"Swans and the Swimming" as written by and Samuel Ervin Beam....
"take me again," she said, thinking of him
"to the pond with the swans and the swimming"
Far from his room the familiar perfume
How it felt to her when she was naked
Lessons she learned when her memory slurs
As they marvel with love at the sunset
Walking away at the dark end of day
She will measure and break like a habit
Oh how the rain sounds as light as a lover's word
And now and again she's afraid when the sun returns

"take me again," she said, thinking of him
"I don't care for this careful behavior"
A brush through her hair, children kissing upstairs
Keeps her up with her want for her savior
The sun on the sand, on her knees and her hands
As she begs for her fish from the water
But turn them away, she's a whip and a slave
Given time she may find something better
Oh how the rain sounds as loud as a lover's words
And now and again she's afraid when the sun returns


Lyrics submitted by Mellow_Harsher, edited by virtuallypainless

"Swans and the Swimming" as written by Samuel Ervin Beam

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Swans and the Swimming song meanings
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  • +6
    My InterpretationThis is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. I agree with those who say it's about a woman coping with a break-up.

    The first two lines is a want to go back to her ex. "The pond with the swans and the swimming" is a brilliant, beautiful metaphor for this relationship, and all wonderful relationships. The next two lines describe how alone she feels; relics of their relationship bring her sadness.

    The next four lines are a bit of a mystery to me; if you've ever sat down outside and watched a sunset, maybe you might understand it a bit. They're beautiful. All I can say is that possibly the more enjoyable things in life bring her memories- like sunsets- but after these moments, she feels incredibly lonely and "breaks"; she falls apart.

    The chorus, with that heart-filling melody, seems to me as two lines that simply express the general theme of the lyrics and the mood of the entire song. I ABSOLUTELY ADORE that first line. When rain falls, rain falls everywhere, and rain covers everything, and the sound of it is something difficult to avoid; however the sound of gentle pouring rain is very, very soothing and lovely, coupled with the gray world outside. It's something sad yet beautiful at the same time, very much like the song and the story. The sun returning seems as if it doesn't give her any comfort.

    The first two lines of the second verse are all about how desperate she is for her man back. She's so tired of crying and being closed up- "careful behavior". It's a simple couplet, and it explains itself... and it's brilliant.

    "A brush through her hair, children kissing upstairs" is more of that trademark Iron & Wine imagery. A brush through her hair seems to me as just what it is; perhaps she is beautiful physically. Children kissing upstairs seems to signify more though- that could be her memories of intimate moments between her and her lover, most likely their first kiss. Also probably the feeling of her and him, and that feeling of "the whole world leaving" when she's with him. She remembers those moments and misses the hell out of them. "Want for her savior" could either mean want for her religious savior, or simply want for her ex-boyfriend. If that line is tied with religion, it could either mean she pleads for help from Him or she wishes for Him to take her away (i.e. death).

    The next four lines, I believe, occur in the same type of setting as "the pond with the swans and the swimming"; some place where she shouldn't despair. Of course, she is still despondent- the sun on her knees and hands gives warmth and light but that doesn't affect her.

    If I could only pick two lines that I like out of this entire piece, it would be the two lines following that last one. I hear "as she begs for a [instead of her] fish from the water/ but turned them away, she's a whip and a slave". She begs for help from others, and needs someone or something to support her in her time of need. But in her distress, she doesn't communicate well with others, and "whips" at the people around her despite some trying to comfort her. In this terrible hole this girl is stuck in, she's also a "slave" to her depression. She is devoid of hope.

    "...Given time she may find something better" is a thing whose meaning is self-explanatory. I regard it however as a literary device that serves a similar purpose as, say, a long slow zooming-out of the camera at the very end of a movie.


    I don't think there's a word in the English language that I could use to describe just how much I adore this song and Samuel Beam. This man is a brilliant poet and phenomenal musician.
    SpunkySkunkon August 26, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General Commentthis and sacred vision are my favorites off the new album
    i think it's about a girl trying to cope with a break up and she wants so badly just to go back with him to any perfectly ordinary day or "back to the pond with the swans and the swimming". she remembers everything and even scents remind her of him which makes her feel raw and exposed because she's not with him anymore and she knows he doesn't want her back.
    but it's taught her something because she now realizes that she should love every moment. she should cherish everthing. even her suffering because it will make her grow. she tries to walk away but she keeps relapsing into her despair which has become like a habit she is trying to break.
    the rain takes the place of her lover as company. she's afraid for the sun to come back because it's gives her an excuse to stay sad and she feels like it connects her to him.
    she still wants him but she has to much trepedition and doesn't want to put herself out there to get even more hurt
    "The sun on the sand, on her knees and her hands
    As she begs for her fish from the water"
    I think this is tlaking about how futile and purile she feels in wanting to go back to him, almost like begging for a fish from the water.
    she's only punishing herself by feeling all of this and she's become a slave to her sadness so she decides to move on and, hopefully, "given time she may find something better"
    perksofbeingalieon July 03, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentSpunkySkunk, you did a great job deciphering this song!
    The only thing that I think differently about is the verse:

    "The sun on the sand, on her knees and her hands
    As she begs for her fish from the water
    But turned them away, she's a whip and a slave
    Given time she may find something better"

    "The sun of the sand, on her knees and her hands" represents her praying to her God, or her higher power.
    "As she begs for her fish from the water" comes from the saying "Plenty of fish in the sea". She is begging her God for a man or "another fish from the sea".
    "But she turned them away, she's a whip and a slave" is saying that because she is a slave to her feelings about her lost love, she cannot bring herself to be with any of these other men.
    "Given time she may find something better" is pretty obvious in it's meaning. Time heals wounds, and it is saying that eventually she may find someone who she considers better than the man she is in love with.

    Love this song, too! Woot!
    Snookerz90on April 30, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti wish a girl would go fishing with me...the song's good times, by the way....
    Wilsongon March 16, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI adore this song. it's soo soo good.
    catchinstarson March 04, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentclass song...........this lad is class....
    badgeon April 02, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is such a beautiful song.
    Gallstoneon July 15, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti think this speaks about a girl who has lost the man she loved, and when she realizes this she feels naked/alone, and that certain memories that may have made her happy just cause her to "break like a habit" i.e. break her heart even more.
    souleilon June 30, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis kind of reminds me of The Notebook. With the birds in the boat.. and 'when her memory serves'.. how Allie has Alzheimer's.

    But anyway, this song is so tragically beautiful.
    noiamnotwhereibelongon November 08, 2009   Link

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