"Harlequin" as written by Peter Gabriel, Anthony Banks, Steven Hackett and Michael Rutherford....
Came the night a mist dissolved the trees
And in the broken light colors fly, fading by.
Pale and cold as figures fill the glade
Grey is the web they spin, on and on, and on and on.
Through the flame still summer lingers on
Though her pictures soon shatter.

All, always the same.
But there appears in the shades of dawning,
Though your eyes are dim,
All of the pieces in the sky.

There was once a harvest in this land.
Reap from the turquoise sky, harlequin, harlequin,
Dancing round, three children fill the glade,
Theirs was the laughter in the winding stream, and in between.
Close your door, the picture fades again
From the flames in the firelight.

All, always the same,
But there appears in the shades of dawning,
Though your eyes are dim,
All of the pieces in the sky.

All, all is not lost,
And light appears in the shades of dawning
When your eyes can see
Order the pieces, put them back, put them back.


Lyrics submitted by Demau Senae

"Harlequin" as written by Stephen Richard Hackett Phillip David Charles Collins

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Harlequin song meanings
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6 Comments

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  • +3
    General Commentcan't believe nobody commented on this beautiful nursery cryme piece. i wish i'd understand the meaning of it.. but for now it only remains as a beautiful little sunny song :) gives me great warm thoughts.
    carrotkinson April 16, 2007   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI think I have sussed it. For the longest time I thought it was the Harlequin as defined above, as that is the only definition I was aware of. I have discovered a rare related use of it as a transitive verb:

    Verb. (transitive) To remove or conjure away, as if by a harlequin's trick.

    The song could be about Summer turning into Winter. The picture in the album is a painting of a woman, who is looking at tiny dancing figures. These could be the pale cold figures who spin a grey web - from the Fire of Summer to the Cold Grey of Winter? - who could also be the three children. She could be Mother Nature, governing the seasons, and overlooking her children (Humanity) as they dance in celebration of the seasons.
    Having once reaped a Harvest, it would seem that Harvest Season is over, even though Summer sticks around in the fires made to keep the cold of Winter at bay.

    The term Harlequin could refer to conjuring away one season into another. That the reaping also refers to living and dancing during the day in the light, which is conjured away with the night. Perhaps the Children are there during the day, and the Cold figures are like faery-folk that come to dance at night, like Winter's helpers.
    The dancing still could seem to relate to the Harlequin character, who was supposed to be quite physical in the commedia dell'arte. Also, the shattered picture and pieces of the sky meant to be "put back" into place could refer to the multitude of triangles on one of the traditional costumes of the Harlequin character.

    In the end, it seems to point to the idea that dawn will come again, and thus day. And thus viewed as a larger cycle, the Seasons will come around again to Spring and the warmth of another Summer.
    Madpropheton November 24, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI just got Mike's book, where he mentions he wrote the song in an attempt to double track the intertwining of two 12-string guitars he'd done with Ant Phillips on the previous album, but this time recorded both tracks in harmony on 12-string himself here. Lyrically he doesn't seem too proud of it, saying he'd subsequently learned not to use the word "Harvest" in songs. Don't know if that is a tongue-in-cheek reference to Neil Young, whose "Harvest" album came out around the same time as "Nursery Cryme", but this is still a neat little song even if it doesn't seem to go anywhere, seeing as the next song on the album is "Fountain Of Salmacis" which serves as a grand climax.
    vtrc1220on March 02, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General Commenthar·le·quin (härl-kwn, -kn)
    n.
    1. Harlequin A conventional buffoon of the commedia dell'arte, traditionally presented in a mask and parti-colored tights.
    2. A clown; a buffoon.
    adj.
    Having a pattern of brightly colored diamond shapes.
    Alicia120on September 20, 2010   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationI think I have sussed it. For the longest time I thought it was the Harlequin as defined above, as that is the only definition I was aware of. I have discovered a rare related use of it as a transitive verb:

    Verb. (transitive) To remove or conjure away, as if by a harlequin's trick.

    The song could be about Summer turning into Winter. The picture in the album is a painting of a woman, who is looking at tiny dancing figures. These could be the pale cold figures who spin a grey web - from the Fire of Summer to the Cold Grey of Winter? - who could also be the three children. She could be Mother Nature, governing the seasons, and overlooking her children (Humanity) as they dance in celebration of the seasons.
    Having once reaped a Harvest, it would seem that Harvest Season is over, even though Summer sticks around in the fires made to keep the cold of Winter at bay.

    The term Harlequin could refer to conjuring away one season into another. That the reaping also refers to living and dancing during the day in the light, which is conjured away with the night. Perhaps the Children are there during the day, and the Cold figures are like faery-folk that come to dance at night, like Winter's helpers.
    The dancing still could seem to relate to the Harlequin character, who was supposed to be quite physical in the commedia dell'arte. Also, the shattered picture and pieces of the sky meant to be "put back" into place could refer to the multitude of triangles on one of the traditional costumes of the Harlequin character.

    In the end, it seems to point to the idea that dawn will come again, and thus day. And thus viewed as a larger cycle, the Seasons will come around again to Spring and the warmth of another Summer.
    Madpropheton November 24, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWell, it's certainly not about the Rugby Team...Thank God.
    BarnabyHugheson December 10, 2017   Link

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