm she wanted for the song. Semantically both the present simple and the present continuous suggest the narrator is a detached observer, but this might also be the effect of the actual context. – Andrew Jun 20 '19 at 23:34

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