"A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers" as written by and Peter Hammill....
i. Eyewitness
Still waiting for my saviour,
storms tear me limb from limb;
my fingers feel like seaweed...
I'm so far out I'm too far in.
I am a lonely man...my solitude is true
my eyes have borne stark witness
and now my knights are numbered too.
I've
seen the smiles on dead hands--
the stars shine, but they're not for me.
I prophesy disaster and then I count the cost....
I shine but, shining, dying,
I know that I am almost lost.
On the table lies blank paper/my tower is built on stone/
I only have blunt scissors/I only have the bluntest home....
I've been the witness, and the seal of death
lingers in the molten wax that is my head.
When you see the skeletons of sailing-ship spars sinking low
You'll begin to wonder if the points of all the ancient myths
are solemnly directed straight at
you...
ii. Pictures/Lighthouse
(Eddies/rocks/ships/collision/remorse.)
iii. Eyewitness
No time now for contrition:
the time for that's long past.
The walls are thin as tissue
and if I talk I'll crack the glass.
So I only think on how it might have been,
locked in silent monologue, in silent scream
Anyway, I'm much too tired to speak
and, as the waves crash on the bleak
stones of the tower, I start to freak....
...and find that I am overcome...
iv. S.H.M.
'Unreal, unreal!' ghost helmsmen scream
and fall in through the sky,
not breaking through my seagull shrieks...
no breaks until I die:
the spectres scratch on window-slits--
hollowed faces, mindless grins
only intent on destroying what they've lost.
I craw the wall till steepness ends in the vertical fall;
my pail has sailed into the sea: no joking hopes at dawn.
White bone shine in the iron-jaw mask
lost mastheads pierce the freezing dark
and parallel my isolated tower....
no paraffin for the
flame
no harbour left to gain
v. The Presence of the Night/Kosmos Tours
'Alone, alone,' the ghosts all call,
pinpoint me in the light.
The only life I feel at all
is the presence of the night.
Would you cry if I died?
Would you cry if I died?
Would you catch the final words of mine?
Would you catch my words?
I know that there's no time
I know that there's no rhyme...
false signs find me
I don't want to hate,
I just want to grow;
why can't I let me
live and be free?..but I die very slowly alone.
I know no more ways,
I am so afraid,
myself won't let me
just be myself and so I am completely alone....
The maelstrom of my memory
is a vampire and it feeds on me
now, staggering madly, over the brink I
fall.
vi. (Custard's) Last Stand
Lighthouses might house the key
but can I reach the door?
I want to walk on the sea
so that I may better find ashore...
but how can I ever keep my feet dry?
I scan the horizon
I must keep my eyes on all parts of me.
Looking back on the years
it seems that I have lost
the way:
Like a dog in the night, I have run to a manger
...now I am the stranger I stay in.
All of the grief I have seen
leaves me chasing solitary peace;
but I hold experience in my head....
I'm too close to the light
I don't think I see right, for I blind me....
vii. The Clot Thickens
WHERE is the God that guides my hand?
HOW can the hands of others reach me?
WHEN will I find what I grope for?
WHO is going to teach me?
I am me/me are we/we can't see
any way out of here.
Crashing sea/atrophied history:
Chance has lost my Guinevere....
I don't want to be one wave in the water
But sea will drag me deep
One more haggard DROWNED MAN...
I can see the Lemmings coming, but I know I'm just a man;
Do I join or do I founder? Which can is the best I may?
viii. Land's End (Sineline)/We Go Now
Oceans drifting sideways, I am pulled into the spell;
I feel you around me...I know you well.
Stars slice horizons where the lines stand much too stark;
I feel I am drowning...hands stretch in the dark.
Camps of panoply and majesty, what is Freedom of Choice?
Where do I stand in the pageantry...whose is my voice?
It doesn't feel so very bad now: I think the end is the start.
Begin to feel very glad now:
ALL THINGS ARE A PART
ALL THINGS ARE APART
ALL THINGS ARE A PART.


Lyrics submitted by PlasmaVortex

"A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers" as written by Hugh Robert Banton David Jackson

Lyrics © CARLIN AMERICA INC, BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

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A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers song meanings
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  • +1
    General Comment"Pawn Hearts"... This album is deep, both musically & lyrically.

    The song tells the tale of a lighthouse keeper who wrestles with lonliness, depression and insanity due to his intense isolation. He eventually finds comfort & meaning in suicide. You have to be committed to make it through this piece - Peter Hammill's lyrics are cryptic & poetic, the music goes through lots of changes and unlike a concept album, it's depth is crammed into one song.

    When listening to it, I feel as though it begins to drag here and there. However, whether it be some poignant, sober lyric or instrumentation that paints a picture, my interest always remains intact.
    Khaoson April 21, 2008   Link
  • +1
    My OpinionThe song tells the story of a man who had everything and lost it all and decided to live his life in isolation, sadness and bitterness as a mean to punish himself. This is my personal interpretation of the story:

    Eyewitness: starts off the song in a really gloomy mood. This part of the song definitely talks about solitude, feeling low and practically a vegetable and going really mad beyond any salvation (I’m so far out I’m too far in)
    Notice the change in the way of singing at the start of â€�I am a lonely man…â€�, the person still holds a little hope and humility, but is mostly consumed by despair, agony and unwillingness to live.
    â€�I prophesy disasterâ€� refers to the fact the man knows he will end up badly, â€�…shining, dyingâ€� means that although he has something to offer everyone else, the fact that he is completely isolated he feels undernourished and close to death. (I know that I am almost lost)
    On the next verse, he contemplates suicide and may give a clue that this man is a rich and powerful king or a high member of society that has everything except what he wants more than everything else: company and love. So while contemplating suicide he fixates on the surrounding objects that will contribute to his suicide. �On the table lies blank paper� to write his suicide note, �my tower is built on stone� suggests he could jump from a window and plummet to his death. �I only have blunt scissors�, yet another object he could kill himself with and the �bluntest home� refers that his own home is the death of him because of all the solitude and despair that lies inside with him.
    Next, he believes that if there is one witness to death itself is himself after going through a slow death, hell and torture (seal of death lingers in the molten wax that is my head), death has been stalking him for quite some time. He also has prophesized his own death through ancient myths he’s heard throughout his life, figuring these myths are how he is supposed to end up and served him as some kind of warning (… ancient myths are solemnly directed straight at you)

    Eyewitness II: we get to know that this man has been bad in the past and this whole process of feeling solitude is his own way of punishment for himself (â€�no time now for contritionâ€�) but as time passed on, he kept everything to himself, afraid to speak aloud for shame someone might hear what he did, so this cause an implosion to his character and is now the reason he has gone mad (â€�…walls are thin as tissue… locked in silent monologue, in silent screamâ€�)
    As he realizes this, he becomes possessed by some entity or force and â€�finds out that I am overcome…â€�

    S.H.M.: the man is now terrorized by ghosts that fall from the sky, in this case the ghosts of people who used to steer ships (helmsmen). These ghosts are obviously a fragment of his imagination, now that he has gone mad.
    The man is now afraid and tries to get away from the invading specters and climbs a wall and falls into the sea while is tower is invaded with strange entities he just cannot understand how or why (no paraffin for the flame…)
    It may be worth mentioning some kind of irony between the title of the portion of this song and the content. I suppose S.H.M. refers to the physics motion of Simple Harmonic Motion where the basis is equilibrium and balance, yet in the song the character knows nothing of what is happening and there are no reciprocal actions between the man and the entities, since one entity attacks and the man fleas and things make no sence (again, no paraffin for the flam)

    Presence of the Night/Kosmos Tours: the ghosts still taunt him about his loneliness, and now the man is out of the castle and has nothing left, he feels the night is the only true friend left (the only life I feel at all is the presence of the night… would you cry if I died?...) and notice how the solitude is immensely expressed musically with so much echo and the abandon of the instruments and just a faded, distant voice that turns from sweet to bitter and angry. (kudos Peter Hammil!)
    He realizes that his social isolation is starting to take a toll on him and now he discovers another terribly bad feeling: regret. (I know there’s no time… I don’t want to hat, I just want to grow) It is by this point that the song turns strongly psychological and depressing.
    It seems he is still haunted for what he did in the past and cannot let it go in order to live peacefully whatever life he has left, which by this point it seems like he’s lived forever in agony (…but I die very slowly alone) By this point he has gone utterly mad (listen to the music)
    He proceeds to describe his memory has a leach or a �vampire� which consumes him until he can no longer keep up and falls into hopelessness and madness.

    (Custard’s) Last Stand: he begins to analyze how to get out of the rut he’s in. He realizes he wasted his life being bitter and alone and wants to correct this (…it seems that I have lost my way)
    But he also realizes that if he changes, he will inevitably become someone else; a stranger to his own eyes (…now I am the stranger I stay in).
    While he’s meditating on his life, he also realizes all the agony he’s seen and possibly cause left him somewhat traumatized and cannot see things clearly yet eager to run to a place of peace (… but I hold experience in my head… too close to the light I don’t think I see right.)

    The Clot Thickens: yet another impasse in his quest for happiness and peace, existentialism. The man wonders if God exists, who will make everything good once more, will the cosmos be in charge of making things right and when? (I am me, me are we, we can’t see…)
    Interestingly enough we find out what this man did wrong long ago and why he has been punishing himself for so many years. Apparently he caused the love of his life to leave him and blames it on the universe, or in this case �chance� (chance has lost my Guinevere)
    Far in the distance he sees �lemmings� (small rodents) which is a metaphor for people he thinks are inferior to himself and asks himself the question of his life: does he join the �inferior� community and no longer feel loneliness or drown in the sea and put himself out of his misery once and for all (do I join or do I founder)

    Land’s End (Sineline)/We Go Now: …and so the man decides to put himself out of his misery and drown in the sea. The man is now dead. (…I feel I am drowning… hands stretch in the dark…it doesn’t feel so very bad now: I think the end is the start) We also know now that what really happened to the man’s love is she died and he was left completely alone (I feel you around me…I know you well) and he now feels he is with the love of his life and although now he is dead, he is now happy finally (… doesn’t feel very bad now, I think the end is the start, begin to feel very glad now…) and realizes he is now where he should be, he now feels whole and complete and belonging to someplace now where he feels complete and isolated from the rest of the things he used to suffer for (all things are a part/all things are apart)

    In my opinion this is one of the most disturbing songs I ever heard, because it shows human nature at its most bare. How we sometimes do things that change our lives for the worst and end up punishing ourselves for the rest of our lives, except the man in the story took it so far as to go insane. But notice that under everything we appear to be, we all need other people to keep sanity alive and let things be after a while. Sadly the poor chap from the story when so mad that he jumped into the sea and drowned in the end, without letting go the feeling of despair and solitude (notice how he chooses to kill himself instead of joining a group of other people, in this case represented by rodents… old habits die hard when you deep in oblivion).
    What impressed me the most from the song aside from the narrative is the amazing musicality and representation to tell the story. In the beginning you hear a haunting melody and as the plot changes the music also progresses with the narrative, like when he escapes from the ghosts, when he questions everything during the man’s crisis existentialism and notices the sound of solitude at the 10:33 — 10:42 time mark… everything about it is brilliant.
    These kinds of themes are often revisited by the band on other albums, one of my favorites being �After the Flood� from their second album �The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other�, the band is truly progressive in every sense of the word.
    ramior1991on January 31, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General Commentwhat no comments? on this masterpiece/?, i'd really like to know what its about but i have no idea
    RogelioAguason December 28, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti just heard this song for the first time and it is incredible!! its a masterpiece, progressive rock as a definition, at the level of genesis' "supper's ready", or yes' "gates of delirium" or "close to the edge"
    way undervalued and unrecognized as ut should be
    n.schonon March 15, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe ultimate song about loneliness, isolation and despair. I think the lyrics on the original cover said "and now my knights are numbered, too". "Too" can even be heard as "two". Hammill has actually said that you can read it both ways.

    It’s not exactly easy listening, of course. It’s dark, even pretty scary, and highly complex. David Jackson said in an interview that at one point they play 24 independant tunes at the same time. That made it impossible to play it live – they had to cheat when they performed it at Belgian (I think) TV.

    VdGG may be a bit obscure, but still they have quite a few fans, and they are held in very high regard at Prog Archives. Both the band and Hammill solo are more influential than people tend to think. Genesis is obvious (I don’t think they would have made "Supper’s Ready" without this one), so is Bowie, and I’m pretty sure that I’ve read that both Nick Cave and Julian Cope are fans, and definitely John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten). I find it funny that one of the icons of punk loved not only VdGG, but also Can, Magma and Captain Beefheart.
    theosarkoudaon October 15, 2010   Link
  • 0
    Lyric CorrectionCould "white bone shine" possibly be "lifeboats shine"? Especially considering the nautical theme of the piece...
    Champinesson August 14, 2011   Link

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