"Count Grassi's Passage over Piedmont" as written by and Neil Hannon....
Below the Po rolls slow from Alps to Adriatic Sea
Blow old bellows, blow
Take us where you will
Padua, Genoa, Corsica, Catalonia, O Segovia
O unfathomable firmament.

That we should set a course between the two
Clinging only to our orb of blue and red
Like Romanovs to a Faberge egg
Push Sisyphus, push
Heave our sphere into the heavens.

If I'm to die then let it be in summertime
In a manner of my own choosing
To fall from a great height
On a warm July afternoon
Liverwurst, Battenburg, Emmenthall, Syllabub, Muscadet
Throw it all away
We need more height
Toss is all to the side
O Newton, release this apple from its earthly shackles
And live to fight another day.

Go back from whence you came the swallows cry
You've corrupted and befouled the ground you walk upon
And now you come to poison the skies
Please friends, forgive this brief intrusion.


Lyrics submitted by Doublebasslegend, edited by mike

"Count Grassi's Passage Over Piedmont" as written by Neil Hannon

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Count Grassi's Passage over Piedmont song meanings
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7 Comments

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  • +1
    Song MeaningThese lyrics are SO poetic, SO brilliant in their form and imagery that, for me, its actual meaning doesn't really matter. To me: It is using a balloon ride as a metaphor for our search for meaning in life.It's stating our insignificance in the whole scheme of things -"please forgive this brief intrusion."

    The music is gorgeous and complements the ethereal lyrics. I would have it played at my funeral...if I wasn't an atheist or if I had a bit more spirituality in me.
    toperic02on August 11, 2009   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI think Toperic's sense of the song is quite valid, though not quite aligned with my own. I don't tend to think of the balloon ride itself as symbolic. And I would say that what is described is not an individual's search for meaning but the sometimes contradictory impulses to control and to respect reality and the natural world, though perhaps that is more closely related of an idea than I initially realized.

    Here's a blow-by-blow for anyone like sedders who just didn't get this one. Neil's writing is pretty direct -- I mean, his songs are never abstract and even when they extend deeper than their literal surface (I don't think they always do), they still have that surface, and usually in the form of a straight-up narrative, which is the case in this song.

    Far below the balloon they are riding, he sees the river Po. Piedmont is in the northwestern corner of Italy, between Switzerland, France and the sea. Speaking to the balloon itself, he asks it to take it where ever it pleases, naming cities as far away as Spain. He is awestruck by the ride, even deferential towards it, and is awed as well by the Heavens (the unfathomable firmament) themselves.

    The next line could be considered to have a dual meaning. Presumably they've charted a course between two points on earth, but Count Grassi is suggesting they are really charting a course between the earth and the Heavens. He is still reveling in awe, noting how precious and fragile their craft is, comparing it to a Faberge egg. When he asks Sisyphus to keep pushing them skyward rhetorically, he's commenting on an ultimate futility, or perhaps what is seen as one -- but nonetheless has become gleeful to be pushing against this once unassailable boundary.

    Next he becomes wistful, romanticizing the idea of dying by falling out of a balloon that has gone as absolutely high as possible with no regard for safety. He thinks of dropping overboard the liverwurst, the fancy cakes, the emmentaler, the wine; the lighter the craft, the higher they will ascend. He is challenging gravity itself.

    But the last verse turns his flight of fancy back on itself. While he began his journey awestruck and humbled, as it had progressed, he'd worked himself into an arrogant frenzy, defying even death itself to resist human mastery. But now the swallows see the balloon and cry "Go back from whence you came!" They say: You've corrupted your own domain, and you won't have ours too! Humbled again, our sweet Count Grassi recognizes his error and apologises to the birds. The grandeur of the Heavens does not belong to the man who barges in. In fact, it belongs to no man at all.

    Toperic: from one atheist to another, a lack of belief in gods or the supernatural does not in any way need to hinder one's ability to appreciate that it is the natural, not the supernatural, which is truly worthy of our awe, admiration, study and respect. There is no religious belief required to be able to look at the sky in total awe like Count Grassi. We're all clinging only to our orb of blue and green after all. :)
    countgrassion August 29, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is such a mighty song, love love love it.
    Though what does it mean.... i have no idea!
    sedderson December 29, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song reminds me a bit of "Prairie Fire That Wanders About"/ bits of "They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From The Dead!! Ahhhh!" by Sufjan Stevens. I mean, different, obviously, but I think there are parallels, or somethng.
    Meinoson April 01, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentcountgrassi

    Excellent interpretation and pretty much the same as mine. Obviously its actual meaning does matter to me. Think I was just making a brief intrusion. You've fleshed it out.
    My most popular moniker is countgrassi too.
    Have you 'done' Eric The Gardener yet?
    toperic02on January 17, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOh and the comment about 'awe.' Spot on!
    Who was it who stupidly said atheists must have an absence of a sense of awe?
    I'm totally in awe of this song.
    toperic02on January 17, 2012   Link
  • -1
    General Commentkentucky fried chicken owns
    thomas99on August 11, 2009   Link

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