"Mercy of the Fallen" as written by and Dar Williams....
Oh my fair North Star,
I have held to you dearly,
I had asked you to steer me,
Till one cloud-scattered night,
I got lost and in my travels I met Leo the lion,
Met a king and met a giant, with their errant light,

There's the wind and the rain, and the mercy of the fallen,
Who say they have no claim to know what's right.
There's the weak and the strong and the beds that have no answer,
And that's where I may rest my head tonight.

I saw all the bright people,
In imposing flocks they landed,
And they got what they demanded,
And they scratched at the ground.

Then they flew, and the field grew as sweetly for the flightless,
Who had longing yet despite this,
They could hear every sound.

There's the wind and the rain,
And the mercy of the fallen,
Who say they have no claim to know what's right.
There's the weak and the strong and the beds that have no answer,
And that's where I may rest my head tonight.

If your sister or your brother were stumbling on their last mile,
In a self-inflicted exile,
You'd hope they'd meet a humble friend.

And I hope someday that the best of Falstaff's planners
Give me seven half-built manors,
Where half-dreams may dream without end.

There's the wind and the rain, and the mercy of the fallen,
Who say they have no claim to know what's right.
There's the weak and the strong and the many stars that guide us,
We have some of them inside us.


Lyrics submitted by VampedVixen

"Mercy of the Fallen" as written by Dar Williams

Lyrics © BUG MUSIC O/B/O BURNING FIELD MUSIC

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Mercy of the Fallen song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentAs a songwritermyself, I am hesitant to attach specific meanings to a song. Other people make up their own meanings that have nothing to do with how or why the song was written. And that is a good thing. That said, I love this song and here's what it says to me...

    The first verse is addressed to “my fair North Star,” which speaks to me of a permanence and reliability, an unwavering trust in a belief for a concept or a role model. When that certainty is obscured will we allow ourselves to discover new ways to navigate life.

    There are harsh forces that touch us - wind and rain - but also the compassion that comes from others who have lost their own certainty. They are no longer dogmatic or judgmental, but forgiving and understanding. Admitting you don’t have the answers may look weak, but takes great strength, and gives us peace.

    All the bright people that have visited this world over the centuries have had to struggle and scratch to progress, but they planted their ideas like seeds that enrich us now. And yet we are not satisfied — we cannot (or just do not) soar, but only observe.

    If someone you love is in trouble, you want them to get help from some who will accept them, and not judge them as if from a lofty position.

    The narrator casts herself as the silly-but-profound character from Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor. She hopes that whoever is directing or orchestrating her life gives her places that are not complete, where she can be at peace in the beds of uncertainty, and where dreams are never finished.

    We can be guided by more than one goal, some of them are high and far away, but others are only discovered in our hearts.
    unqlefunguson May 04, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think this is about giving up, either taking control of your own fate or always being the who lay's in the beds with no answers, also a lot of other metaphores used here, "Falstaff" could imply the character created by Shakespeare.
    Cyberghoston January 24, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's about being lost, yet still having a kind of direction. The people who have fallen are the ones who realize that they're not perfect, and it's not their place to judge others. They seek the kind of strength that's not about being able to impress the flightless masses and demand things of them, but about having something to guide you through life, and maybe become a beacon for someone else.

    I have no idea what the deal is with Falstaff, but that part in general makes me think about imperfection, or incompletion -- about a place that will let you rest on your journey, where you'll be welcomed and comforted even though you don't have all the answers yet.
    inhumandecencyon October 27, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's about being lost, yet still having a kind of direction. The people who have fallen are the ones who realize that they're not perfect, and it's not their place to judge others. They seek the kind of strength that's not about being able to impress the flightless masses and demand things of them, but about having something to guide you through life, and maybe become a beacon for someone else.

    I have no idea what the deal is with Falstaff, but that part in general makes me think about imperfection, or incompletion -- about a place that will let you rest on your journey, where you'll be welcomed and comforted even though you don't have all the answers yet.
    inhumandecencyon October 27, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI appreciate all of these comments, and I am fascinated with this song presently, so the insights provided here are just adding to that fascination.

    Speaking broadly, I agree that the song is largely about what guidance system one chooses and what means to question and let go of traditional guidance systems. The term "errant" doesn't just mean "in error;" it also means to seek adventure and going to an alternate path.

    When the writer agrees to lay her head in a bed that "has no answer," she has found the courage to exist in a world of uncertainty, complexity and struggle.

    And as a poster suggested here, terms like "weak" and "strong" are on one axis of thinking about people and are relative. There are indeed other ways, ways that include compassion and mercy for those struggling ("on their last mile"), and humility and friendship would be of higher value there than intellect or individual excellence.

    So this song seems to be about advocacy for the good that comes from being lost, seeking non-traditional paths and showing love and support for those who are having a hard time. She seems to say, "certainty is over-rated."

    Love it, just adore it. This is my favorite song right now.
    IDanielsenon March 13, 2014   Link

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