You have a heart and I have a key
Lie back and let me unlock you
Those heathens you hang with down by the sea
All they want to do is defrock you
I know a river, where we can dream
It will swell up, burst it's banks,
babe, and rock you
But if you're gonna dine with them cannibals
Sooner or later, darling, you're gonna get eaten
But I'm glad you've come around
here with your animals
And your heart that is bruised but unbeaten
And beating like a drum

I will sit like a bird on a fence
Sing you songs with a happy ending
Swoop down and tell you that it don't make sense
To attack the very thing you're defending
Didn't I just buy that dress for you?
That pink paper pinafore that you keep mending
Well, if you're gonna dine with the cannibals
Sooner or later, darling, you're gonna get eaten
But I'm glad you've come around
here with your animals
And your heart that is banging and beating
And banging like a gong

I can see that they've hurt you, dear
Here is some moonlight to cloak us
And I will never desert you here
Unpetaled among the crocus
Allow me, my love, to allay your fear
As I swim, in and out of focus
But if you're gonna dine with the cannibals
Sooner or later, darling, you're gonna get eaten
But I'm glad you've come around
here with your animals
And your heart that is bruised but bleating
And bleeding like a lamb
Banging like a gong
Beating like a drum


Lyrics submitted by littleRoom

Cannibal's Hymn song meanings
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11 Comments

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  • +1
    General CommentYeah, obviously, sex is a theme of this song, but it isn't a sole theme. I always interpreted it as funnysmartname too, 'cannibal' could just refer to men who want to devour her without any emotional attatchment and this frustrates the song's speaker because he has that emotional attatchment, but she keeps swapping between him and the 'cannibals'.
    Prisoner.I.Wason March 05, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI agree with funnysmartname's interpretation. The narrator is telling the (female) listener: "If you keep hanging around with those people, you're going to get hurt eventually. But I'm still glad you're here with me right now."

    There is also some suggestion that the narrator himself is not much different than the others. In the first verse, he warns the listener that "Those heathens you hang with down by the sea / All they want to do is defrock you", i.e. that the "cannibals" just care about sex. However, he has just told the girl (in the previous line) to "Lie back and let me unlock you", indicating that he is probably interested in the same thing. The narrator attempts to set himself apart by indicating that he cares for her in some deeper way ("I will never desert you here"), while the others just want to use her for their own satisfaction (this is what the metaphor of "get[ting] eaten" refers to).
    treanton June 23, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt sounds like she left him to live wild and fast. She keeps hanging out when she misses him. He's glad, but keeps reminding her about the danger of that lifestyle. She gets hurt and he welcomes her back. Her innocense is gone=bleeding like a lamb
    funnysmartnameon March 24, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWell, of course its about sex too, but not just oral sex. You have a heart and I have a key lay back and let me unlock you. There is emotion and danger in the song too. He warns of cannibals yet he is a cannibal.
    funnysmartnameon November 10, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song turned my head right away with it's sound; it's craft, but we're here to talk about what we see and what moves us in the poetry:

    File this under intentionally mis-heard lyrics:
    I always liked to hear the word "animus" instead of "animals". It might imply more. Google Jung for the skinny on anima and animus.

    I'm hoping Cave would approve of my alteration. :)

    Sex? why, naturally, but not to my ears this time.
    Some say all songs are about sex; Some hint at it while Cave revels in it, often wallowing in great gulps of pain and pleasure. I don't see that in this song per sè.

    meaning? urgh, still working on a clear meaning. I think [funnysmartname] said alot in their interp: The poet cautions another but is as dangerous as those that are warned against. A sinister sounding tune in 3/4 time. I love this tune.

    -Phase

    I'll return when somethign new reveals itself about this fantastic song.
    warmPhaseon January 21, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSMC: Hahahahaha, oh man...
    TheTreefingerson December 20, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI do approve of funnysmartname's interpretation.
    TheTreefingerson December 22, 2007   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationJekyll and Hyde. The narrator is the protector AND the cannibal.
    Gofreon February 21, 2014   Link
  • -1
    General CommentEver thought it's about oral sex?

    I mean, it's blatently sexual from the first lines, and usually, people use flower imagery when they want to sing about vaginas delicatly...

    "Sooner or later, you're going to get eaten"

    I rest my case
    SMCon October 23, 2006   Link
  • -1
    General Comment@SMC "I rest my case", jesus christ what kind of a fucking idiot are you?
    roton November 02, 2006   Link

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