This place is damp and ghostly
I am already gone
And the halls were lined with the disembodied
And dustly wings, which fell from flesh
Gasplessly

And I go where the trees go
And I walk from a higher education
For now and for hire

And it beats me, but I do not know
It beats me but I do not know
I do not know

Palaces and storm clouds
The rough, straggly sage
And the smoke
And the way it will all come together
In quietness and in time

And you laws of property
Oh, you free economy
And you unending afterthoughts
You could've told me before

Never get so attached to a poem
You forget truth that lacks lyricism
Never draw so close to the heat
That you forget that you must eat, oh...


Lyrics submitted by Mopnugget

En Gallop song meanings
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39 Comments

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  • +6
    General CommentI am quitting therapy and listening to Joanna Newsom for one hour every week. It's more efficient, earnest, and it's free.
    astrosecreton December 27, 2006   Link
  • +3
    General Commentnever get so attatched to a poem
    you forget truth that lacks lyricism

    Brave words from a lyrical genius.
    _ellieon April 27, 2005   Link
  • +3
    General CommentAh, I do agree with you!

    How many millions of times through history has the artist, writer, musician, and nearly every other person, tried to express the difference between what they really have, and what they long for? We are addicted to dreams and fantasy stories. When you find some of the really important answers, life can be amazing; but the things we lose and the things we can't reach can also be painful, and that's just how it is.

    I think this song acknowledges the depth of desire we all have, but also makes a deliberate choice to recognise that we must keep walking upon reality... just because we must, we have no choice, and to deny it is worse than to experience it. In many ways we can't be like children anymore, looking only at our immediate feelings and living to satisfy them. We have to make tough choices, and sometimes remember the truth that lacks lyricism.

    This is worth the cost it takes: in the same way that diamonds are valuable because they are rare and can't be fabricated on demand, the truly incredible parts of life are so much more so because they are waited for, and because they are so distinct from everything around them. Truth is also necessary and safe... you can't put on a virtual reality set and try to cross a road; in the same way, you can't exist in absolute reality living by unsubstantiated feelings and imagination. Truth costs, but truth is also absolute beauty and freedom. I think our generation is too obsessed with instant pleasure to hold onto the absolutes it desperately needs: we are aching for things that are both real and valuable, and often making choices we regret on unrestrained impulse.

    A bit off-topic, but anyway. Basically, I do agree with you that this song plays with feelings of the conflict between what we should have, what we do have, and what we want in the deeper parts of our hearts. It's exploring the tension of that, and also the hole left by desire.

    I am really curious about this German tradition of Idealism of which you speak...
    Anneliseon December 31, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI am quitting therapy and listening to Joanna Newsom for one hour every week. It's more efficient, earnest, and it's free.
    astrosecreton December 27, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentJust saw your second comment, on the existential question... yeah, I also agree with you on this. I love your thoughts! They illuminate a lot and make me think.

    It's true, often it is hard to understand the world in which we have found ourselves. We long to be able to express it all, understand it and tie it up neatly in a string... but the fact is that we can't. It fascinates me how different people respond to this 'not knowing'... I think it defines how we live in many ways. Some try to rationalise it, explain everything as best they can. Some ignore it and try to go on with life, not thinking too deeply and being intimidate by philosophy. Some decide that there is no meaning, that life is random (or some even say there IS nothing...) - but I would say that so much of who we are conflicts with this , and it can't satisfy anyone because we are so innately set on life and its meaning. Some say that it doesn't matter, that they can create their own meaning, just live in what they immediately know (I think western individualism and postmodernist thinking stems from this a lot). And some people find meaning in something bigger than themselves.

    I think that for me, I have become content to trust. I may not understand it all... I can't explain so many parts of my life, and I am certainly not in control. But there is peace in knowing that someone who is powerful and who loves me does know, and I can keep on walking securely in that. That's a personal thing, but yeah, I believe that it is true and it changes everything.

    I have totally extended this song too far though... sorry. The most important thing is the song as it stands. I think I will go listen to it again, it's beautiful :-)
    Anneliseon December 31, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI know it's disgraceful of me to post thrice in a row, but I had a thought...

    Have you noticed all the economic references in the song? I don't know enough about the theory of all this to know if it means anything, but I thought it was of interest and could afftect the meaning of this song in some way. Phrases like these, for instance:

    "I walk from a higher education / (for now, for hire)",

    "And you laws of property / you free economy / you unending afterthoughts",

    and others like that got me thinking. And if you found significance in that, alongside the previous interpretations or in place of them, you might then be interested in things like these:

    The mention of "Palaces and stormclouds"--especially in its reference to established wealth and power; and even its fragility and danger in a social context,

    "the way it will all come together / (in quietness, in time)"--you could take a Marxist conclusion from this about the inevitability of the economic cycle,

    the comment "never draw so close to the heat / that you forget that you must eat"--making reference to our need for things like food, and also the processes of production and economy that go with this, as well as the idea of a political or philosphical illusion that makes one 'forget' and act foolishly,

    and "the rought, straggly sage, and the smoke"--at a stretch, this could be a particular historical figure or philosopher to whose thoughts she refers; or just the general idea of heeding ancient wisdom

    --so these phrases are all kind of fascinating too. Also, even the beginning could be seen as a social comment regarding freedom and government. I really don't know if that's relevant, but if you're educated enough for that to give you some ideas and piece it all together, I think you should post and teach us your thoughts :-)
    Anneliseon January 20, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis is quite possibly the most beautiful song ever created.
    Pswingseton May 18, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commentbest lyrics. omg. i wish i was joanna newsom.
    wannabeslutson September 06, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis is one of my favourite Joanna Newsom songs. For me the meaning seems clear- it's about growing out of university and graduation, realising that post-student life is very different from what was expected. So. Verse by verse:

    "This place is damp and ghostly
    I am already gone
    And the halls were lined with the disembodied
    And dustly wings, which fell from flesh
    Gasplessly"

    It seems this takes place soon after graduation, perhaps it even details graduation itself. We move quickly from present tense to past tense. I think the wings represent the aspirations of the students living in the halls, and how those aspirations die away without ceremony (gasplessly) after graduation. The tone of the verse is one of sombre melancholy, with death-like imagery and sad reflection- that's what makes me think this person is somewhat relieved to be leaving, like they've grown up and they think they're ready for the next step.

    "And I go where the trees go
    And I walk from a higher education
    For now and for hire"

    Now the song takes on a more upbeat sound, it's a bit faster and more powerful, the imagery is of life, trees, walking from higher education, from the misery of the first verse. She is for hire, ready and expecting to find a job and make something of herself.

    "And it beats me, but I do not know
    It beats me but I do not know
    I do not know"

    Now she realises that in actual fact, while she thought she was so educated in the ways of the world, she actually knows very little, and it's annoying (it beats me but I do not know). After throwing everything she had into university, she is left fairly ignorant of real life.

    "Palaces and storm clouds
    The rough, straggly sage
    And the smoke
    And the way it will all come together
    In quietness and in time"

    Ok, so unable to cope with the all too real situation she finds herself in, she retreats to the fantasy of real life. The first three line of this verse are like something out of a fairytale, juxtaposed immediately with the belief that things will somehow all just work out, in the last two lines. A pretty common belief for those studying the arts at uni (as Newsom did).

    "And you laws of property
    Oh, you free economy
    And you unending afterthoughts
    You could've told me before"

    Now she's angry at the reality, unable to sustain her fantasy of how she thought things would turn out, she gets annoyed at the pressures of everyday life, getting onto the housing ladder, earning enough money just to pay the bills, she wishes she'd known more about these pressures when she was still an undergrad. The unending afterthoughts could be the debts she owes to pay for her time at university. I prefer the Walnut Whales version of this when she kind of shrilly shouts bitch! at the start of the first three lines :)

    "Never get so attached to a poem
    You forget truth that lacks lyricism
    Never draw so close to the heat
    That you forget that you must eat, oh..."

    Ok so my favourite part of this song, it's like she is stepping outside of herself and her situation to give a word of advice to the listener. Don't get so involved with your studies (which ultimately will prove useless), that you forget that at the end you will have a ton of debt and bills to pay. Do something useful and learn about the real world before delving into complex imagery and metaphor.

    I could probably learn a thing or two from this song :P
    poweroutageon June 12, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis is a very pretty, etherally misty song. it makes me think of towers in castles.. like all of her other songs, it reminds me of a fairy tale.
    never get so attatched to a poem
    you forget truth that lacks lyricism

    what brilliant advice.. joanna is really very talented and her 'milk-eyed mender' album is well worth purchase.
    malleybooon January 17, 2005   Link

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