"Fortress Around Your Heart" as written by and Gordon Matthew Sumner....
Under the ruins of a walled city
Crumbling towers in beams of yellow light.
No flags of truce, no cries of pity;
The siege guns had been pounding through the night.
It took a day to build the city.
We walked through its streets in the afternoon.
As I returned across the fields I'd known,
I recognized the walls that I once made.
Had to stop in my tracks for fear of walking on the mines I'd laid.

And if I've built this fortress around your heart,
Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire,
Then let me build a bridge, for I cannot fill the chasm,
And let me set the battlements on fire.

Then I went off the fight some battle that I'd invented inside my head.
Away so long for years and years,
You probably thought or even wished that I was dead.
While the armies are all sleeping beneath the tattered flag we'd made.
I had to stop in my tracks for fear of walking on the mines I'd laid.

And if I've built this fortress around your heart,
Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire,
Then let me build a bridge, for I cannot fill the chasm,
And let me set the battlements on fire.

This prison has now become your home,
A sentence you seem prepared to pay.
It took a day to build the city.
We walked through its streets in the afternoon.
As I returned across the fields I'd known,
I recognized the walls that I once made.
Had to stop in my tracks for fear of walking on the mines I'd laid.

And if I've built this fortress around your heart,
Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire,
Then let me build a bridge, for I cannot fill the chasm,
And let me set the battlements on fire.


Lyrics submitted by Novartza, edited by Ouizel

"Fortress Around Your Heart" as written by Gordon Sumner

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Fortress Around Your Heart song meanings
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  • +4
    General CommentOkay, so I know it's almost been a year since the last comment on this song, but I just finished listening to it at work and had to pop in.

    Sillybunny was close, but I think it's taken too literally in the analyzation... also, I can't agree that the figurative minefield was laid by trying to protect them.

    "No flags of truce, no cries of pity
    The siege guns had been pounding all through the night"

    In these two succinct lines I hear a fight between two lovers - neither is willing to sympathize with the other's point of view. The second line, though it says only one night, could symbolize a length of time where neither party let their guard down for many grueling months, seeming as intense as a night of endless gunfire. By the time the morning of the relationship dawns, cold and grey, each lover is so grim and emotionally exhausted that pity is not an option.

    "As I returned across the fields I'd known
    I recognized the walls that I once laid
    I had to stop in my tracks for fear
    Of walking on the mines I'd laid"

    This sounds to me like a moment of introspection; the narrator takes a look at his own memories of the relationship when all was good, and sees staggering before him the many steps that were taken (i.e., the walls once laid) by him that influenced the decline of the relationship. He sees his motives and understands them for what they were, good or bad - instead of taking aim at the lover, he's facing his contributions to the broken relationship and had to 'stop in his tracks for fear of walking on the mines he had laid.'

    "And if I've built this fortress around your heart
    Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire
    Then let me build a bridge
    For I cannot fill the chasm
    And let me set the battlements on fire"

    He realizes that he plays a part in his lover's guarded heart. Things he did to hurt her, intentionally or not, insensitivities and injustices forming a fortress around her emotionally, where he is no longer permitted entry.
    He is now regretting what his share of this outcome and entreats her to allow him a way to make ammends - the metaphor of building bridges and being unable to fill the chasm symbolizes his acknowledgement of what he's done wrong, but she has made her mistakes, too - bridges go both ways, and both must reach compromise. Burning down the battlements means removing the need for fights with the compromises, therefore disarming her emotionally.

    "Then I went off to fight some battle
    That I'd invented inside my head
    Away so long for years and years
    You probably thought or even wished that I was dead"

    Not literally that he left her and went off to battle, but as a figurative example of the man she knew and loved withdrawing into himself as the fighting got worse - someone who was once tender, loving and understanding becoming suspicious, antagonistic, and uncompromizing, for example. She considers the person she knew him to be as dead. He wishes to change her mind and tell her he's still there, beneath his own armor.

    "This prison has now become your home
    A sentence you seem prepared to pay"

    Not that she feels deserving of punishment in some way - the prison is another description of the fortress, which is a metaphor for the coldness she bears towards him. She seems 'prepared to pay' the sentence because she has completely closed herself off to emotional contact with him. There may still be love for him inside the fortress, but she will not withdraw herself from it to allow herself to be hurt again.

    "As I returned across the lands I'd known
    I recognized the fields where I'd once played
    I had to stop in my tracks for fear
    Of walking on the mines I'd laid

    And if I've built this fortress around your heart
    Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire
    Then let me build a bridge
    For I cannot fill the chasm
    And let me set the battlements on fire"

    Again, he returns to his memories of their past (the fields where I once played), and is reminded of better times when there were no fortresses or battlements, no need to protect themselves from one another. And, once again, he entreats her to let him make it right, and to assist in bridging the gap between their hearts.

    All in all, it may not be the *best* unrequited love song out there, but lyrically, it's among the top of it's class.
    virtuallypainlesson April 12, 2007   Link
  • +3
    General CommentInspired by Sting's divorce. The pain he felt when he couldn't make his first marriage work led him to write some of his biggest hits, including "Every Breath You Take" and "King Of Pain."
    During one of Sting's concerts, his roadies pulled a practical joke by lowering a miniature fortress around him while he performed this. Sting was not pleased. (Songfacts.com)
    angelmatton March 11, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General CommentSting once pointed out that while "Fortress Around Your Heart" has a repeated reference to a bridge, the song itself has no bridge.

    The original black and white video had a color ending that showed Sting gluing dollar bills onto the side of a filing cabinet. It's not on the videos DVD, but it's on the old VHS collection.
    thedouglason November 22, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAnd if we've built this fortress around our heart
    Encircled it in trenches and barbed wire
    Then let us build a bridge
    Or maybe fill the chasm
    And watch us set the battlements on fire
    sillybunnyon August 21, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe song is definitely about an ex-relationship that he would like to somehow make amends with or rekindle.

    "Under the ruins of a walled city
    Crumbling towers and beams of yellow light"


    He finds a moment -- after breakup -- after he's hurt her. The ruins of the walled city are the walls around her heart that were built up due to the pain she endured from the breakup/divorce. Crumbling towers are the remains -- after their couple 'war'. And beams of yellow light are a sense of hopefulness (at least on his part) that she's starting to soften up and could possibly let him in or forgive him. It isn't a full "open up" on her part because she's been badly hurt, but the city is starting to crumble and there HE (The Light) tries is seeping in. The yellow light is also just neutrality/friendship.


    "No flags of truce, no cries of pity
    The siege guns had been pounding all through the night"

    This is pretty simple: there's no truce yet. She's still closed off to him. (I get the sense the whole time that he's going *back* to see the ruins of that 'war' that he had left behind long ago). She has no pity on him. She's full on ready to shoot...


    "It took a day to build the city
    We walked through its streets in the afternoon"

    That's the beginning of the relationship. That's the place where they started...they built the "city" (love/relationship) pretty quickly. In the span of a day. Not sure if this is present or past tense when they are walking through its streets. But afternoon is a good time -- sunny -- most likely the "afternoon" of their relationship. Sort of foreshadowing that there will be a "night" as well (not as pleasant/dark).

    "As I returned across the lands I'd known
    I recognized the fields where I'd once played
    I had to stop in my tracks for fear
    Of walking on the mines I'd laid"

    So he's talking to her...he's reminiscing...remembering...or simply spending time with her. He's returning to the "lands he'd known" -- these are both the lands of the relationship and of her (this is intimate/sexual -- has a triple meaning). He recognizes the fields...again this is both speaking about the relationship and the woman. He uses "played" because he was careless with her heart, or he did something without realizing he would hurt her. He'd laid mines -- meaning: he's the one who has caused all of this destruction. He's laid mines in her heart...so at any point she could blow up at him because of the painful blows he's made to her heart. At any point he could push the wrong button, as he is with her, and change the course of things (i.e. she would no longer want to be back with him -- would get angry, tell him to leave..).


    "And if I built this fortress around your heart
    Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire
    Then let me build a bridge
    For I cannot fill the chasm
    And let me set the battlements on fire"

    So here it is: he wants to make amends. He is clearly taking the blame for making her so defensive and hurt (fortress around your heart), and he has made her so afraid of getting hurt (she's encircled with trenches and barbed wire-- she can do the hurting as well if anyone approaches). He now wants to build a bridge...at least be friends...or explore the possibility of getting back together. He's saying sorry in a subdued way. He cannot fill the chasm, because the damage is already done (this also has a double meaning). He wants to burn the battlements because he wants to let bygones be bygones and make a truce.

    "Then I went off to fight some battle
    That I'd invented inside my head
    Away so long for years and years
    You probably thought or even wished that I was dead"

    He's sort of "going off to war" here -- he was away. He's left her behind, for something else. Something he's invented in his head. He's fighting other battles (other women? his career? it's not clear). He is recognizing that she has either moved on or completely gotten over him in some way or another since he has been gone for so long.

    "While the armies are all sleeping
    Beneath the tattered flag we'd made
    I had to stop in my track for fear
    Of walking on the mines I'd laid"

    He's hesitating again to make and advance...he's scared that he will walk on a mine and she'll blow up and never speak to him again. Or he'll open an old wound that cannot be healed properly. The armies that are sleeping are her defenses, the flag is the truce...he's scared that she'll come to her senses again and not agree to the truce.

    "And if I built this fortress around your heart
    Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire
    Then let me build a bridge
    For I cannot fill the chasm
    And let me set the battlements on fire"

    "This prison has now become your home
    A sentence you seem prepared to pay"

    He's acknowledging that she just can't let go of the past; she can't forgive him; she's still hurt. She doesn't want to make amends. She wants to live in the "prison" -- he calls it -- that he is responsible for creating around her heart. She's isolating herself and doesn't want to love or open up, for fear of losing love or being deceived/hurt. She's prepared to pay the sentence because he doesn't see her trying to get out of that 'city' of hurt. Or ...in this case...forgiving him.


    "It took a day to build the city
    We walked through its streets in the afternoon
    As I returned across the lands I'd known
    I recognized the fields where I'd once played
    I had to stop in my tracks for fear
    Of walking on the mines I'd laid

    And if I built this fortress around your heart
    Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire
    Then let me build a bridge
    For I cannot fill the chasm
    And let me set the battlements on fire"
    stinglover20on February 21, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General Commenthaha i never knew that but thats pretty hilarious.I love the emotion contained in this song, and as always sting's amazing lyrical abilities just burn the words into ur mind
    deepdivineon May 02, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI've heard many songs in my life, and these lyrics remain my favorite **ever**. The metaphors that Sting uses here appeal to my love of military history and I can apply the meanings to my own past relationships. I LOVE THIS SONG.
    ChampionLoveron January 29, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentHAHA angelmatt
    sixedhearton June 03, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI've always liked this song. It's challenging to analyze. And I looked up battlement because I wasn’t positive what one was. [The notched top (crenellated parapet) of a defensive wall, with open spaces (crenels) for firing weapons.]
    The man of the tale helped to build the city and then participated in its destruction. This could be a metaphor for how we create and destroy with our behavioral defense mechanisms.

    “If I’ve built this fortress …” It’s a suspicion. He’s not positive but fairly certain and wants to pass through his own traps by building a bridge. He wants to burn the battlements because he has decided against being so insecure about the lady’s love that he still feels the need to keep her heart prisoner.

    He leaves on a pretext, imagining the lady thinks the worst of him for his previously harsh reign or
    He left on a pretext after imprisoning the lady, was gone for many years and just now returned to free her—wondering if she wished he was dead while he was gone. I think the latter because of the reference to the prison becoming her home. He comments that the lady didn’t fight too hard against this, she may have felt she deserved it, or felt he was worth being imprisoned over.
    But he’s back. He wants to build that bridge and hopefully free her rather than just setting the battlements on fire and leaving her in there. Come on—I’m teasing. He didn’t set her on fire too.
    sillybunnyon July 19, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Comment[Sting]: “‘Fortress Around Your Heart’ is about appeasement, about trying to bridge the gaps between individuals. The central image is a minefield that you've laid around this other person to try and protect them. Then you realise that you have to walk back through it. I think it's one of the best choruses I've ever written.”
    sillybunnyon August 28, 2006   Link

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