"The Gymnast, High Above the Ground" as written by and Colin Meloy....
The gymnast, high above the ground
Limbers up and falls timbers down
Ankles splayed and all tied
The gymnast long has arrived

Lanky, your long sister lays
Waiting out this long light brigade
Prayed for snow a long time
And lazy, it long has arrived

Through the tarlatan holes
You've been slipping, been slipping away
And the weather will hold
It's been ever so, ever so gray

But here as we're coming down
And we're sounding out:
It's a terrible, terrible tide
As it lights upon your eye

But there on the motorway
Reeks of marmalade
It's a chemical, chemical kind
As it lights upon your eye
Lights upon your eye

The bosun calls upon the quay
Compass gone, he long has lost his way
To lighthouse shine, to calm tide
The bosun long has arrived

Through the tarlatan holes
You've been slipping, been slipping away
And the weather will hold
It's been ever so, ever so gray

But here as we're coming down
And we're sounding out:
It's a terrible, terrible tide
As it lights upon your eye

But there on the motorway
Reeks of marmalade
It's a chemical, chemical kind
As it lights upon your eye
Lights upon your eye

April marches on
April marches on
April marches on
April marches on


Lyrics submitted by sendthestars

The Gymnast, High Above the Ground song meanings
Add your thoughts

16 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +2
    General CommentI think this song is about a love that will never be. The "best friend" who watches the blossoming 18teen year old neighbor go off to college only to return the following summer. He watches her from a distance (maybe through the curtains of his house), but she always seems to come back to her home and to him (her best friend). The Tarlatan holes could be the slightly spread cloth curtains. April may be her name or the last and long month before she returns in May. The gymnast (or the girl) is viewed and admired from a distance and he feels like he is the lighthouse leading her back home, when in fact she has started to forget about him.
    StockinBrockon September 21, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAt the very end of the song, there's the most beautiful violin bit and Colin repeats "April marches on" four times. That's a clever little pun, and also probably an indication of when the song takes place. It tends to be rainy in the spring.

    As to what the song means... "anticipation" is better than anything I've come up with yet. In the verses we've got a gymnast finally falling, a sister finally getting snow and a boatswain finally back home after being lost. So maybe "finally getting what you want"?

    The chorus confuses me. It's beautiful, but it doesn't seem in any way related to the rest of the song. Maybe it's about a tanker truck accident that results in a chemical spill? Could it really be that obvious?
    toadtwson February 05, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe lyrics are printed on the Her Majesty CD jacket. It's "Limbers up and falls timber down"
    "Lanky, your long sister lays"
    "But here as we're coming down/ And we're calling out"
    JilliefromChileon November 08, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentOr could be about fame. And how one loses grasp of wahts truely important (friends/family).
    StockinBrockon September 27, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is perhaps my favourite decemberists song. I think it's about anticipation. but i could certainly be wrong.
    sethbrownon January 05, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI was just listening to this song, and I think it says "limbers up and falls tender down."
    Raving Lunaticon June 21, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti believe its about a break up after a long relationship, or finally letting go of someone you held onto a long time. my reasoning:

    it mentions "'it' long has arrived". and in every time "it" is mentioned, it has some parallell with a relationship and the context it is used in, implies the end of one:

    1.) the gymnast: something very delicate that takes alot of work and practice. the gymnast messes up & falls down, or fails.
    2.) the snow: also delicate. comes not so often, but usually 'prayed' for. the cold weather goes along with lonliness.
    3.) the bosun: well first off a bosun is "a petty officer on a merchant ship having charge of hull maintenance and related work" (Webster). so the fact that the bosun has lost his compass suggests that relationships can be lost if you dont tend to it.

    and the chorus obviously:
    "you've been slipping away" self explanatory.
    "the weather will hold/it's been ever so ever so grey." suggests that this was predicted (or that the break up was really recent) and this depression will go on for a while.
    the 2nd part of the chorus... i have no clue. haha.
    i'm guess that it's going something to do with what toadtws said. and although these terrible things are happening, all he can do is think about the ex-partner's beauty.

    also the lethargicness of the song and some words ("lazy", "long time" & "long arrived", "tarlatan holes") suggest that the break up was dragged out.

    "april marches on" suggests that the ex-partner is strong through out this, and moves on well.
    luderetragicuson December 22, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is amazingly beautiful...i have no idea what it means.

    only colin can know...
    WriterOfFictionson March 03, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentHere are some definitions I thought I should contribute for figuring out Meloy's song.

    Splayed means "spread apart"
    A "Tarlatan" is a garment, so that's where tarlatan holes come in.
    A "bosun" is a person of moderate command on a ship, and a "quay" is a wharf. Meloy really uses this seafaring imagery later on in his writing, so I am currently wondering how he tried to tie it in here.

    Hope that helped.
    kyle171on April 23, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"But here as we're coming down
    And we're sounding out:
    It's a terrible, terrible tide
    As it lights upon your eye

    But there on the motorway
    Reeks of marmalade
    It's a chemical, chemical kind
    As it lights upon your eye
    Lights upon your eye"

    A terrible tide could be tears, and light hitting those tears. And the motorway could be a metaphor for her face, with the tears as the cars driving down her face. Better yet, the lights upon her eye could be the "headlights" of the tear, or just light being refracted in the teardrops. Although, I could be reading into this too much.
    makeshifton August 29, 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