Don’t go out
Don’t blow out
Don’t smother me, lantern

Don’t reach out, Phil
Don’t extend
Don’t try to touch nothing

I’m afraid I’ll see you out on a date
And it’ll send me camping

Don’t steal my show
That lantern light
Not linger nowhere
Not on your life
Leave alone don’t try to hold nothing
Don’t answer the phone
Leave alone be a darkened figure
Sinking slow
Have your fort glow
Have your lit up lantern

How did you know to come over tonight?
Your blazing lamp was blinking up the sky

What’s that you hold and
Why is it so bright?
My heart of snow
Must leave alone
This blizzard white

What’s that you hold and
Why is it so bright?
When I walk away
I’ll leave a shade on your glowing doorway

What’s that I/you hold and why is it so bright?

You look good
In my light
But my life flame flickers
Leave alone
Let cold lakes lie
Let me end my light leave

I’ll hang it high
On antlers wide
Let bloom like sunrise

Let go of everything



Lyrics submitted by driftwood86

Lanterns song meanings
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4 Comments

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  • 0
    General CommentPhil Elverum is crazy.
    patman?on February 17, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI absolutely love this song.
    IWantWindToBlowon October 04, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is really amazing, i couldn't even begin to analyze it and it makes me sad that more people don't know about it!
    kassichi88on January 06, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentTo me it seems to use lots of analogies with how lanterns are used to express loneliness and the attempt to reach out to someone else.

    A more overt and childish version of this would be Let Your Little Light Shine, perhaps.

    So just to throw out some ideas (and maybe get the discussion started more)

    Don’t go out
    Don’t blow out
    Don’t smother me, lantern

    Here it seems like he is doing some self-coaching to keep going and not give up. Maybe the lantern could be interpreted as hope, perhaps as inner drive. Or he himself could be the lantern. At any rate, we are introduced to a fear/concern that the light could be extinguished and if it is then the singer will be "smothered" (in darkness, literally, figuratively perhaps dead?)

    Don’t reach out, Phil
    Don’t extend
    Don’t try to touch nothing

    As Phil is the singer it is interesting to see the use of his name in the format that lantern was used previously. Are they one and the same? Phil is being cautioned to not take risks, and thus to not connect. To reach out is a friendly gesture or a grasping one. To touch something is very much a connection phrase, either literally or emotionally. It is unclear how this caution is related to extinguishing the lantern, but so far in the song we have fear of loss of hope or death and a caution to not risk yourself emotionally.

    I’m afraid I’ll see you out on a date
    And it’ll send me camping

    This explains the caution above. Phil likes someone but is concerned that the interest is in a different direction. It is possible that this is post breakup, but considering that the caution was to not try to touch nothing it seems more likely that this is referring to a new love interest who he has never approached. It sending him camping is a reference to a use of a lantern, and it sounds/feels similar to send me running, but whether intentionally or not, is a stationary version. If he sees his love interest is with someone else he will not make a move or express interest.

    Don’t steal my show
    That lantern light
    Not linger nowhere
    Not on your life
    Leave alone don’t try to hold nothing
    Don’t answer the phone
    Leave alone be a darkened figure
    Sinking slow
    Have your fort glow
    Have your lit up lantern

    This whole section makes me think that the singer is greedy about his lantern light and is concerned that someone is not worth sharing it with. If his lantern light lingers somewhere then his show is stolen. The solution is to go into a tent alone and surround yourself with the glow. It is again a caution to not get emotionally entangled with someone else. Most clearly in the command to leave alone, don't try to hold nothing, don't answer the phone. This section makes me think that perhaps the lantern is an analogy for love. Another interpretation is that he is warning off a rival, but considering that he just stated that he would not take action if a rival were there it seems unlikely.

    How did you know to come over tonight?
    Your blazing lamp was blinking up the sky

    If I recall correctly, the first line is sung by a female voice, and the second line by a male voice. He is trying to keep his light to himself but he could not help but be drawn to her light.

    What’s that you hold and
    Why is it so bright?
    My heart of snow
    Must leave alone
    This blizzard white

    The first part again expresses attraction to someone else's light. My heart of snow must leave alone is again expressing caution of becoming emotionally close to someone. A lantern emits heat as well as light, so if a heart made of snow gets close it would melt. A heart melting indicates good emotions, but it sounds very risky if taken literally. This blizzard white is a reference both to a use of a lantern (in a blizzard when the power is cut) and suggesting that the lantern is shining out so much light that it is like a blizzard of white.

    What’s that you hold and
    Why is it so bright?
    When I walk away
    I’ll leave a shade on your glowing doorway

    Same start/meaning as the last part. This is suggesting that in the case of a breakup part of the light will be hidden/blocked. I believe that lanterns can have shades that are pulled over them to target the light better or dim it. A shade might also help to protect a lantern from wind.

    What’s that I/you hold and why is it so bright?

    You look good
    In my light
    But my life flame flickers
    Leave alone
    Let cold lakes lie
    Let me and my light leave

    Again the attraction in the opening, followed by concern about steadfastness. Or perhaps suggesting that his concerns about his lantern going out are ongoing and he is worried about the implications for the love interest. In the end he is begging the right to practice the caution recommended in the opening of the song.

    I’ll hang it high
    On antlers wide
    Let bloom like sunrise

    Let go of everything

    The singer has decided to abandon the caution and let his light shine on everything and let go of his fears. This seems like a positive outcome, but the way it is sung highlights the fact that he is also letting go of what was keeping his light safe.
    dartishaon December 12, 2016   Link

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