She reads the leaves and she leads the life
That she learned so well from the old wives
It's so strange to arrange it, you know I wouldn't change it
But hear me if you're near me, can I just rearrange it?

The watchman covers me
With his remedy
I can't see and it's hard to feel
I think his magic might be real

I can't get to you from your garden gate
You know it's always locked by the magistrate
Now he don't care why you cry, he thinks it's just a lie
To get out, I don't doubt that you'd make a try

If the good times get you through
I know the dogs won't bother you
We'll be gone in moonshine time
I've got a place they'll never find

You know I do believe in your hexagram
But can you tell me how they all knew the plan?
Did you trip or slip on their gifts you know were just a con?
You knew it, why d'you do it, I've been hiding in the dawn

Now I must be on my way
I guess you really have to stay
Inside the mission walls
Down in Modark, Arkansas


Lyrics submitted by CharlatanSin

Caledonia Mission song meanings
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  • 0
    General CommentThis is one of my favorite songs by the Band. When I first started listening to groups like the Band and Bob Dylan I was drawn in by Dylan's complex lyrics, like on Highway 61 Revisted. Over time though, I came to appreciate songs like this by the Band.

    This story seems straight forward enough. A man tries to save the girl he loves from the clutches of some kind of cult-like church. In the end he fails, and doesn't understand why.

    However, he seems like a classic unreliable narrator. Once you consider this, the song is more interesting. Does she actually want to leave? Is she even aware of him? Does she, or the old wives, actually have any special powers? Probably not. Who would really want to go to a place "they'll never find", and deal with "the dogs". So, now we have a perhaps deranged mountain man who has been smitten by a nun-like character. She's probably happy that the, possibly drug-dealing, watchman is keeping her safe.

    This doesn't change his earnestness though. We can all fall for someone, or something, even though we don't really understand who, or what, it is.
    clovuson August 08, 2008   Link
  • 0
    Song FactIn Levon Helm's autobiography, 'This Wheel's On Fire', he says about this song:
    "Caledonia Mission" was Robbie's, and Richard sang the lyrics that alluded to the little problem we'd had with the law a few years earlier.
    AllHailDioon January 19, 2014   Link

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