"Passing Afternoon" as written by and Samuel Ervin Beam....
There are times that walk from you like some passing afternoon
Summer warmed the open window of her honeymoon
And she chose a yard to burn but the ground remembers her
Wooden spoons, her children stir her Bougainvillea blooms

There are things that drift away like our endless, numbered days
Autumn blew the quilt right off the perfect bed she made
And she's chosen to believe in the hymns her mother sings
Sunday pulls its children from the piles of fallen leaves

There are sailing ships that pass all our bodies in the grass
Springtime calls her children until she let's them go at last
And she's chosen where to be, though she's lost her wedding ring
Somewhere near her misplaced jar of Bougainvillea seeds

There are things we can't recall, Blind as night that finds us all
Winter tucks her children in, her fragile china dolls
But my hands remember hers, rolling around the shaded ferns
Naked arms, her secrets still like songs I'd never learned

There are names across the sea, only now I do believe
Sometimes, with the window closed, she'll sit and think of me
But she'll mend his tattered clothes and they'll kiss as if they know
A baby sleeps in all our bones, so scared to be alone


Lyrics submitted by sethbrown

"Passing Afternoon" as written by Samuel Ervin Beam

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Passing Afternoon song meanings
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71 Comments

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  • +3
    General Commentthis song makes me speechless....
    well done.
    kassettenmaedchenon April 14, 2004   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThis song is stunning. Notice how there's different seasons in each verse, and the progress of the gardening (first there's blooms, then there's fallen leaves, then there's jars of seeds). All beautifully reflected in the wistful memories. Phenomenal song.
    smallwonderroboton April 06, 2005   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThis song is, in my opinion, written from the perpsective of a man who lost his wife to another man. The author and said woman are together during the summer when it was warm and her "Bougainvillea blooms". Then she left him and her children in the autumn, which "blew the quilt right off the perfect bed she made." This line comes from the popular phrase "you made your bed, now you have to sleep in it." The "perfect bed she made" was the love the author and woman used to have, but autumn messed it up. The woman has chosen to be with the new man, but the author finds closure in the fact that she still thinks of him while ignoring the outside world. "Only now I do believe
    Sometimes, with the window closed, she'll sit and think of me" The last line of the song means that she chose to be with the new man only because she was afraid to be alone.
    Reciprocity92on December 08, 2006   Link
  • +3
    General Commenti spent a great deal of time thinking about this song.
    Sam compares the narrator of the song to the different seasons
    summer, autumn, spring and winter = the narrator
    also, the Bougainvillea flower is a metaphor for the woman's heart.

    according to me, this is what the song is saying

    There are times that walk from you
    Like some passing afternoon
    there are instances in your life where things escape you

    - he then proceeds to retell his personal experience with that


    Summer warmed the open window of her honeymoon
    And she chose a yard to burn
    But the ground remembers her
    Wooden spoons, her children stir her Bougainvillea blooms

    -he meets a married woman and has an affair with her
    she chooses to end it
    but he still remembers her
    their love (children) moves (stirs) her heart



    There are things that drift away
    Like our endless numbered days

    -he restates that there are things that drift away (this love in particular)

    Autumn blew the quilt right off the perfect bed she made
    And she's chosen to believe
    In the hymns her mother sings
    Sunday pulls its children from their piles of fallen leaves

    -he complicates her life/marriage (messes up her bed)
    and she chooses to believe
    in the morals/beliefs of her mother (ie: trying to salvage the marriage)
    so she tries to pull out the love that was once in her marriage


    There are sailing ships that pass
    All our bodies in the grass


    Springtime calls her children until she lets them go at last
    And she's chosen where to be
    Though she's lost her wedding ring
    Somewhere near her misplaced jar of Bougainvillea seeds

    he (springtime) holds onto their love (children) until she lets it go
    and she chooses where she wants to be (with her husband)
    even though she lost her wedding ring (her love for her husband)
    somewhere near her misplaced heart (which is currently dead/dormant)


    There are things we can't recall
    Blind as night that finds us all


    Winter tucks her children in, her fragile china dolls
    But my hands remember hers
    Rolling around the shaded ferns
    Naked arms, her secrets still like songs I'd never learned
    There are names across the sea
    Only now I do believe
    Sometimes, with the window closed, she'll sit and think of me
    But she'll mend his tattered clothes
    And they'll kiss as if they know
    A baby sleeps in all our bones, so scared to be alone

    he tucks the love to sleep
    but his hands remember hers
    he doesn't understand why she chose to go back to her husband
    but out of everyone she knows
    even though she's now faithful to her husband (the window has been closed) he still hopes that she thinks of him
    but instead she tries to mend the marriage with her husband
    and she'll kiss him
    but they'll both know they're together only because they're afraid of being alone.


    well that's my interpretation.. this song is simply beautiful.
    honeyplumon January 06, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General CommentIf you break apart the song by lines based on the first 4 verses/sections it is somewhat interesting. Here it is:

    There are times that walk from you
    Like some passing afternoon
    There are things that drift away
    Like our endless numbered days
    There are sailing ships that pass
    All our bodies in the grass
    There are things we can't recall
    Blind as night that finds us all

    These set the tone for that particular verse in my opinion all of course have to deal with how time passes us by and it being both odd how we remember various experiences throughout our lives and how we forget some.

    Next section:

    Summer warmed the open window of her honeymoon
    Autumn blew the quilt right off the perfect bed she made
    Springtime calls her children until she lets them go at last
    Winter tucks her children in, her fragile china dolls


    These lines give an analogy for the breakdown of a life being like a year. Perhaps this is simply a comparison to the narrator's story/memory to a single year. It could also be simply the way the narrator remembers the woman being described in this song. It is possible that a series of events happened over a year but I don't think that is the case...

    Next section:

    And she chose a yard to burn
    But the ground remembers her
    And she's chosen to believe
    In the hymns her mother sings
    And she's chosen where to be
    Though she's lost her wedding ring
    But my hands remember hers
    Rolling around the shaded ferns

    Informs the listener to the state of the woman in those parts of her life or during that "year".

    Next section:

    Wooden spoons, her children stir her Bougainvillea blooms
    Sunday pulls its children from their piles of fallen leaves
    Somewhere near her misplaced jar of Bougainvillea seeds
    Naked arms, her secrets still like songs I'd never learned

    All lines have something to do with the children in this song. Not all lines stand alone well particularly the last two but I think they are appropriate for my theory of breaking the song apart a bit. The lines still have to do with the children in relation to the narrator and the woman.

    The last verse is taken separately.

    There are names across the sea
    Only now I do believe
    Sometimes, with the window closed, she'll sit and think of me
    But she'll mend his tattered clothes
    And they'll kiss as if they know
    A baby sleeps in all our bones, so scared to be alone

    This is the reflection of the narrator. Based on this break down I think this song is about one or some combination of three things:

    It seems extremely clear it is about a marriage that ended for some reason. Given the lines about children it almost seems like they had children then as the nest emptied the love between narrator and woman faded. The only problem I see with this is the last verse. When you take the song as a whole but keeping the breakdown of sections into consideration and tie in the last verse it almost seems like there was a happy marriage that had children in it or planned to be in it. Then as time passes for various reasons this relationship sours I think it is either due to the death of the child/children or even possibly an abortion.

    It also seems clear that the second man (not the narrator) the woman ends up with knew both the narrator and woman. "They'll kiss as if they know a baby sleeps in all our bones..."

    That all being said my last idea which is the one I lean closest to is the following: Narrator and woman are married, things are great, they have a kid or kids, they get divorced due to an affair on the part of the woman. It isn't that she is simply lusting after this other man that is presumably a friend of the family, but perhaps the man she loved and married isn't quite the same anymore or even simply the love they had has changed over time. A Bougainvillea is a flower that blooms all year obviously this could be a metaphor for an everlasting love but the woman's seems to have dried up. Maybe the kid leaves or is messed up from the divorce the ending of the song suggests that everyone understands that they all in various ways abandoned a child through perhaps a series of coincidental actions. But regardless, all their actions were chosen. Meh, just a theory and certainly not flawless I'm tired of typing though.
    cyclonus29on September 16, 2008   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationThis is a very beautiful song, obviously about the passage of time. It uses the seasons to represent time. While it seems as if this time refers to a year, it is actually go through an entire life time. I believe this song is about a son speaking of his mother.

    There are times that walk from you like some passing afternoon
    -- Beginning refers to just how simple and quick it is to go through life. The idea that one day you look back and wonder, "where did all that time go?"

    Summer warmed the open window of her honeymoon
    And she chose a yard to burn but the ground remembers her
    Wooden spoons, her children stir her Bougainvillea blooms
    --- This is referring to the beginning of her adult life. It begins with the summer season. It begins with her honeymoon. It goes to the house she chooses to raise her children in. A place well loved, and a yard played in a tended to (as the ground remember the woman still). Her young children "stir" (disrupt) her planted and tended flowers. The flowers represent her life, her experiences, the changes she goes through .

    There are things that drift away like our endless, numbered days
    --- Life goes on routine, and things drift and leave her life. This could refer to her early married life, babies rocked in arms, carefully tended flowers, etc.

    Autumn blew the quilt right off the perfect bed she made
    --- We are in autumn, further into her life. Life is different than she thought it was going to be. She planned a life a certain way, but its different. Most people look to the future and have a set image of how their life, their children, their home, etc is going to be, and often life changes things, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Either way, it is typically never the same as imagined.

    And she's chosen to believe in the hymns her mother sings
    Sunday pulls its children from the piles of fallen leaves
    --- The mother is raising the children in religion, most likely Christian. Hymns refer to a religious song/poem. Sunday is a day of worship for Christians, thus Sunday service pulls her children to Church. They are a Christian family.


    There are sailing ships that pass all our bodies in the grass
    --- I believe this references the saying "that ship has sailed". She is now later in life. Probably around 40's or 50's. She has allowed other opportunities to pass. "all our bodies" refers to her family. Those opportunities passes her by as she was raising her family.

    Springtime calls her children until she let's them go at last
    --- We are later in her life. "Spring" calls her children b/c they have grown up, it calls to them until she finally must let them go (college, adulthood, etc).

    And she's chosen where to be, though she's lost her wedding ring
    Somewhere near her misplaced jar of Bougainvillea seeds
    --- I believe that she is not really feeling the love in her marriage anymore, but she choose to stay anyway (she's chosen where to be), it is a conscience choice. She knows it is not a real marriage anymore. She didn't lose the actual ring, just the symbol it represents. Its lost somewhere back when she lost the seeds to the flowers she used to tend. It gives the idea that she no longer tends to those flowers first mentioned in Summer.

    These flowers are an important metaphor for her life. They are something she tended to as a young, married woman, it is something that "drifted away", like her marriage. The seeds/love are misplaced, lost somewhere along life's journey. Perhaps she doesn't even remember when.

    There are things we can't recall, Blind as night that finds us all
    --- We do not remember everything about our lives. The forgetfulness of everyday life is a dark and inevitable as the night that always finds us.

    Winter tucks her children in, her fragile china dolls
    --- Winter represents the elderly part of her life. She is old a frail (like a china doll).

    But my hands remember hers, rolling around the shaded ferns
    Naked arms, her secrets still like songs I'd never learned
    --- This is the son remembering his mother. His hands remember the feeling of his mothers perhaps in a game of holding hands and the walk around one of the ferns in the yard (again going back to a young mother in a well loves home and yard with her children). He is remember the time in her life represented by Summer (naked arms) This memories reminds him off all the secrets and things he doesn't know, or never bothered to learn.

    There are names across the sea, only now I do believe
    Sometimes, with the window closed, she'll sit and think of me
    --- The window is closed now (Winter), a direct contrast to her young life in Summer when the window was open. Her son believes that with her time she sits by her window to think of him.

    But she'll mend his tattered clothes and they'll kiss as if they know
    A baby sleeps in all our bones, so scared to be alone
    --- His parents are still together. There is no love, just routine care of each other. She mends his clothes, perhaps he still fixes the faucet for her, etc. They kiss almost as if they are aware that being apart is more terrifying that having each other, even if the love is long gone
    Orion510on September 12, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti gather that this song is about how our lives are so temporary (endless numbered days, sailing ships that pass, things we can't recall) and how we're scared as human beings that we don't remember everything and that everything in our lives isnt permanent.

    this is such a brutiful song.
    tactforwiton June 26, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentoh wow. such a great song. that's all.
    slickbooton November 21, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentoh wow. such a great song. that's all.
    slickbooton November 21, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti agree w/ tactforwit, but i also think it could be about a lost love who has gotten married and/or started a new life.

    "But my hands remember hers, rolling around the shaded ferns
    Naked arms, her secrets still like songs I'd never learned "

    these lines seem to suggest that he can never know her now, all he has is the memory of her. i imagine this song takes place as he is imagining what her life is like.
    NightNeverSleepson December 04, 2004   Link

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