then it was dusk in illinois
a small boy, after an afternoon of carting dung hung
on a rail fence, a sapped thing
weary to crying

dark was growing tall
he began to hear the pond frogs all calling on his ear
they were calling on his ears with what seemed their joy

soon the sound was pleasant for a boy
listening in the smoky dusk and nightfall of illinois
and from the fields two small boys came
bearing cornstalk violins
so they rubbed the cornstalk bows with resins
and the three just sat there scraping of the joy
of their joy, they’re scraping of the joy

it was now fine music
the frogs and the boys did
in the towering illinois twilight make and into dark
in spite a shoulder’s ache
a boy’s hunched body loved out of a stalk
the first song of his happiness
and the song woke his heart into the darkness and sadness of joy

dark was growing tall
he began to hear the pond frogs all calling on his ear
they were calling on his ear with what seemed their joy

Lyrics submitted by girlboyrevolt

First Song song meanings
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  • +3
    General CommentThis beautiful song's lyrics are from a poem written by Galway Kinnell.…
    j.enslowon November 27, 2006   Link
  • +2
    MemoryAndrew Bird is already among my favorite musicians but "First Song," in particular, has a lofty perch. I grew up in East-Central Illinois where the Earth is as flat as a table top and the dirt is as black as a moonless night.

    My greatest childhood desire (which actually reached well into my early adult life) was to become a farmer to raise corn and beans and to bring up a family that knows the songs of the birds and bugs and other critters that roam about. To wait anxiously every morning with the kids to see if the deer would stroll through the dewy grass before they scurry off to school. And then sit with them in the back yard as the evening falls and gaze at the stars, watching the final flights of the birds flash by as silhouettes against the orange and now deepening purple sky. To listen to the song of the wind brushing through the leaves of the corn.

    And on those rainy days after a dry spell, to deeply inhale the aroma, the fragrance of the celebration of the parched dirt reacquainting itself with the falling rain....

    Now I wonder what visions will haunt my little boy's heart as he grows up on the Atlantic coast of Virginia.

    j.enslow, thank you for the lead on Kinnell. I am completely overwhelmed that somebody from Rhode Island could capture my memories and childhood dreams of life in the cornfields of Illinois. I get teary (just a little bit) at the recollected memories whenever I hear this song. But now I know that the person who wrote this offers me so many stories that I will just now begin to discover.

    From the bio of Kinnel: "where he bends over his newly born son: 'and smelled/the black, glistening fur/of his head, as empty space/must have bent over the newborn planet. . .'." I will forever remember these early days of my little boy's life couched in this image.
    THX1138on March 04, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love this song. It makes me happy.
    Kabala33on June 28, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt makes me really happy too ~
    zebeeon January 15, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is calming~ this line:

    'and the song woke his heart into the darkness and sadness of joy'

    is one of the most depressing I've heard in a long while though.
    shellirothon June 18, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthe best part is the whistling. how does he MAKE those sounds? Ugh.
    Danipeaon July 23, 2009   Link

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