Down the road I look and there runs Mary
Hair of gold and lips like cherries
We go down to the river where the willows weep
Take a naked root for a lovers seat
That rose out of the bitten soil
But sound to the ground by creeping ivy coils
O Mary you have seduced my soul
And I don't know right from wrong
Forever a hostage of your child's world

And then I ran my tin-cup heart along
The prison of her ribs
And with a toss of her curls
That little girl goes wading in
Rollin her dress up past her knee
Turning these waters into wine
Then she platted all the willow vines

Mary in the shallows laughing
Over where the carp dart
Spooked by the new shadows that she cast
Across these sad waters and across my heart

Lyrics submitted by Girgo

Sad Waters song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentThis is my second favourite song of all time. (After Morphine's The Night). It is an image, sound of sublime beauty, so perfectly depicted by Nick. He sings it with such delicate melancholic joy.
    henryfoolon November 06, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentOnly 2 comments...that's surprising. I always thought this was a well loved song - maybe i'm just weird in my Nick tastes.

    Honestly, for me (though i love the album version) this song took on a whole new life when they did the bare bones version found on the lecture "The Secret Life of the Love Song" - Warren Ellis elevates it to a new realm of incredible, and Nicks piano is more heartbreaking than usual. Particularly the whole run of Duende that precedes it. About love songs being hate songs in disguise and how you need a balance to be able to write convincingly about the dark and the light - "so within the fabric of the love song, within its melody, its lyrics, one must sense and acknowledgment for it's capacity for suffering"

    this song is a perfect example - lyrically nothing is inherently sad - however the song just is - because Nick understands, that to love something so much will eventually mean a equal amount of sorrow and its permeates this song entirely.

    To me this is a song about a girl he loved long ago and is no longer with, but is clearly still carries her in his heart - perhaps when they were both much younger. Perhaps the girl is simply just young at heart, like and adorable girl you love can be - (i know its written present tense, but thats the sense it evokes for me.)

    This is perhaps because i associate (the lecture version specifically) with the first true "love of my life" - i was certainly a hostage of her child's world (ship song as well holds a place in my heart for her) which seems similar in its way here - i love you, i love you so much, but this can not be.....whatever the reason maybe simply can not, and my heart can barely handle that fact. But i shall fondly remember you braiding williow vines and laughing in the water (we use to spend time in Boston under all the weeping willows in the public garden. I do miss her so. And this song is a wonderful reminder of our carefree days together.) Thank you Nick.
    StickityWicketon July 03, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI find it interesting that no one has read this as a love song to the Virgin Mary, who would most certainly have seduced someone's soul. As well, if Nick Cave is a "hostage of your child's world," that child would of course be Jesus. You could imagine that if her son can turn water into wine, surely an immaculately conceived tease like Mary could as well.

    I had a friend who put this on a mixed tape a long time ago to a girl named Mary, but when I thought about it - maybe because I had just read "And The Ass Saw The Angel" &/or maybe because Nick Cave borrows Leonard Cohen's technique from "Joan Of Arc" (speaking the lyrics while also singing it - LC does it only in the first verse, Nick Cave does it throughout this song) which is another love song to a religious icon, I always saw this as an anguished love song to a spiritual figure that he cannot, will not possess.

    That is how I've always heard it, anyway.
    vchamberlainon September 30, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentHair of gold and lips like cherries is a line from "Green Green Grass of Home"
    Chinupon December 30, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentoh man, I love the lecture version.
    And the album version.
    And Nick.
    jade_jade_jadeon September 23, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentHmmn . . yes I got the "Green Green Grass of Home" reference.
    The line about platting the willow vines puts me in mind of Delilah platting the reeds in an attempt to bind Sampson . .yes/no?
    Nick's songs remind me of something I heard recently about the director David Lean . . something about shooting his scenes of violence as beautifully as possible and making the love scenes as dark as possible. (something to that effect) That seems to me what he is trying to acheive.
    zekenzoeyon October 27, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentHe lost her...She drowned herself...Love dies...
    Great song.
    armagezonon February 26, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIf you want to go with what armagezon said, there's some stuff to support it.
    "Turning these waters into wine" could be the water changing color from blood. Running his hands across "the prison of her ribs" could be CPR. He needs to start her heart, but it's locked in a prison he can't penetrate without killing her. Her death certainly would cast a new and different shadow across the waters. Also, he says he's "forever a hostage of your child's world." That could be because all he knows of her is her child world-she never grew up to change into something else.

    Just a theory. Nick is kinda dark, so it wouldn't be surprising if this is what he meant. And Your Funeral...My Trial has some of the creepiest songs I've ever heard (except for Murder Ballads, of course.) It just makes a little sense if you listen to it from this point of view.
    GoRedSoxon June 22, 2010   Link

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