"The Night Watch" as written by William Scott Bruford, David Francis Cross, Robert Fripp, Richard William Palmer James and John Kenneth Wetton....
Shine, shine, the light of good works shine
The watch before the city gates depicted in their prime
That golden light all grimy now
Three hundred years have passed
The worthy Captain and his squad of troopers standing fast

The artist knew their faces well
The husbands of his lady friends
His creditors and councilors
In armor bright, the merchant men

Official moments of the guild
In poses keen from bygone days
The city fathers frozen there
Upon the canvas dark with age

The smell of paint, a flask of wine
And turn those faces all to me
The blunderbuss and halberd-shaft
And Dutch respectability

They make their entrance one by one
Defenders of that way of life
The redbrick home, the bourgeoisie
Guitar lessons for the wife

So many years we suffered here
Our country racked with Spanish wars
Now comes a chance to find ourselves
And quiet reigns behind our doors
We think about posterity again

And so the pride of little men
The burghers good and true
Still living through the painter's hand
Request you all to understand


Lyrics submitted by ruben

"The Night Watch" as written by James Richard William Palmer David Francis Cross

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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The Night Watch song meanings
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7 Comments

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  • +2
    General Commentdeath-jargon: I think you are way off the mark with your analysis.

    This song talks of a picture of 17th century Dutch society and the prosperity they now enjoy after their struggle for independence from Spain has ended: a period called the Dutch Golden Age.

    When I say picture, I mean it both literally and figuratively. The author is talking about a painting of Dutch people from theafforementioned era, that he can now appreciate "three hundred years" later. I believe the precise painting to be one called "The Nightwatch", more aptly named "The Militia Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq", by Rembrandt.


    As a listener, you cannot help but feel as if you were standing next to the author, contemplating a three-centuries old portrait of authentic "bourgeois" society as he describes the particular feelings of the people of the era: the smell of paint, the redbrick home, the Dutch respectability, the chance to live a peaceful life again. You are invaded with an overwhelming sense of awe at the quintessential bourgeioise of the people portrayed.

    The word that comes to mind is contentedness, not stagnance. The portrayed men are the creme-de-la-creme of their environment, a new and prosperous society in its Golden Age, riding high on the wave of the european Renaissance and considered leaders in trade, science and art.


    The painting itself:
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…

    More reading:
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    frijolito_tson February 19, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThe description by frijolito_ts is excellent, but I just wanted to add a few things.

    The song has several different points of view that shift over the course of the time. The first three verses are from the point of view of an observer in an art museum at the present time, looking at the picture: "three hundred years have passed," "canvas dark with age." In the next two verses the point of view changes to the artist executing the painting: "smell of paint," "turn those faces all to me." The following verse shifts to the point of view of the actors in the painting itself, the members of the night watch. The last verse returns to a universal viewpoint which provides a broad view of the entire drama.
    marcdon March 01, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is a hard song to interpret. I wrote a paper on it and my thesis was that it was a commentary on the stagnance of society. It paints this picture of a society where nothing has changed for hundreds of years and how sad these poeple are.... great guitar solo too, very weird.
    death-jargonon December 30, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is a hard song to interpret. I wrote a paper on it and my thesis was that it was a commentary on the stagnance of society. It paints this picture of a society where nothing has changed for hundreds of years and how sad these poeple are.... great guitar solo too, very weird.
    death-jargonon December 30, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWow, frijolito_ts, that review was spot-on! Mind if I 'borrow' some of your ideas for a term paper? ;)
    that_guatemalan_guyon August 16, 2005   Link
  • 0
    My OpinionI believe frijolito_ts is correct in most of his remarks, but I would like to add a little more perspective.

    The narrator in these lyrics is obviously standing on front of the painting referred to as "The Night Watch" in the National Museum of Amsterdam, and expresses his admiration for it both by calling it a "good work" and analysing the scene depicted at length. Through the painting, he seems to acquire an understanding of the suffering of the Dutch people after their struggle with the Spanish reign and of their longing for a free and prosperous society, with all the petty bourgousie stuff that comes along with it.

    The pivoting point of these lyrics lies in the possible dual interpretation of the last verse:

    The burghers good and true / still living through the painter's hand / request you all to understand

    According to this line, the good and true burghers who are immortalised by the painter (i.e. the people depicted in the painting) request "you all" to show an understanding for their cause. However, if this verse is read as follows:

    The burghers good and true still living / through the painter's hand / request you all to understand

    perhaps the good and true burghers of the Netherlands, in their petty society of today (=1974), request you all to show an understanding of their way of life, by invoking this painting.

    I wouldn't go as far as to say that Palmer-James consciously included this dual interpretation in his lines; on the other hand, it is obvious that whatever the feelings of the narrator towards the Dutch society were, it is this painting by Rembrandt that made him judge it in a more flexible manner.
    giantsquidon August 19, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is a song about a painting. Rembrandt's Night Watch. It's famous. You can find it here: rembrandtpainting.net/…
    head1rston August 03, 2013   Link

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