"Leslie Ann Levine" as written by and Colin Meloy....
My name is Leslie Anne Levine
My mother birthed me down a dry revine
My mother birthed me far too soon
Born at nine and dead at noon

Fifteen years gone now
I still wander this parapet
And shake my rattle bone
Fifteen years gone now
I still cling to the petticoats
Of the girl who died with me

On the roofs above the streets
The only love I've known's a chimney sweep
Lost and lodged inside a flue
Back in 1842

Fifteen years gone now
I still wail from these catacombs
And curse my mother's name
Fifteen years gone now
Still a wastrel mesallied
Has brought this fate on me

My name is Leslie Anne Levine
I've got no one left to mourn for me
My body lies inside its grave
In a ditch not far away

Fifteen years gone now
I still wander this parapet
And shake my rattle bone
Fifteen years gone now
I still cling to the petticoats
Of the girl who died with me


Lyrics submitted by Hunter

"Leslie Ann Levine" as written by Colin Meloy

Lyrics © BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

Lyrics powered by LyricFind


Leslie Ann Levine song meanings
Add your thoughts

46 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +3
    General Comment"...the dolefully doomed tale of a cast away child abandoned by her loafer of a mother. The mother births the babe prematurely and both succumb: 'I still cling to the petticoat of the girl who died with me.' Still harboring angst over her mother's relationship with a man of lower class, which resulted in her own birth, the wraith of Leslie Anne aimlessly haunts the town's balconies with rattle in hand, jangling outside its inhabitants windows; finding fancy in another reject such as herself--the chimney sweep. In the 17th century, a Master Sweep would teach Sweep Boys, usually orphans or young children sold into the position by their parents, to climb the flues and brush them clean. Death often came at an early age- from dust inhalation or cancer contracted from accumulated soot. It is insinuated that Leslie saved this sweep who was 'lost and lodged' inside the chimney flue. Bitter and irresolute, Leslie's specter continues haunting her purlieu although she has long outlived all her antecedents."

    stylusmagazine.com/…



    agreed, lovemotionstory
    knowthyselfon July 05, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI enjoy all the interpretations here, especially lamp shade's, however; I saw Colin Meloy live at the Beachcomber in Cape Cod, MA and I recorded most of it, so for you, I will transpose his explanation:

    "So let me explain something: so the earlier song, "we both go down together," is really intended to be the prequel to this song. Yeah, but, but, I,but theres a little bit of explaining that needs to be done. So in that song, the two are perched on the cliff ready to dive off, when in fact, the woman steps away, the man, the cad, falls off to his death. But the women, impregnated, has, has the baby, in a ditch, and dies. So its all really tragic but thats sort of how it goes. So anyway, we'll continue."

    cad (as defined by the american heritage dictionary): A man whose behavior is unprincipled or dishonorable.

    I kind of hate to put an end to the whole abortion idea and whatnot but I thought some of you would really like to know what Colin said.
    zachdyer61on March 01, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General Commentthe song is about actually about a flying machine created by Lord Quentin Cavendish Levine who's wife died in childbirth on the same day as the machines fist voyage. He named the machine after his still born daughter who was to be named Leslie Ann.
    mstoeber08on March 25, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthis song is very haunting.
    lovemotionstoryon June 22, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentMr. Meloy does say at the Beachcomber show that we both go down together is a prequel to LAL. In we both go down together they were about to jump when the lass steped back at the last second letting the cad fall to his death alone. Then in LAL the mother and child die in birth. I know it seems unlikely but I also know what he said. And if yall can download the beachcomber show it was amazing.
    pascalon September 17, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentHere’s how “We Both Go Down Together” and “Leslie Anne Levine” are connected… It actually makes sense, but you can’t put WBGDT right before LAL, but rather interject them together at parts….

    WBDGT is slightly out of order in terms of chronological order… The songs starts at the cliffs, but the story starts at the labor camp… A young girl in the labor camp catches the eye of a rich young man. The man probably fins her to be incredibly beautiful and falls in love with her. The young girl probably does not feel the same for the man, but knows his money can save her and possibly her family from a life of poverty. So she then falls in “love” with him and willing consents to a relationship and sex, hence her weeping during the love making on the grass of the clearing.

    Up to this point the man could easily leave the young girl to avoid punishment from his parents, and thus does not need to go to the extreme of suicide… HOWEVER, the girl becomes pregnant, as having unprotected sex usually results in. Now the man is trapped, for he seems to honestly love the girl and their unborn baby. NOW he has to resort to suicide, knowing his “parents will never consent to this love”. He asks the girl to meet him on his extravagant porch (the vast veranda), then they travel to the cliffs of Dover.

    By the time the would have known she was pregnant , (because this is in the 19th century, no “First Response”, lol) she probably would have been far along enough to be showing, maybe six months or so… On the cliffs, she could have become overly excited or dizzy (thus, “Your head is spinning”) from the anxiety or nervousness of going through with impending doom of her and her child’s life. (Remember, she didn’t really love the man and would not have the same feelings of being trapped and suicide being the only way out). This could result in her going into labor… (“hold tight it’s just beginning”)

    The girl would not have been able to just jump off the cliffs if she was indeed going into labor… not only because labor pains often incapacitate the mother, but also because she’s not in love and does not want to end her and her child’s life. So the man delivers the baby playing the part of the “Wastrel Me sallied ” who brought the fate on LAL (a wastrel me sallied can be defined as a wasteful person, as in a rich person spending lavishly on unnecessary things, who’s in an unbecoming relationship with someone of lower class.)

    This explains being “birthed too soon” and why Leslie Anne would have died “by noon” being premature and being born atop a cliff. Since Leslie Anne does die, the parents would have laid her somewhere, like a dry ravine/ditch… NOT thrown her over the cliff… she loved her baby as the father probably did too, they would have laid her down somewhere and possibly bury her in a ditch, making her body “in it’s grave, in a ditch not far away”. If she died as a result of the impact of the fall, she would not have been “birthed” in a “dry Ravine,” but rather would have been killed inside the womb in a watery grave.

    Now that the only ting keeping the girl from jumping with the man is gone, she also feels intense anguish and takes the man’s hand then jump off the cliffs of Dover as seagulls cry out, and hence the line “We fall but our souls are flying,” (as in their souls leaving their falling bodies.) Both the man and the girl “go down Together” and there’s also “No one left to mourn” for Leslie Anne Levine.

    As for Leslie Anne Levine, she haunts the area near the vicinity of her death along with another spirit. The spirit is that of a young chimney sweep, (who were often young orphaned boys) who died while being “lost and logged inside a flue” (a flue is the pipe used to vent the exhaust from a fire). As for the line “clinging to the petticoats of the girl that died” with her, I don’t believe this needs to be taken literally but helps explain why she still haunts the area fifteen years later. She rightfully blames her parents, esp. her mother for her death, and thus is clinging to her.
    confettinettieon October 19, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentMy initial feelings on this song were that it was a mournful tale of a girl who died during child birth.

    However after reading the lyrics the song is almost certainly a dark comedy. While there is nothing funny about a girl dying during childbirth the series of events that follow are so over-the-top it makes you feel bad for finding it humurous.

    The baby dies 3 hours after being born. It's corpse is at some taken by a chimney sweep who lodges it in a flue. It stays there for an indeterminate amount of time til eventually being found and buried in a shallow ditch.

    Meanwhile the ghost of the dead baby wanders the parapet with nothing but a bone as a rattle and still clings to her mother's petticoat cursing her name.

    This song more subtle than some of Colin's other songs and is meant to be taken with a grain of salt.
    otherones90210on April 04, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThere's an E in Anne.
    tjwellson December 02, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song is a counterpart to the song "We Both Go Down Together". "Leslie Ann Levine" was written first, making "we both go down together" the Prequel.

    In 1842 Leslie was a mans name, and he is "clinging to the petty coat of the girl who died with [him]" his "un-touched Miranda" (see "we both go down together")

    The line "Born at nine, dead at noon" likens ones life to the hours on a clock, the narrator is a teenager. This is why He repeats "Fifteen years gone now" he died at 15, making those years a waste.

    In "we both go down together" the narrator says, "You come from parents wanton, a child hood rough and rotten, I come from wealth and beauty, untouched by work or duty". He also speaks of his parents forbidding there love; because of this they meet at his veranda, jump off the cliff together and commit suicide.

    This explains many things:
    1)Why he still "wail(s) from these catacombs and curse(s) [his] mothers name", it is her rejection which forced the suicide.
    2)He says "The only love I've ever know's a chimney sweep" one of the lowest forms of work in 1842
    3)Why he is "wandering this parapet".
    4)Why he is buried in a dry ravine
    5)Who the "wastrel" is in the line "This wastrel mislead, has brought this fate on me"

    Just a side note the Decemberists hail from Portland, I don't know what it is that makes Portlandiers more imaginative, creative and all around more awesome...must be something in the water.
    MadamNoireon April 13, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti like the reference to the chimney sweep- could this be the chimbley sweep from 'her majesty'?
    meggganon June 13, 2005   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