In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need
When the pool of tears beneath my feet flood every newborn seed
There's a dyin' voice within me reaching out somewhere,
Toiling in the danger and in the morals of despair.

Don't have the inclination to look back on any mistake,
Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break.
In the fury of the moment I can see the Master's hand
In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand.

Oh, the flowers of indulgence and the weeds of yesteryear,
Like criminals, they have choked the breath of conscience and good cheer.
The sun beat down upon the steps of time to light the way
To ease the pain of idleness and the memory of decay.

I gaze into the doorway of temptation's angry flame
And every time I pass that way I always hear my name.
Then onward in my journey I come to understand
That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand.

I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night
In the violence of a summer's dream, in the chill of a wintry light,
In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space,
In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face.

I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there's someone there, other times it's only me.
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand.


Lyrics submitted by Joekubrick, edited by Mellow_Harsher


Every Grain of Sand song meanings
Add your thoughts

8 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +3
    Song MeaningMy comments are based on the assumptions that:
    1 - Dylan was writing this song about himself
    2 - He was genuine in the things that he wrote and sang during his 'Christian' phase

    There is an allusion in this song to Jesus' parable of the sower and the seed - Dylan says his tears 'flood every newborn seed' - he kills the germination of the seed (the Word of God) with his own sins, regrets and failures. I think the 'dying voice within' is reference to Dylan looking back to the things he did before he was a Christian - he thought he had put the ways of the flesh to death, but he can't repress his desires - they are 'reaching out somewhere'. And it is this theme that runs through the song: looking back versus looking forwards, the way that the past influences the future, inner regret, temptation and one’s standing with God.

    ‘Don’t have the inclination to look back on any mistake’ – Do any of us? We’d much rather stick our heads in the sand and pretend we did nothing wrong! But we can’t, because the past influences the future: ‘Like Cain I now behold this chain of events that I must break’. Cain became jealous of his brother. God told him to stop his wicked reasonings. Cain refused and killed his brother ‘in the fury of the moment’. Dylan does not claim to receive direct revelation from God as did Cain, but he ‘can see the Master’s hand/In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand’. There is a constant reminder of his errors, his badness, his rotten inner feelings, the things he has done wrong in the past, and the future actions he intends to take – all of this is related to his standing before God.

    In Jesus’ parable, thorns choke the word. For Dylan, ‘the weeds of yesteryear...have choked the breath of conscience’. His former course of worldly ‘indulgence’ is criminal: it creates feelings of guilt and worthlessness, not ‘good cheer’. So what must he do? Look forward, look to the future! It will surely ‘ease the pain of idleness [sitting around feeling blue] and the memory of decay [that dying voice within, those criminal flowers and weeds]’ to look ahead at the sunlit future steps.

    ‘The fury of the moment’ of verse 2, I don’t believe to be Dylan’s perception of God’s fury, but Dylan’s own fury. Hence, in verse 4, he now gazes ‘into the doorway of temptation’s angry flame’. Temptation! I would like to briefly digress here into Dylan’s personal experiences – the little that I know about them anyway... Dylan married his ‘mystical wife’ Sara Lownds in 1965. She had ‘prayers like rhymes’ and ‘gypsy hymns’. I recently read that Dylan looked to her for advice almost like one would look to a mystical sage – she always responded when he needed her help and gave him a map and a key to her door (See lyrics of Sad-Eyed Lady and Sara). When the marriage ended around 1975 (officially divorced in 1977), Dylan was lacking his soothsayer. Was it this emotional turmoil which propelled him full-speed into ‘Christianity’ in 1979? It appears to have been a ‘precious angel’ (possibly she was his ‘covenant woman’?) who showed him he was blinded, and a wave of highly devotional lyrics came spewing out of Dylan’s head. By 1981 and Shot of Love, Dylan is obviously having doubts about himself (see Heart of Mine lyrics) and about his Christian faith (he sings in Need a Woman (a Shot of Love outtake): ‘Searching for the truth the way God designed it/The truth is I might not be able to find it’ and ‘if you believe in something long enough you just naturally come to think it’s true’). So having gone round the houses, the point I am trying to build is that the temptation to which Dylan refers in this song is sex: he needs a woman, ‘somebody who can see me as I am/Somebody who just don’t give a damn’ (see Need a Woman lyrics). If Dylan has chosen to live by the Bible, he cannot have sex outside of a marriage union. Can he hold up to such a command? ‘Every time I pass that way I always hear my name.’

    ‘Onward in my journey I come to understand/That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand’. These grains of sand that reminded Dylan of his ‘Master’s hand’ – God’s power and presence – now remind him that God knows all things. He knows the number of hairs on our heads, so surely he knows what it feels like to be tempted! Ok, but does that make the temptation any easier to bear? If we believe that God understands and knows our every emotion, does that make us less likely to act on our desires? Dylan is ‘toiling in the danger and in the morals of despair’.

    The 5th verse, referring entirely to the past is littered with negatives: sorrow, violence, chill, wintry, bitter, loneliness, broken, forgotten. Dylan views his rise to fame ‘from rags to riches’ as a bad experience. He has now reformed himself from his self-indulgent ways; there is nothing positive to look back on. Or is there?

    The 6th verse clinches it: Dylan is doubting his faith. What has happened to the solid rock of which he can’t let go? He used to beg ‘Don’t let me drift too far/Keep me where you are/Where I will always be renewed’ because he believed. Now, ‘sometimes I turn there’s someone there, other times it’s only me’. It used to be so clear cut: ‘You gotta serve somebody/It may be the Devil or it may be the Lord’. Now he is ‘hanging in the balance’. He can ‘hear the ancient footsteps’ – the footsteps of Jesus, the commands of God. But then again, he can hear ‘the motion of the sea’. (Dylan will soon write yet another masterpiece, Jokerman, for whom ‘the book of Leviticus and Deuteronomy/The law of the jungle and the sea’ are teachers.)

    One of the greatest lines of all-time: ‘I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man’. I am no philosopher, and I don’t think Dylan was/is either. But ‘reality of man’ captures so many philosophical ideas:
    - What is consciousness?
    - Is this life real?
    - Is God real? Does he exist?
    - What is matter?
    - What is the difference between a man, a sparrow and a grain of sand?
    Dylan, like every one of us, hangs in this balance.
    jambrigon November 03, 2010   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningI am from India. I was raised in a Hindu family. I love Bob in general and I love this song specifically. Though I didn't know the Christian connotations that the lyrics of this song have, I could still relate to the generic meaning of the words, lines and the emotions and thoughts and ideas expressed by the protagonist of this song. After reading about the Biblical references the song was enriched further more for me.

    The sense of despair the protagonist tells about is so rich in its understanding of the big picture of this world. Just the recognition, realization of 'Master's hand' in every grains of sand, every trembling leaf is the realization of the silent watcher within us, the one who suffers is someone else that our true consciousness and that we are all one, we are the consciousness experiencing itself subjectively through various forms.

    Melody is soothing, the arrangement is calming. Bob's voice so deep and believable. I want to cry now.
    sujiton September 13, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentDOWNLOAD THIS NOW!!!!

    i cant believe no1 has commented on this song another dylan classic.
    DOGbreathon July 28, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentPsalm 139
    bugmenoton December 14, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentallmusic.com/cg/…
    80smoviesguyon June 15, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI can't believe how few people have commented on this BEAUTIFUL song. This is a Dylan MASTERPIECE, and exceeds almost anything else he's done, including Knocking on Heaven's Door and such. The lyrics are brilliant, the solemn blues beat is melodic, and the harmonica is (in true Dylan style) lazily simple, effortless... and PERFECT! This is a great tune to listen to at the end of a busy day when you want to unwind. The ONLY reason ore people haven't heard it is because it was released on the "Shot of Love" album during Dylan's "Christian" phase... a time when die-hard fans abandoned him, and "real" Christians didn't dare climb on board. So sad... and too bad... because it's Dylan AT HIS FINEST. Period.
    RayManon June 28, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI agree completely with RayMan.

    Am am generally an agnostic and sometimes an atheist, but this song brings me to tears almost every time I hear it. If ever I could be convinced that their is a Sentient Divinity it would be through Dylan's words and voice. With this song leading the argument.

    It is, in my opinion, Bob at this best. Which says a lot, since he is a master.

    Quite simply one of the most moving songs I know. I am consistently moved by it.
    clarenancyon August 04, 2009   Link
  • -1
    General Comment139:1 O lord, thou hast searched me, and known me.

    139:2 Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou
    understandest my thought afar off.

    139:3 Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted
    with all my ways.

    139:4 For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou
    knowest it altogether.

    139:5 Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon
    me.

    139:6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot
    attain unto it.

    139:7 Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from
    thy presence?

    139:8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in
    hell, behold, thou art there.

    139:9 If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost
    parts of the sea;

    139:10 Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall
    hold me.

    139:11 If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night
    shall be light about me.

    139:12 Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth
    as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.

    139:13 For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my
    mother's womb.

    139:14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made:
    marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

    139:15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret,
    and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

    139:16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in
    thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were
    fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

    139:17 How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is
    the sum of them!

    139:18 If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand:
    when I awake, I am still with thee.

    139:19 Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me
    therefore, ye bloody men.

    139:20 For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take
    thy name in vain.

    139:21 Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I
    grieved with those that rise up against thee?

    139:22 I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.

    Psalm 139

    139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my
    thoughts:

    139:24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the
    way everlasting.
    BIGJIMREXon April 20, 2008   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