Goldenrod and the 4H stone
The things I brought you when I found out
You had cancer of the bone

Your father cried on the telephone
And he drove his car into the Navy yard
Just to prove that he was sorry

In the morning, through the window shade
When the light pressed up against your shoulderblade
I could see what you were reading

All the glory that the Lord has made
And the complications you could do without
When I kissed you on the mouth

Tuesday night at the Bible study
We lift our hands and pray over your body
But nothing ever happens

I remember at Michael's house
In the living room when you kissed my neck
And I almost touched your blouse

In the morning at the top of the stairs
When your father found out what we did that night
And you told me you were scared

All the glory when you ran outside
With your shirt tucked in and your shoes untied
And you told me not to follow you

Sunday night when I cleaned the house
I find the card where you wrote it out
With the pictures of your mother

On the floor at the great divide
With my shirt tucked in and my shoes untied
I am crying in the bathroom

In the morning when you finally go
And the nurse runs in with her head hung low
And the cardinal hits the window

In the morning in the winter shade
On the first of March, on the holiday
I thought I saw you breathing

All the glory that the Lord has made
And the complications when I see His face
In the morning in the window

All the glory when He took our place
But He took my shoulders and He shook my face
And He takes and He takes and He takes



Lyrics submitted by downhillracer, edited by Stockholm


Casimir Pulaski Day song meanings
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315 Comments

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  • +10
    General Comment:The "shirt tucked-in and shoes untied" phrase, repeated twice, is the one I kind of found most intriguing. Basically put, I think this is a gorgeous way of describing how these two people, in the face of one of life's most difficult situations, are attempting to put on a strong, smiling facade "tucked-in shirt," while actually, at their very core, being functionally "untied."

    A tucked-in shirt is what? Completely aesthetic. There is no physical benefit or reason to have a shirt tucked in or not, - it's simply something you do to appear a little more "put together" to those around you.

    An untied shoe, on the other hand, will probably be noticed after the shirt. This is something that's a little "below the radar." That being said, an untied shoe is more than simply an aesthetic problem, it's a functional one as well - you can very well fall down, and possibly hurt yourself from tripping on a shoelace. So to me, this phrase really, and I think purposefully, highlights the juxtaposition of appearances/reality, strength/weakness, maturity/age - all themes which kind of undercurrent through the song.

    Any thoughts?
    IndieLoveron March 06, 2009   Link
  • +7
    General Comment:"I would say that this song is definitely about being mad at God" - jady

    well said, although i would probably myself want to suggest something more along the lines of "confusion" and/or "frustration." perhaps that is a mere semantical point, though... what i am most struck by is the HONESTY stevens uses in his music. truly - he is willing to express BOTH the joy and the despair that are regular parts of our lives. i think it is a form of defensiveness and denial when people are not willing to acknowledge their fear, disappointment, rage, jealously, etc... unfortunately, many have been made to feel that the only emotions welcome in a religous enviornment are joy and happiness. how discouraging this must be (and is) when much of our experience is in reality a great deal less pleasant than such affectivity would imply.

    "and he takes, and he takes, and he takes." a wise person told me once that true worship can only happen when we are willing to be honest with God - be that a moment of thankful praise - or one of darkness and doubt.
    billyfitzsimmonson October 22, 2005   Link
  • +6
    General Comment:This song gave me goosebumps. Beautiful song about loss.
    hoboghoston May 05, 2005   Link
  • +6
    General Comment:I wish I could've known her.
    Thats So 1982on August 12, 2005   Link
  • +6
    General Comment:I love this song:

    Two of my favourite elements: the contrast between the happy melody and the subject - and the pain in the lyrics. The ending ultimately is happy: despite the pain Sufjan is celebrating his friend's life.

    Also: the bit that chokes me up most is the whispered 'and he takes and he takes and he takes'. Sufjan is expressing his doubts here: his faith is shaken - sometimes it seems to him that God just takes.

    My favourite thing about all of Sufjan's songs is the humanity in them. Really beautiful.
    scotsvinceon July 14, 2012   Link
  • +5
    General Comment:I don't know if anyone has posted this yet because there are so many comments. I accidentally posted this as a reply the first time BUT Sufjan Stevens on Casimir Pulaski Day:
    “I was a teenager and this was my first experience with death. At that age, you’re easily confused. I couldn’t understand why she had to die. Experiences like this always cause doubt. Because we don’t cope well with the idea of evil in this world. Then you doubt the existence of God and His intentions.. actually everything. But that’s good. One of the foundations of faith is the lack of it - the disbelief. It’s very important. Firm belief is a bit unreal. That leads to religious fanaticism. Doubt is inseperable from Christianity. With every figure in the bible you find doubt - Abraham, Moses, all the kings and the apostles. Even Jesus doubted. So isn’t it funny how religions - especially Christian institutions in the US - have eliminated all doubt? They don’t understand how important it is to doubt. With all its consequences.” (Roughly translated from a Dutch interview)
    jennyaddamson April 01, 2012   Link
  • +4
    General Comment:Sufjan stevens is often criticized for writing "Christian" music, but here is a good example of why that isn't so... this song is about the loss of a friend but also, more importantly, how God can seem not to care about those who pray to him. Sufjan may well be a Christian but this is not christian music, which has at its core the desire to praise God; just music about how he feels... in other words, "music". I love that last line. I guarantee you will never hear that on an Amy Grant record.
    jadyon July 20, 2005   Link
  • +3
    General Comment:I'm an atheist, and even I absolutely LOVE Sufjan Stevens. I even like the album Seven Swans. Anybody who criticizes him for having some Christian elements in his music is an idiot. He's not preachy at all, and his Christianity, to me, adds an extra layer of beauty to all of his music. Whether his beliefs are right or not (I think not), they still play a very important role for me in his lyrics.
    Massive Attackon August 12, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General Comment:This song slays me.
    I've always interpreteded "the complications you could do without" as temptation. Strict father, religious restrictions, temptations of the flesh that God has made can prove complicated.

    I assume the "great divide" is between life and death and not some geographic location in the "pictures of you mother".

    Not sure what to make of the line "shirt tucked in and my shoes untied". He repeats it twice. I think of it as a state of dishelvement or interruption like when something blindsides you. The cardinal doesn't see the window, and suddenly it changes everything. Casimir Pulaski rides into the South expecting to recapture Savannah, only to be mortally wounded. Anyone have insights into this line?
    cunning stunton September 16, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General Comment:This song is obviously about the death of one of his childhood friends. I can be sure that this song is not about any one single emotion, (anger, sadness, etc.) because death is never simple. Sufjan uses a beautiful vagueness in all of the details he uses in this song. For example, I don't believe that Goldenrod and the 4H stone are intended to be delved into too deeply, but are intended to be some sort of nostalgic items which, I would guess, the speaker (Sufjan) and his girl friend both associated memories with. Sufjan's story-telling is really brilliant in this song. He omits large amounts of contextual information, but allows what is important to rise out of the details- I remember at Michael's house/In the living room when you kissed my neck/And I almost touched your blouse. I love how he skips around chronologically with each set of verses, because it makes the song feel very reminiscent, like he is sorting through memories. From the details of the lyrics there is confusion, fear, and anger that is evoked in perfect proportions. The theme of her father seems to indicate that he was abusive or at least negligent. He stands next to the other father referred to, God, with whom he is to be contrasted and compared. This is a really great move that Sufjan makes. Both are tied up with fear and the unknown, but the girl's father is essentially brought to his knees (at the navy yard) whereas God the Father has his character resolved quite differently. All the fear and pain come together and intersect with the repeated claims of glory as Sufjan is touched by God's confusing, awesome, and painful redemption.

    All the glory when He took our place
    But He took my shoulders and He shook my face
    And He takes and He takes and He takes
    speakforthwordson April 09, 2009   Link

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