She washed her hands 300 times
but still they're dripping red.
We caught her in the pauper's pit,
she stole the prince's head, still
cursing 'blasphemy'. O mercy me...
He staggered like a chicken.
They lynched him; they left him flinching
then took theirs seats and kept on knitting.

God bless the noble savage
as he swaggers, as he sweats.
He's making bets on who is next-
he doesn't care about the colour...
(First they rounded up the reds but I'm not red so...
Then they rounded up the blacks but I'm not black so...
Then they rounded up the gypsies
and the junkies
and the donkeys.
Now I'm scared to whistle 'swanee'
cos they'll ask me for my spit...)

It's the garden that we walk in and it's dying.
So we cut it down.
We're drowning now.
There's no way out.
We all fall down.
(We all fall down.)


Lyrics submitted by tymothil

Madame Guillotine song meanings
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  • +2
    General CommentMadame Guillotine (1)

    She washed her hands 300 times
    but still they're dripping red. (2)
    We caught her in the pauper's pit,
    she stole the prince's head, still
    cursing 'blasphemy'. O mercy me...
    He staggered like a chicken. (3)
    They lynched him; they left him flinching
    then took theirs seats and kept on knitting. (4)

    God bless the noble savage (5)
    as he swaggers, (6) as he sweats.
    He's making bets on who is next-
    he doesn't care about the colour...
    (First they rounded up the reds but I'm not red so...
    Then they rounded up the blacks but I'm not black so...
    Then they rounded up the gypsies
    and the junkies
    and the donkeys.
    Now I'm scared to whistle 'swanee'
    cos they'll ask me for my spit...) (7)

    It's the garden that we walk in and it's dying.
    So we cut it down.
    We're drowning now.
    There's no way out.
    We all fall down.
    (We all fall down.) (8)

    (1) “At half past 12 the guillotine severed her head from her body.” So reads the statement containing the first recorded use of guillotine in English, found in the Annual Register of 1793. Ironically, the guillotine, which became the most notable symbol of the excesses of the French Revolution, was named for a humanitarian physician, Joseph Ignace Guillotin. Guillotin, a member of the French Constituent Assembly, recommended in a speech to that body on October 10, 1789, that executions be performed by a beheading device rather than by hanging, the method used for commoners, or by the sword, reserved for the nobility. He argued that beheading by machine was quicker and less painful than the work of the rope and the sword. In 1791 the Assembly did indeed adopt beheading by machine as the state's preferred method of execution. A beheading device designed by Dr. Antoine Louis, secretary of the College of Surgeons, was first used on April 25, 1792, to execute a highwayman named Pelletier or Peletier. The device was called a louisette or louison after its inventor's name, but because of Guillotin's famous speech, his name became irrevocably associated with the machine. After Guillotin's death in 1814, his children tried unsuccessfully to get the device's name changed. When their efforts failed, they were allowed to change their name instead.

    The period from June 1793 to July 1794 in France is known as the Reign of Terror or simply "the Terror". The upheaval following the overthrow of the monarchy, invasion by foreign monarchist powers and the Revolt in the Vendee combined to throw the nation into chaos and the government into frenzied paranoia. Most of the democratic reforms of the revolution were suspended and large-scale executions by guillotine began. The first political prisoner to be executed was Collenot d'Angremont of the National Guard, followed soon after by the King's trusted collaborator in his ill-fated attempt to moderate the Revolution, Arnaud de Laporte, both in 1792. Former King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette were executed in 1793. Maximilien Robespierre became one of the most powerful men in the government, and the figure most associated with the Terror. The Revolutionary Tribunal sentenced thousands to the guillotine. Nobility and commoners, intellectuals, politicians and prostitutes, all were liable to be executed on little or no grounds; suspicion of "crimes against liberty" was enough to earn one an appointment with "Madame Guillotine" as the device was nicknamed (also referred to as "The National Razor"). Estimates of the death toll range between 15,000 and 40,000.

    The locations of public executions were moved frequently. After beheadings, blood continued to pump out of the bodies, overtopping the gutters, and running down the streets.

    (2) At it's height during the Terror, the guillotine beheaded up to 3000 people per month. So, here, the blade is cleaned, but more just keep on coming...

    (3) Many bodies who might have had ornate graves were slung into pauper's pits. The comparison here of a staggering headless prince to that of a headless chicken and the way they still run around with their head cut off is particularly gruesome.

    (4) Le Tricoteuse (female knitters) were famous for sitting in the front row before the guillotine, knitting. Like the laundresses and fishwives, they were known for their volatility and zeal. Madame DeFarge from Dicken's "Tale of Two Cities" was a tricoteuse.

    (5) In the eighteenth-century cult of "Primitivism" the noble savage, uncorrupted by the influences of civilization, was considered more worthy, more authentically noble than the contemporary product of civilized training. Although the phrase noble savage first appeared in Dryden's The Conquest of Granada (1672), the idealized picture of "nature's gentleman" was an aspect of eighteenth-century sentimentalism, among other forces at work.

    The term "noble savage" expresses a concept of the universal essential humanity as unencumbered by civilization; the normal essence of an unfettered human. Since the concept embodies the idea that without the bounds of civilization, humans are essentially good, the basis for the idea of the "noble savage" lies in the doctrine of the goodness of humans, expounded in the first decade of the century by Shaftesbury, who urged a would-be author “to search for that simplicity of manners, and innocence of behaviour, which has been often known among mere savages; ere they were corrupted by our commerce”

    Stanley Kubrick, whose films make strong comments on human nature, rejected the idea of the noble savage:
    "Man isn't a noble savage, he's an ignoble savage. He is irrational, brutal, weak, silly, unable to be objective about anything where his own interests are involved — that about sums it up. I'm interested in the brutal and violent nature of man because it's a true picture of him. And any attempt to create social institutions on a false view of the nature of man is probably doomed to failure."

    As a supposed form of racism, the ideology of the noble savage has been criticized by anthropologists who claim that it is a false construct based on European notions of what the "Indian" is like.

    (6) To swagger definitely implies a certain amount of arrogance.

    (7) "First they came…" is a poem attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group.

    "In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
    And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
    And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
    And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up."

    "Swanee" is an American popular song written in 1919 by George Gershwin, with lyrics by Irving Caesar. It is most often associated with singer Al Jolson. Although usually associated with Jolson, "Swanee" has been recorded by many other singers, most notably Judy Garland in A Star Is Born.

    Asking for spit could be a reference to drug testing.

    (8) So, this is the situation in this piece. Dead growth gets cut away so new growth can take it's place. Like Adam and Eve getting kicked out of the Garden of Eden we all go through a fall from grace.

    Edward Ka-Spel: :I don't live so well in the real world. The actions of our so-called superiors win no respect from me and sometimes I wonder if there ever was a wise old king, a trusted emperor, a politician who really did care about the people. Then we have the "people." The revolutions, bloody and violentt...and always the stupid lamentable cruelty. If the human race is really at the top of the pyramid then the Universe is in deep trouble. Happily I don't think it is".

    The phrase '89's a good year from the song "The Center Bullet" on Tired Eyes Slowly Burning by The Tear Garden and in the liner notes to the L.P.D. album "Crushed Velvet Apocalypse" refer to the French Revolution - either a bit of heavy cynicism, or perhaps a nod to the need for revolutions in the positive sense.
    Madpropheton December 23, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe "first they rounded up the reds.." bit is modeled after a poem about the Holocaust, isn't it? It's about getting rid of everyone that you disagree with and everyone and everything that doesn't appeal to you until the entire world is at risk, like the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland. Someone cruel and bloodthirsty as well as indiscriminate being in control. And then they destroy the planet and there's no escaping death anymore, and so everyone is wiped out.
    ringwormoneon May 23, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentNot just the Holocaust, but also the French Revolution, as well as Britain’s colonial past, racism... These are some of Edward’s lyrical themes in those of his lyrics, which are not very personal, but rather deal with the state of the world.
    slow pulse boyon July 30, 2008   Link

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