Oh, the minarets of Constantinople
Are plated gold, ivory and opal
Their cupolas all onion-domed and light

And the magistrate of Constantinople
Has made a match; his family was hopeful
Their daughter would be promised a wedding night

But the Sultan's weary bride, she won't be wed tonight
Nor fall beneath a canopy to lie
For far across the town, her lover now is drowned
And painted by the Bosporus in blue
And there's nothing for a broken heart to do

Down the dirty streets of Constantinople
The beggars weep, their hands all wide open
Their severed leper limbs all swing and sway

At a windowsill in Constantinople
Our hero sighs to melodies noteful
And gazes on the walls that hold his love

For the Sultan's weary bride, she won't be wed tonight
Nor fall beneath a canopy to lie
For far across the town, her lover's lying drowned
And painted by the Bosporus in blue
And there's nothing for a broken heart to do
No, there's nothing for a broked heart to do
Except cry


Lyrics submitted by Imposs1ble

Constantinople song meanings
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7 Comments

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  • 0
    General CommentQuite self-explanatory-- Turkish wedding ceremony is cancelled because the bridegroom has drowned in the Bosporus Strait, and while the gossip has been spreading through the towns to those villagers unfortunate enough to hear it, the parties directly involved (namely, the parents of the bride) retain their blissful ignorance and continue preparatory thoughts for their daughter's celebration.
    TheDictionaryon December 31, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI LOVE how the Decemberists use historical and foreign contexts to illustrate a story. It's far more whimsical than any boy-meets-girl-and-boy-dies song with American personalities.
    TheDictionaryon December 31, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentActually it's not so self-explanatory. I know, as someone living in Istanbul, that I was quite struck the first time I'd heard this song. Colin Meloy has a profound knowledge of some legends that I'd always thought only people really interested in Istanbul would know. The story is actually a Hero and Leander story, a tale told in many versions and times, this time adapted into Ottoman Empire setting.

    Meloy uses heavy and rather accurate imagery to cast the vision of a Renaissance Constantinople in your mind, with its "dirty streets" and "minarets". Hero, the daughter of the emperor in the original story, nevertheless an upper-class figure, is betrothed to an appropriate royal person; but she in truth loves Leander.

    Now a brief intermission. Leander may be listening to the "melodies" coming from his lover's wedding, and may have committed suicide. But here is what I think happens, according to the poem.

    Each night Leander swims across the Bosporus (the strait that separates Asia and Europe) to reach his lover. Hero, for reasons not relevant, is kept in a tower amidst the Bosporus. They spend the night there and before dawn, Leander checks out. Hero holds out a guiding light for Leander to find the tower without getting lost. But one night Hero falls asleep and Leander loses his direction in the water and eventually drowns. A deranged Hero, finding out about her lover "painted by the Bosporus in blue" throws herself from the tower and dies as well. Sad story.

    But I think in this version Hero doesn't fall asleep but is taken away by her father for the match by the magistrate, that's why Leander is drowned. At least that's what I think when I hear it.

    One last thing: Maiden Tower had been used as a lighthouse until some decades ago.
    Linuson July 29, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentHow did you get this song? is there a site or did you get it off limewire? PLEASE TELL ME!!! AHHH!!
    lindsayms14on September 08, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is on the vinyl of picaresque, also known a s picaresquities. you can get these bonus tracks on itunes. it's well worth it
    lizziewon October 24, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentwow, thanks for the explanation Linus... that's neat that colin would research those legends. To be honest I almost had that story when I first read the lyrics: rich girl is being forced to marry another while her lover drowns(my first thought being suicide out of despair), and once the bride-to-be finds out she kills herself as well. Just goes to show the wondrous storytelling meloy is capable of!
    Bryia_026on October 30, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love the way Colin's voice breaks at the end of "cry", like he's sobbing... :'(
    lulamorashion July 24, 2009   Link

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