"The Tain (Parts I, II, III, IV, V)" as written by and Colin Meloy....
[PART I]

[crone:] here upon this pillow
Made of reed and willow
You're a fickle little twister
Are you sweet on your sister?
Your fallow won't leave you alone.

And granted for their pleasure
Possesions laid to measure
She's a salty little pisser
With your cock in her kisser
But now she's a will of her own.

[PART II]

[husband:] damn your ankles and eyes wide
From you fingernails to your ponytails too.
King of the insects and the m-5
Over charlemagne in a motorcade too.

And baby needs a new prize
Baby needs a new and shiny prize.

[captain:] in this place called heavenly
You were born here.
This place called heavenly
You were born here.
You were born here.

[husband:] and now all the marchers descend from high
I will dedicate all of my awakenings to this.

And damn all the angles that opress my sight
I will bleed your heart through a samovar soon.

[captain:] in this place called heavenly
You were born here.
This place called heavenly
You were born here.
You were born here.

[PART III]

[soldier:] they settled dust in your hair
To watch you shake and shout it out.
With our armaments bared
We shed our bags and travel alls.

From the lee of the wall
He comes in the chang and the chariot
And all his eunuchs in thrall
Can scarce lift his line and lariat.

Here com loose his hounds
To blow me down.

[chorus of waifs:] blow me down.

[soldier:] on this stretch of ground
I'll lay me down.

[chorus of waifs:] lay me down.

[soldier:] to sleep.

[chaplain:] and now stricken with pangs
That tear at our backs like thistle down
The mirror's soft silver tain
Reflects our last and birthing hour

[soldier:] here com loose his hounds
To blow me down.

[chorus of waifs:] blow me down.

[soldier:] on this stretch of ground
I'll lay me down.

[chorus of waifs:] lay me down.

[soldier:] to sleep.

[PART IV]

[evening]

[widow:] o the wind is blowing, it hurts your skin
As you climb up hillside, forest and fen.

Your arms full of lullabies, orchids and wine
Your memories wrapped within paper and twine.

The room that you lie in is dusty and hard
Sleeping soft babies on piles of yards
Of gingham, taffeta, cotton and silk
Your dry hungry mouths cry for your mother's milk.

When the dawn commes to greet you, you'll rise with clothes on
And advance with the others, singing old songs
Of cattle and maidens and withered old queens.
Let the music carry you on.

The room that you lie in is dusty and hard
Sleeping soft babies on piles of yards
Of gingham, taffeta, cotton and silk
Your dry hungry mouths cry for your mother's milk.

[PART V]

[woman:] darling dear what have you done?
Your clothes are town, your make-up runs.

[daughter:] I ran through brambles, blooming thistle
I washed my face in the river when you whistled me on.

[woman:] darling dear, what hav eyou done?
Your hands and face are smeared with blood.

[daughter:] the chaplain came and called me out
To beat and to butcher his mother's sow

[woman:] but darling dear, they found him dead
This morning on the riverbed.

But hush now darling, don't you cry.
Your reward's in the sweet by-and -by.
Hush now baby, don't you cry.
Your reward's in the sweet by-and-by.

[crone:] and now we've seen your powers
Softly stretch the hours
You're a fickle little twister
Are you sweet on your sister?
As now you go wandering home.


Lyrics submitted by ADimeADexter

"The Tain (Parts I-V)" as written by Colin Meloy

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

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The Tain (Parts I, II, III, IV, V) song meanings
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39 Comments

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  • +1
    My InterpretationI'm somewhat versed in the Táin Bó Cúailnge and other Irish mythology, but am in no way a scholar.

    First off, regarding pronunciation of Táin I've only ever heard it referred to like "toy-n" by other irish speakers, but granted, pronunciation of irish words can vary by region.

    Part 1 is by far the hardest for me to figure out. The lines "and granted for their pleasure possessions laid to measure" refer to Alill and Medb comparing their wealth (which invariably led to Medb desiring the title bull). I'm assuming that the crone that these lyrics are attributed to would be Fedelm the prophetess, but its very unclear to me to whom she is addressing. The "she" in the song is Medb, but both Alill and Fergus mac Róich have been involved with Medb (as well as a LOT of other men). I would be inclined to believe that subject of this part would be Fergus, since Alill is included is referred to in the third person in "granted for their pleasure" and that Fergus was renowned for needing seven women to satisfy him sexually (when he could not have his wife) provides some meaning towards "your phallo (penis) won't leave you alone". What throws me off is "are you sweet on your sister?" as I've NEVER found any instances of sisters to the characters in Táin or any other stories involving the characters. The closest I've been able to find is that in some interpretations Alill is thought to be grandson of Medb's sister and was sent to be raised by Medb.

    Part two is definitely referring to the build up of the fighting forces of Medb and Alill (the first recension of the story). I have seen this as being attributed as Alill ("husband") and the unnamed "captain". Some lyrics lead me to believe that the "husband" is actually Fergus. The lines "in this place called heavenly you were born here" seem to refer to Ulster, where the bull is found, and is also the former land of Fergus (who was tricked out of his kingdom and defected to Connacht). As mentioned previously, Fergus was a lover of Medb's, but Alill was her only husband at the time.

    The opening verse of part three seem to refer to the guerrilla was that Cúchulainn and Láeg wage on the invaders. After that, I don't have any real objections/anything to add to the other posts stating that its from Ferdiad's perspective and that the chaplain is talking about the curse on the Uliad.

    Part four would be the period of rest during the rounds of single combat where Lug healed Cúchulainn. The lines "and arise with the others" refers to the rest of the Uliad once they are roused from the curse. But the following lines refer to the story's events as past. A lot of the lyrics in this part don't seem to refer to anything in the story are appear to be flavour.

    Part five is more or less along the lines of what has been interpreted before, except I don't agree with its Findabair being upset about being told of another solider being killed for her. Rochad mac Fathemain is one of the Uliad who come to Cúchulainn's aid and was Findabair's first love. Medb uses her daughter as a bargaining chip with Rochad, but the kings of Munster who were allied with Medb were also all promised Findabair and when they found about her and Rochad spending the night, the Munster armies turned against Connacht with seven hundred men dying in that battle. Findabair ends up dying of shame. I would believe this is the reason for Findabair's distress. The "mother's sow" is another bit of lyric that is incredibly elusive to me.

    Regardless of my thoughts on the song, the lyrics (and especially the characters they are attributed to) are quite vague to the actual story. I wouldn't be surprised if Colin took a lot of liberties with his interpretation. Especially with reference to Alill and Fergus. There's quite a few versions of Táin Bó Cúailnge and they can vary, especially those taken from the oral recitations, and some include other stories that aren't part of the main storyline (like the death of Cúchulainn), so Colin may also be referencing parts from versions I haven't seen.
    oakbriaron December 18, 2009   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI think I remember hearing/reading an interview where Colin Meloy said the Tain wasn't so much about the story itself, but about the characters in and around the main action. So some of it is a direct reference to the story (Medb trying to steal the bull, Cuchulain being chased by dogs) but some of it is in reference just to the soldiers involved with the fighting (Part IV) and the victims of the fighting (Part V)
    bittereluctanceon December 01, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI don't think the actual story if The Tain with Queen Medb and Chuchulainn has much to do with this song, honestly. I think this song has a different meaning and people are so distracted by the music video to really analyse this song. Of course, I do believe the story did inspire the song since there are obvious connections to some of it "He comes in chain and chariot" or "cattle and maidens and withered old queens" and then there's the extremely clever paradox of "The mirrors soft silver reflects our last and birthing hour."

    One could also take into consideration how certain verses have certain speakers. Obviously Meloy is singing most of it but there are different speakers in the song like the Chaplain, the Chorus of Waifs, the Widow, the Soldier, the Daughter, the Woman, etc. and what exactly does that add to the overall story? I mean, it's just something to think about. I feel like people could analyse this further, but just refuse to since the connection is made to the Celtic story.
    CassiopeiaAndron December 04, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWondering about the meaning of this collection of songs?

    Go read The Tain.
    stevenlelandon November 30, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentcombining Celtic myth cycles with amazing music and the beautiful voices of the Decemberists was an amazingly brilliant idea.
    thomas doyleon December 26, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis is exactly the most beautiful song i've ever listened. it's art. and about this Celtic thing... i searched a little but couldn't find enough... what's the real TAIN about?
    justinethereseon March 19, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentjust saw them couple weeks ago in dallas.... they played this and red right ankle (my 2 favorites) for the encore.... my god when he hit the first 2 notes me and 3 other people roared... no one knows this song. its the best
    hab1t4ton April 09, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentwhere can I find this song?!
    jxnarcoticzon April 17, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentshe's a salty little pisser
    with your cock in her kisser

    :)
    man on tvon April 24, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI saw them perform this live and it was the most incredible thing i've ever seen...ever...it's only available in spain i think so you have to import it in...but it's definatly worth it
    senormysteriosoon May 03, 2005   Link

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