You'll never see the courage I know
Its colors' richness won't appear within your view
I'll never glow - the way that you glow
Your presence dominates the judgments made on you

But as the scenery grows, I see in different lights
The shades and shadows undulate in my perception
My feelings swell and stretch; I see from greater heights
I understand what I am still too proud to mention - to you

You'll say you understand, but you don't understand
You'll say you'd never give up seeing eye to eye
But never is a promise, and you can't afford to lie

You'll never touch - these things that I hold
The skin of my emotions lies beneath my own
You'll never feel the heat of this soul
My fever burns me deeper than I've ever shown - to you

You'll say don't fear your dreams, it's easier than it seems
You'll say you'd never let me fall from hopes so high
But never is a promise and you can't afford to lie

You'll never live the life that I live
I'll never live the life that wakes me in the night
You'll never hear the message I give
You'll say it looks as though I might give up this fight

But as the scenery grows, I see in different lights
The shades and shadows undulate in my perception
My feelings swell and stretch, I see from greater heights
I realize what I am now too smart to mention - to you

You'll say you understand, you'll never understand
I'll say I'll never wake up knowing how or why
I don't know what to believe in, you don't know who I am
You'll say I need appeasing when I start to cry
But never is a promise and I'll never need a lie


Lyrics submitted by SNYder, edited by Mellow_Harsher, moonglo

Never Is a Promise song meanings
Add your thoughts

102 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +3
    General Commentit's about being let down...a promise given and a failed delivery. finding out that maybe you don't know someone the way you felt you did, and that they have no comprehension of who you are. i really feel that these words speak of growth, the painful learning process all of us go through.
    Enthralledon July 04, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThis is a song about boundaries and growing beyond an unhealthy relationship. It's quietly defiant, basically with her saying "This is me, and that is you; you don't even understand who I am, much less get to define me."

    "You'll never see the courage I know
    Its colors' richness won't appear within your view
    I'll never glow - the way that you glow
    Your presence dominates the judgments made on you"

    It's like she's saying that the other person will never get her perspective, and that the other person will be judged based on who they are, not based on her. Someone's enmeshed with her and she has to get the other person to recognize that they are not the same.

    Then she talks about growing beyond her past perspective, but she's not yet brave enough to say what she sees yet - she's too "proud" to talk about it with this person who has hurt her, and who doesn't listen or understand well enough to even know who she is. They think they understand her motives, her personhood, but she knows that they won't, because they don't listen, and they can't be trusted, apparently because they have failed her before.

    You'll say you understand, but You don't understand
    You'll say you'd never give up seeing eye to eye
    But never is a promise, and *you can't afford to lie*

    I think the second verse is a repeat of the same idea - you can touch my skin, but you will never be able to understand or capture who I am, and I will hide it from you because you aren't worthy kind of a deal. (as in, My fever burns me deeper than I'll ever show - to you."

    And the third verse is her reiterating the idea in the first two verses, and also saying look, you don't get it, you aren't going to get it, and I don't need your false concern in my life, and I never will. Pretty clear boundaries spoken in a very gentle way - love this song.



    spicedton May 06, 2009   Link
  • +3
    My Interpretation"Your presence dominates the judgments made on you"

    -- The narrator is saying to an unnamed other, "your own sense of self is so confident and brash that you dominate/control/handle the judgments/advice/evaluations made on you by others." In other words, the narrator -- now empowered, looking back on a past time with gained *courage* -- realizes that this unnamed other cannot be impressed upon or influenced by anybody else because they have an inflated, GLOWING sense of self. So, they don't need a thing like "courage," because they have nothing to fear -- or so they think.

    Notice the things this unnamed other says to the narrator by way of advice:

    "you'll you you'd never give up seeing eye to eye" (condescending)
    "you'll say, don't fear your dreams, it's easier than it seems" (more condescending comments)

    This person presumes to be in control of everything and loves to dish out advice on others and yet deflects or *dominates* judgments made on them by others -- especially people who are broken by some event/issue, like the narrator. And so, "you say you'll understand but you'll never understand" because you are not willing to let yourself be vulnerable and empathetic with others who have been deeply scarred by something.

    -- You are living a lie (in that you presume to be strong and NEVER weak, because you think I am ALWAYS weak and never strong). You make promises to me about this or that, but you are in no position to make such promises because you set yourself up on a pedestal of self-importance, belittling me with your words. Your own self-glow blinds you to the fact that you are judgmental and condescending.

    -- I wake up at night with nightmares of YOUR dreams for me -- "I'll never live the life that wakes me in the night."

    ... But even though I am broken and fractured, I have courage enough to face up to that and try and mend those problems; you just pretend they don't exist.
    Newfangledframeson May 15, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI completely agree that this is the best song from Tidal. I think it's about someone really important to her that doesn't understand her. Because of that, she's let down. My explanation can't do it justice of course, because I feel like I'm totally simplifying it. Beautiful, ethereal song.
    sparemeyourdramaon August 24, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General Commentive always seen this song as fiona not being able to tell someone (parent maybe?) about her rape. what i am still too proud to mention to you- shes too ashamed to tell. You'll say you understand, but You don't understand you say you'll never give up seeing eye to eye - i see these phrases as saying that these people make these promises to her not knowing whats wrong but when they find out they're not going to be able to handle it or understand. After reading everyone else's thoughts i went over and over the lyrics and this still makes more sense to me.
    Caitlynon April 11, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentShe doesn't expect anything from him anymore. She knows that when he says 'yes', it always means 'no'. So "Never is a promise and you can't afford to lie", so just say 'never', it's better than lying about it. I totally love this song. It possesses such strength. It makes me cry though. (in a good way) FIONA ROCKS!
    FeyTHon April 14, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti could just cry every time i read these lyrics or listen to them as she sings them... some people cant really write and some ppl really can write. i mean REALLY CAN write. like fiona. shes brilliant in every way. thnx fiona
    swindler123on August 13, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song was very important for me for a long time, and now that I sit back and listen to it after the fact, it brings back so much feeling that I guess I have tried to shut out over the course of the past few months. For me this song meant wanting some one you could never have. I think that when she speaks of courage in the first line I was able to relate to it because it took so long to gain the courage to tell this person about my feelings. I dunno, I was listening to this track on the subway one day and it all just clicked. I guess this isn't a guy song persay, but I undoubtedly fell in love with the message that I got from it, even if it wasn't completley on the same page with what Fionna was trying to say, it seems most people tend to think this song is about some one not believing their lover but I see it as having falling head over heels for some one who will never love you back.
    ramblerboion June 24, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General CommentFirst, this song is incredible. Second, I believe this song is a break-up song. She's grown over the course of the relationship, but he hasn't. She's having a hard time closing the deal and breaking it off, but she knows she has to and now is the time.
    hamsinnon December 24, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI don't think it's necessarily about a guy. It could be about anyone close to her. And the "you'll say you understand" and other references that appear to be in future tense are often cancelled out with present tense--"but you don't understand." It's a matter of wording, really, not tense.

    She's definitely talking to a patronizing person in this song. She starts by talking about how this person overshadows everyone and everything in his path, how she feels that his demeanor covers who he really is--and he's really not a great person.

    The first time she goes into "but as the scenery grows, I see in different lights," she's already told us about all the negative traits this person has, and now she's beginning to see a different side, or so she believes. "But as the scenery grows, I see in different lights" means "as time goes on, I'm learning to look at things differently." "The shades and shadows undulate in my perception" means "Im seeing things I've never seen before." "My feelings swell and stretch; I see from greater heights" means "I'm growing, and I can judge things better." "I understand what I am still too proud to mention to you" is a deep line. It appears that she is almost jealous of the person in that he gets the attention she needs and wants so badly, but she's starting to really need this person in her life, whether she likes it or not.

    "You say you understand, but you don't understand" at this point is simply her realizing this about this person. "You say you'd never give up seeing eye to eye" is about a promise he makes and has broken. "But never is a promise, and you can't afford to lie"--she really, really wants the relationship with this person to work out, but her hope is starting to wane.

    The second verse is more about her than the first verse. This person she's talking to is too material to be good with emotions, and she admits that she's hiding "the skin of her emotions beneath her own," probably for the sake of keeping the relationship between them as simple as possible. Yet when she says "you'll never feel the heat of this soul; my fever burns me deeper than I've ever shown to you," she's saying that her emotions can't stay hidden forever, and she's got so much to say, but he's not going to listen to a word of it. She keeps it all hidden because she doesn't want to fight or argue or be hurt.

    "You say 'don't fear your dreams; it's easier than it seems'--you say you'd never let me fall from hopes so high" talks about how he encouraged her to do whatever she wanted to, not to be afraid, but then wasn't there for her when she needed him most. She finally showed some emotion, told him how she felt, but he let her down, didn't change anything, didn't try to make things better. The relationship between them is falling apart.

    By the third verse, she admits that he's not an empathetic person and probably will never feel the way that she does; she's starting to feel alone and lost. She gets a bit angry, finally and rightfully, and says "you'll never hear the message I give," which means that he's never going comprehend her feelings. "You'll say it looks as though I might give up this fight" breaks off from the normal pattern. He's got her trapped in a corner. He wants to tie her down, keep her from expressing herself, beat her with lies until she falls into submission. The fact that she doesn't follow the normal pattern and add "to you" to the end shows that she's going to resist and break off.

    When the "but as the scenery grows, I see in different lights" section begins again, she is still talking about how she's learning and growing and becoming a better judge, but the last phrase is different. "I realize what I am now too smart to mention to you." She's let this get out of hand, she's let her dreams and feelings and ideas been pushed away, and she no longer has control over anything in her life. Because of this experience, she knows that to try and talk to him about his breaking promises is to ask for even more trouble.

    She says he'll NEVER understand, and it's the first time she uses the word "never" during the chorus to imply anything other than him making promises, which shows her finally admitting her situation; things aren't going to change, sadly. She says that she'll say she'll "never wake up knowing how or why"--it's HER turn to lie; she understands how and why things are the way they are now. "I don't know what to believe in"--she's been lied to so much that she doesn't know what to think anymore. "You don't know who I am"--he pretends to know her, but her doesn't know anything at all about how she feels. "You'll say I need appeasing when I start to cry" is another deep line. She cries because she doesn't know what to do, all because of him, and he says that she needs comforting; all the "comforting" he's done has done nothing but bring more tears and confusion. It's almost as if he's doing this on purpose.

    "But never is a promise, and I'll never need a lie." By the end, she knows that this person isn't doing her any good, and though she may not be certain how to go about doing, she knows she needs to fix this, she needs to heal.

    This whole song is just beautiful... I adore it.
    criminal_incognitoon December 27, 2006   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top
explain