"Epitaph" as written by and Mcdonald/sinfield/lake/giles/fripp....
The wall on which the prophets wrote
Is cracking at the seams
Upon the instruments of death
The sunlight brightly gleams
When every man is torn apart
With nightmares and with dreams,
Will no one lay the laurel wreath
As silence drowns the screams

Between the iron gates of fate,
The seeds of time were sown,
And watered by the deeds of those
Who know and who are known;
Knowledge is a deadly friend
When no one sets the rules
The fate of all mankind I see
Is in the hands of fools

Confusion will be my epitaph
As I crawl a cracked and broken path
If we make it we can all sit back and laugh,
But I fear tomorrow I'll be crying,
Yes I fear tomorrow I'll be crying


Lyrics submitted by kevver, edited by darkvoid

"Epitaph" as written by Ian Mcdonald Greg Lake

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Epitaph song meanings
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  • +10
    My InterpretationGreat song!
    Both musical and lyrical. One of the very best of KC.
    I think this about (Cold) War/nuclear destruction.
    Nukes were a very real threat in those days. (Well, they still are.)

    Here is my interpretation:

    The wall on which the prophets wrote
    Is cracking at the seams.
    Upon the instruments of death
    The sunlight brightly gleams.
    [Sun shining on nukes, ready for launch]

    When every man is torn apart
    With nightmares and with dreams,
    [We all fear nuclear holocaust, and we all dream of a better future.]
    Will no one lay the laurel wreath
    As silence drowns the screams.
    [Nobody left to mourn our dead after nuclear war]

    Between the iron gates of fate,
    ['iron gates of fate': Communism/capitalism?]
    The seeds of time were sown,
    [This East/West ideologies simply lead to this situation.]
    And watered by the deeds of those
    Who know and who are known;
    ['those' are politicians with their hand on the red button]

    Knowledge is a deadly friend
    When no one sets the rules.
    ['Knowledge' as in E=MC^2. Too much knowlegde, too litlle wisdom.]
    The fate of all mankind I see
    Is in the hands of fools.
    [Well, no need to explain THAT one. ;-)]

    Confusion will be my epitaph.
    As I crawl a cracked and broken path
    [Double meaning: 1) Image of postnuke world where he walks. 2) metaphorical: 'I' = humankind.]
    If we make it we can all sit back
    and laugh.
    [If we don't destroy ourselfs, we can laugh about it one day.]

    But I fear tomorrow I'll be crying,
    Yes I fear tomorrow I'll be crying.
    [Well, he is NOT optimistic about chances for laughter tomorrow...]

    This is how I hear this song. But most concepts can easily be stretched to a broader meaning as others did in their interpretation.
    Great, but haunting song. :-)
    MrWillowon April 29, 2009   Link
  • +4
    General Commentpeter sinfield is the man who wrote the lyrics for this album. he is definitely one of the best lyricists in history, which is evident especially in this song and i talk to the wind. great, legendary lyrics
    Blizz Orwellon May 19, 2008   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationObviously about nuclear holocaust. Easily one of the most dread-inducing songs recorded.
    CharMarRuleson March 07, 2016   Link
  • +1
    General Commentbest king crimson song ... do your self a favor download there live version at the filmore east in '69 god its beautiful
    Hindenbergon August 29, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe first part of the song is about breaking away from tradition and the deconstruction of society. People living in the hell that they created. No one is willing enough to express themselves because they will be lynched, and everyone turns a blind eye "silence drowns the screams'.

    The first part of the second verse is about the beginning of time being created by God (I guess), and that the great vastness of our reality has been simplified to an anti-intellectualism.

    The chorus is written in first person. The person see the faults and messed up ways of society and is only confused and will die soon. The only thing he wants to show the rest of the world in writing was that he was a confused person. The next day he will cry for everyone then die.

    Kind of dperessing, isn't it?
    Johnno7on December 09, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentPersonally, i disagree. i see it as a representation of a form of a judgement day, were people are judged by there passed actions. the idea that, though he thinks he may pass the judgement an be happy for it [if we make it we can all sit back and laugh], but he [the narrator] feels that he wont be able to. I think that the deeper meaning is that of how our past actions can lead to future regrets.
    leonhart9656on January 18, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song discusses the despair of society and how conformists are leading everythinh down the wrong path. Back then "prophets" dreamed of an ideal society and the "late men" and "moonchildren" are trying to crawl along that path that is being shattered by modern society: politicians, war, everything. However, the tone of despair rings that this path is growing harder to crawl across and may be gone eventually if things progress this way. The is somewhat of a combination of schizoid man and i talk to the wind: this is the "late man's" fear that the world will become that of the schizoid man.
    cronoyuhaon February 05, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentJust an aside here - 'Knowledge is a deadly friend when no-one sets the rules. The fate of all mankind I see is in the hands of fools' - this song was written at the height of the cold war when nuclear attack was thought of as probable rather than just possible.
    AlanOldieon July 28, 2007   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationIt's about our own self-destruction - precisely what Nietzsche envisioned and in a way prophesied about the 20th century - the ramifications of humanity's "killing" of God. What a grim but beautifully written song - profound and poignant in all of its artistry.
    Prolepticthoughtson January 25, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General Commentyeah dude, its the best song ive heared in years, i think its about the world suffering from overpopulation and hunger and all the crappy things humans do. and he is pessimistic about it too.
    Lateraluson March 31, 2003   Link

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