"Lungs" as written by and Townes Van Zandt....
Well, won't you lend your lungs to me?
Mine are collapsing
Plant my feet and bitterly breathe
Up the time that's passing.
Breath I'll take and breath I'll give
Pray the day ain't poison
Stand among the ones that live
In lonely indecision.

Fingers walk the darkness down
Mind is on the midnight
Gather up the gold you've found
You fool, it's only moonlight.
If you try to take it home
Your hands will turn to butter
You better leave this dream alone
Try to find another.

Salvation sat and crossed herself
Called the devil partner
Wisdom burned upon a shelf
Who'll kill the raging cancer
Seal the river at its mouth
Take the water prisoner
Fill the sky with screams and cries
Bathe in fiery answers

Jesus was an only son
And love his only concept
Strangers cry in foreign tongues
And dirty up the doorstep
And I for one, and you for two
Ain't got the time for outside
Keep your injured looks to you
We'll tell the world that we tried


Lyrics submitted by p52

Lungs song meanings
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6 Comments

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  • +2
    General CommentSteve Earle said that Townes wrote this song while sick with pneumonia on a hotel bed in New York City. It is quite a literal translation. Awesome song.
    lubrecht32on December 23, 2010   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationIt's a cracking song. The best songs / lyrics / poems strike a personal chord which mean different things to different people.

    I translate it as a song about the futility of humanities / societies contradictions. Almost every line in the song is a contradiction / opposite to the previous line. Example:

    "Well, won't you lend your lungs to me?"
    "Mine are collapsing"
    (Someone is going to die either way you look at this and I'd rather it not be me)

    "Plant my feet and bitterly breathe"
    "Up the time that's passing."
    (What's the point of living / breathing in the first place if your so bitter about it)

    "Breath I'll take and breath I'll give"
    "Pray the day ain't poison"
    (Again, he's saying he almost resents even breathing, which backs up the last line)

    "Stand among the ones that live"
    "In lonely indecision."
    (He stands lonely and indecisive, while everyone else appears to be living)

    Second verse (amazing) is a dream about panning a stream for gold at night, in which he believes the moonlight on the water is gold, but when he tries to carry it home the moonlit water slips through his hands appearing to turn his hands "to butter". Again... a contradiction. The word "dream" is usually synonymous with success and yet his "dream" becomes a disappointment.

    and so on and so on, example:

    "Jesus was an only son"
    "And love his only concept"
    "Strangers cry in foreign tongues"
    "And dirty up the doorstep"

    Strangers speaking a different language are still spreading the word / love of God, but because they're speaking the same words in a different language, it becomes something "dangerous" or "sinister".

    But it's also filled with images of hallucination and dreams, which would fit really well with the him suffering pneumonia. What a great artist, to take pain and sickness and turn it into this.
    MoRbIdBoYon March 12, 2014   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI believe its about disappointments in things not being what they seem, specifically as it relates to religious hypocrites such as televangelists.
    "Salvation sat and crossed herself
    Called the devil partner" and
    "Strangers cry in foreign tongues
    And dirty up the doorstep"
    DrBloodsongon March 02, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWow, can't believe no one has commented on this masterpiece! It's seems to be about some sort of let down or dissapointment, though tracing its source would take more time than I care to. The opening lines are beyond classic, they're in some other realm entirely.
    sisterraysezon March 14, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is a classic. its my favorite TVZ song evr!!
    Phisheron October 03, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI was under the impression this is about a coal miner, hence the need for a pair of loaner lungs
    mmounton October 11, 2010   Link

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