"Roads to Moscow" as written by and Alistair Ian Stewart....
They crossed over the border, the hour before dawn
Moving in lines through the day
Most of our planes were destroyed on the ground where they lay
Waiting for orders we held in the wood
Word from the front never came
By evening the sound of the gunfire was miles away
Ah, softly we move through the shadows, slip away through the trees
Crossing their lines in the mists in the fields on our hands and on our knees
And all that I ever
Was able to see
The fire in the air glowing red
Silhouetting the smoke on the breeze

All summer they drove us back through the Ukraine
Smolensk and Viasma soon fell
By autumn we stood with our backs to the town of Orel
Closer and closer to Moscow they come
Riding the wind like a bell
General Guderian stands at the crest of the hill
Winter brought with her the rains, oceans of mud filled the roads
Gluing the tracks of their tanks to the ground while the sky filled with snow
And all that I ever
Was able to see
The fire in the air glowing red
Silhouetting the snow on the breeze

In the footsteps of Napoleon the shadow figures stagger through the winter
Falling back before the gates of Moscow, standing in the wings like an avenger
And far away behind their lines the partisans are stirring in the forest
Coming unexpectedly upon their outposts, growing like a promise
You'll never know, you'll never know which way to turn, which way to look you'll never see us
As we're stealing through the blackness of the night
You'll never know, you'll never hear us
And the evening sings in a voice of amber, the dawn is surely coming
The morning roads lead to Stalingrad, and the sky is softly humming

Two broken Tigers on fire in the night
Flicker their souls to the wind
We wait in the lines for the final approach to begin
It's been almost four years that I've carried a gun
At home it will almost be spring
The flames of the Tigers are lighting the road to Berlin
Ah, quickly we move through the ruins that bow to the ground
The old men and children they send out to face us, they can't slow us down
And all that I ever
Was able to see
The eyes of the city are opening
Now it's the end of the dream

I'm coming home, I'm coming home, now you can taste it in the wind, the war is over
And I listen to the clicking of the train-wheels as we roll across the border
And now they ask me of the time that I was caught behind their lines and taken prisoner
"They only held me for a day, a lucky break," I say they turn and listen closer
I'll never know, I'll never know why I was taken from the line and all the others
To board a special train and journey deep into the heart of holy Russia
And it's cold and damp in the transit camp, and the air is still and sullen
And the pale sun of October whispers the snow will soon be coming
And I wonder when I'll be home again and the morning answers "Never"
And the evening sighs, and the steely Russian skies go on forever


Lyrics submitted by Grimson

"Roads to Moscow" as written by Alistair Ian Stewart

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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13 Comments

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  • +2
    General CommentActually, there is no change in perspective. It seems as if there might be because all of a sudden Al Stewart speaks of a push towards Berlin, but this is still the voice of a Soviet soldier. "The flames of the tiger..." conjures the turnaround in the favor of Russian army as they pushed back the Germans at Stalingrad and kept pushing, all the way to Berlin.

    Another line that takes on a new meaning if you assume no perspective change is, "The old men and children they send out to face us, they can't slow us down..." These are not the Russian villagers fighting for Stalingrad - these are the German and Austrian people fighting off the Soviet troops.

    The mention of capture and being sent to Siberia was not, actually, from a German's perspective. A Soviet soldier that had been captured by Germans and managed to escape was seen as a potential traitor, and treated as such - including a sort of forced exile. The unfortunate soul who says "I'm coming home, I'm coming home..." is quite mistaken - as he admits later, he will likely never see his home again.

    This is a very vivid and beautiful song, as so many of Stewart's songs are. It is truly able to capture the spirit of the years of fighting in WWII in the Russian winter.
    HelloDruon May 27, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song is about the german campaign "Barbarossa" during WWII, told through the eyes of a soviet soldier. Stewart tells it with such passion and imagery. I love the the lyric "Two broken Tigers on fire in the night, flicker their souls to the wind", because you can just picture it so vividly. great song.
    Grimsonon August 14, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe line "Two broken tigers on fire in the night" reminds me of William Blake's famous poem "Tiger, tiger, burning bright; In the forests of the night..."

    The second to last verse is intriguing but I doubt it means anything. The Soviet soldier is caught behind German lines and taken prisoner, then stands in a line with other Soviet prisoners, then the Germans take him alone from the lines and put on a train to Russia. Then apparently he comes back to Germany, the war ends (in April), and in October he and other Soviet soldiers are on a train back to the Soviet Union.

    It's true that when Soviet soldiers became lost from their units and snuck back across the front line, sometimes other Soviet soldiers shot them suspecting they were spies or traitors. But that scenario doesn't fit the song. I'll bet that if you asked Stewart what the second to last verse means, he'd say "I don't know, it just came to me." Indeed "I'll never know, I'll never know" is in the lyrics. Sometimes songwriters are just inspired. That a line says "holy Russia" suggests a religious or mystical experience. The Nazis had some strange religious fascinations, in my imagination a German general wanted to go to a religious shrine in Russia before it was lost to the Soviet army, and chose a single Soviet prisoner with him, for reasons known only to the general.
    TDKon May 19, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIs it my imagination or does the pospective change from a russian to a german soldier half way through the song?
    mr_m704on April 25, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think it was inspired as a tribute to Russian partisans (back in WW I this meant Russians loyal to Czar and opposed to communism). Partisan Russians often refer to Russia as "holy Russia" and as "Mother Russia".

    At the time this song was written, the world had been reading Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's "The Gulag Archipelago". Solzhenitsyn had fought for the Soviets in WW II, been decorated, and was arrested near the end of the war and sent to a labour camp "deep into the heart of holy Russia" for 8 years.

    Al Stewart obviously knew his military history and imagined himself a young homesick Soviet soldier. Solzhenitsyn himself was free in the US for years and a bit of a celebrity - still, homesick, he returned to holy Russia near the end of his days, calling for a return to the Russian monarchy and lamenting the soullessness of post-wall Russia.

    The song describes that deep attachment to the Russian empire despite its problems.

    McGintyon July 25, 2009   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationI here a few lyrics differently. Here is my transliteration:

    They crossed over the border the hour before dawn
    Moving in lines through the day
    Most of our planes were destroyed on the ground t'were they lay
    Waiting for orders we held in the wood
    Word from the front never came
    By evening the sound of the gunfire was miles away

    Ah softly we move through the shadows, slip away through the trees
    Crossing their lines in the mist in the fields on our hands and our knees

    And all that I ever
    Was able to see
    The fire in the air, glowing red
    Silhouetting the smoke on the breeze

    All summer they drove us back through the Ukraine
    Smolensk and Viasma soon fell
    By Autumn we stood with our backs to the town of Orel
    Closer and closer to Moscow they come
    Riding the wind like a bell
    General Guderian stands at the crest of the hill

    Winter brought with it the rains, oceans of mud filled the roads
    Gluing the tracks of their tanks to the ground, while the skies filled with snow

    And all that I ever
    Was able to see
    The fire in the air, glowing red
    Silhouetting the snow on the breeze

    In the footsteps of Napoleon, the shadow figures stagger through the winter
    Falling back before the gates of Moscow, standing in the wings like an avenger
    And far away behind their lines, the partisans are stirring in the forest
    Coming unexpectedly upon their outpost, growing like a promise
    You'll never know, you'll never know, which way to turn, which way to look you'll never see us
    As we're stealing through the blackness of the night you'll never know, you'll never hear us

    And the evening sings in a voice of amber, the dawn is surely coming
    The morning road leads to Stalingrad and the sky is softly humming

    Two broken tigers on fire in the night
    Flicker their souls to the wind
    We wait in the lines for the final approach to begin
    It's been almost four years that I've carried a gun
    At home, it will almost be spring
    The flames of the tigers are lighting the road to Berlin

    Ah quickly we move through the ruins that bow to the ground
    The old men and children they send out to face us, they can't slow us down

    And all that I ever
    Was able to see
    The eyes of the city are opening now
    It's the end of the dream

    I'm coming home, I'm coming home , now you can taste it in the wind the war is over
    And I listen to the clicking of the train wheels as we roll across the border
    And now they ask me of the time when I was caught behind their lines and taken prisoner
    They only held me for a day, a lucky break I say
    They turn and listen closer
    I'll never know, I'll never know, why I was taken from the line with all the others
    to board a special train and journey deep into the heart of holy Russia

    And it's cold and damp in the transit camp and the air is still and sullen
    and the pale sun of October whispers the snow will soon be coming
    And I wonder when I'll be home again and the morning answers never
    And the evening sighs and the steely Russian skies go on forever...
    broadpathon August 02, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAmazing. People don't realize Stalin felt any soldier of his who had been captured by the a western army had also been "contaminated" by that contact and had to be separated from others so they would not contaminate others.......
    SebastianToombson November 08, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's pretty obvious that the soldier gets sent to a prison at the end due to Stalin's paranoia. The soldier said it was a lucky break, which the interrogators possibly interpreted (or simply chose to twist it) as a confession that he enjoyed his time with the Germans, and he is therefore a traitor. Read up on Soviet Russia. Whether you choose to look at it this way or not is your choice, but it's obvious that this was Al Stewart's meaning.
    Bitakuon March 19, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Comment theoriginalmodelguy has it mostly right regarding the lyrics; his take on the state of the post-war Soviet economy is probably the stupidest I've ever seen. Read a few books yourself, modelguy.
    Gandamackon November 25, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThanks to hellodru for best explaining the song, especially for setting it straight to a few of the commenters that the entire story is from the perspective of the doomed Soviet soldier.

    First half of the song, Nazi's push East through the Soviet Union almost to Moscow.

    Second half, turning point at Stalingrad, Soviets push the Nazis West all the way back to Berlin.

    Sad ironic ending is the heartwrenching fate of the narrator, sent to a delolate transit camp "deep into the heart of holy Russia" by the paranoid Soviet regime he fought for simply because he was once captured by the Germans

    Didn't notice it mentioned in the comments I read but I thought I might add that the lines that allude to "tigers" that everyone seems to love (I get chills) refer to the Tiger Tank, the German army's huge and fearsome armored war machine from WWII.

    As a history buff and a music lover, I would just like to express my great love and admiration for this magnificent song with it's poetic beauty, imagery, and the dead-on accuracy of it's many historical references. Bravo Al.

    c.
    RidleyParkon April 27, 2013   Link

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