"Eli, the Barrow Boy" as written by and Colin Meloy....
Eli, the barrow boy of the old town
Sells coal and marigolds and he cries out
All down the day
Below the tamaracks he is crying
"Corn cobs and candlewax for the buying!"
All down the day

"Would I could afford to buy my love a fine robe
Made of gold and silk Arabian thread
But she is dead and gone and lying in a pine grove
And I must push my barrow all the day
And I must push my barrow all the day"

Eli, the barrow boy, when they found him
Dressed all in corduroy, he had drowned in
The river down the way
They laid his body down in a church yard
But still when the moon is out
With his pushcart he calls down the day

"Would I could afford to buy my love a fine gown
Made of gold and silk Arabian thread
But I am dead and gone and lying in a church ground
But still I push my barrow all the day
Still I push my barrow all the day"


Lyrics submitted by sethbrown

Eli, the Barrow Boy song meanings
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67 Comments

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  • +1
    General Commentone more thing about the suicide interpretation: the fact that eli is dressed all in corduroy could be significant. because the song implies that he is very poor, having to try & sell coal & marigolds just to get by, it may also be that this corduroy outfit was his 'best suit.' think about it in context to a line from another decemberists song:

    '& i don't know why she got all dolled up for a suicide'

    he dressed up because he knew he was going to drown himself. could this be possible? someone please correct me if i'm obviously wrong.

    xo
    NightNeverSleepson January 09, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentYea this song is insane.. however I wouldn't call it 'haunting' as such.. just sad and somewhat nostalgic.. like a 1900 movie in black and white... and when it's finished, you just spend 10 minutes staring at the screen
    crimmson777on February 11, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentSimple. She's dead, he drowned himself, and, suicide being a mortal sin, has to return as a ghost, telling us his mournfull tale.
    redbanditaon May 29, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentSuicide makes sense, but I think both Eli and his Love are on opposite ends of the social ladder. In a way, that would make his Love's burial place one of choice, perhaps on her family's land.

    Eli, who perhaps had an unrequited love for this woman, worked peddling different wares to keep himself alive. When his love dies, he wishes he could have had money with which to buy a fine robe she could have been buried in. Since he could not do that, he would do the next best thing.

    He saves up enough money to buy himself "finer" clothes and throws himself into the river to join her in the afterlife. His family has him buried in a church yard hoping to gain him entry into Heaven. Lo and behold he is denied entry and is left to wander the Earth, trapped in a moment in time where he may have been wishing he had enough money to make his love his wife and thus buy her a fine gown. Perhaps this was a dream of his while they were both still alive.

    In my opinion, this story doesn't necessarily take place in older times, but perhaps this day and age where there is still much a broken social ladder with little to no hope of moving up. The barrow is/contains his burdens and weighs him down, never able to climb to be with his unrequited love.

    That's just me however...don't know if I make any sense.
    Wingdingoon July 17, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThere's a kid named Eli in my science class...and now I really want to give him a hug.
    TwoHeadedGirl2on October 09, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General Commentshe died, he never could give her everything she deserved (in his eyes). so he work and works, and one day he just can't take it and kills himself to be with her. The plan to be with her is ruined because he isn't buried anywhere near her. Even after he is dead he continues to work just as hard as he did in life to try and give her a beautiful after life......

    this song is about a very true and sad lovers....
    as I see it she died probably due to an illness and he feels to blame because if he had more money he could of kept her well...but the fact was he couldnt so it ate at him for awhile until he just decided to kill himself.....

    makes me cry on the inside if I can't on the outside
    foxtails100on January 02, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General Commentso haunting, so exciting, so good.
    Adidasx007on January 13, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentcould someone tell me where to find this?
    pumkinhedon January 23, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentit's off the new album, if you want it, i'll send it to you: miamonstar
    miamonsteron January 23, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentsuch a beautiful song. this whole album is amazing.
    thegreatcreatoron February 28, 2005   Link

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