"Resurrection Fern" as written by and Samuel Ervin Beam....
In our days we will live
Like our ghosts will live
Pitching glass at the cornfield crows
And folding clothes

Like stubborn boys across the room
We'll keep everything
Grandma's gun, and the black bear claw
That took her dog

When sister Laurie says "Amen"
We won't hear anything
The ten-car train will take that word
That fledgling bird

And the falling house across the way
It'll keep everything
The baby's breath, our bravery wasted
And our shame

And we'll undress beside the ashes of the fire
Both our tender bellies bound in baling wire
All the more a pair of underwater pearls
Than the oak tree and its Resurrection Fern

In our days we will say
What our ghosts will say
We gave the world what it saw fit
But what'd we get?

Like stubborn boys with big green eyes
We'll see everything
In the timid shade of the autumn leaves
And the buzzard's wing

And we'll undress beside the ashes of the fire
Our tender bellies all wound around in baling wire
All the more a pair of underwater pearls
Than the oak tree and his Resurrection Fern


Lyrics submitted by Mellow_Harsher, edited by spdodger

"Resurrection Fern" as written by Samuel Ervin Beam

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Resurrection Fern song meanings
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  • +6
    General CommentWow... I just listened to this twice (in a row, I mean. I've listened to it every day since I downloaded it.) and am dumbstruck. Well, not quite, :) cuz I am going attempt to say what I take away from this song. I may be way out in left field, so let me know what you think.

    The first two verses
    We cling to our routines and our traditions. Shooing away crows and folding laundry is a perfect image of a rural scene.

    Keeping grandma's gun and the black bear claw that took her dog...
    I think this refers to the civil rights movement. Bear with me here. Beam seems to use the image of the dog as a spriritual gaurdian. Like in the title of the album which is a traditional symbol for a loyal servant of Christ. The gun represents the violence in the South against blacks and the black claw the civil rights movement that tore apart the South and exposed the lack of obedience to true Christian values that segregation was. (took her dog)

    Sister Lowery is a Civil Rights activist, so that may be what he is saying about not hearing her Amen over the clack of the train. Sort of like not quite believing in the "New South".

    Fourth verse has me a bit flummoxed. But the imagery seems to fit somehow. A delapitated house, wasted bravery, and shame.

    Then the chorus... oh my, what a chorus.
    We'll undress beside the ashes of the fire...
    Again, the destruction of the old ways
    Our tender bellies all wound in baling wire...
    At the end of the day, we are all human, all frail, all wounded. Baling wire is just so brilliant here. Anywhere there is livestock and farming (anywhere there's hay bales) baling wire is ubitquitous. My folks used to say anything that was fixed in a temporary, half-assed way was held together with "Wrigley's and baling wire."
    More a pair of underwater pearls...
    Two equals snuggled together, small and beautiful.
    Than the oak tree and the resurrection fern...
    Than a stalwart, powerful man and a dependent woman.

    Or, alternatively, if you look at this as not a man and a woman in a relationship, but as blacks and whites... We come stripped of prejudice (we undress beside the ashes of the fire) We expose our tenderness and and our shared humanity (both our tender bellies wound in baling wire) And in this way we can see each other as equals. (All the more a pair of underwater pearls than the oak tree and its resurrection fern)

    Last two verses
    We did what the culture seemed to demand of us, and where did it get us?

    Not sure about the boys with big green eyes seeing everything. Beam may be saying that they have some enlightenment now. Or maybe not. green eyes bring to mind jealousy... This one is eluding me, too.


    That's enough for now... so much for being dumbstruck!
    songyoneon October 30, 2007   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI don't know if I'm getting a really superficial meaning from this song, but to me, it sounds like two boys who fell in love as children and then realized as they grew up that they could no longer be together because of what people would think of them.

    In the first three stanzas, it sounds like the narrator's describing things that young boys would do, like "pitching glass at cornfield crows". When he speaks about Sister Lowry, it seems to me like he's referring to sitting in church with this other boy and not being able to hear the words of the prayers because they're too busy thinking about running away with each other.


    In the next stanza, it sounds as though he's referring to an old house, like a "clubhouse" where they hid, and maybe had their first kiss (even though they would regret it and not end up together anyway: "our bravery wasted, and our shame".

    The next 8 lines are some of the most beautiful in the entire song. The narrator is talking about how they would camp out and undress beside the fire, each watching the other with that nervous feeling in their stomach; a feeling of love and of apprehension because it was so forbidden. When he sings about the oak tree and resurrection fern, I think he's referring to the nature of the oaks and ferns to live their lives intertwined with each other (as resurrection ferns are often found living wound around oak trees). "We gave the world what it saw fit, and what'd we get?" refers to how the boys grew up and played the part that society expected them to, maybe getting married and having children, but never actually attaining happiness, as they were still in love with each other.

    The last two stanzas are basically repetition, but I think they serve to reveal that the narrator and his childhood love dream about one day meeting in the afterlife and living the lives they did as children: happy together with no one to tell them that they could not love each other.
    kamikazebohemiaon April 24, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI can offer an interpretation on one level, but there's probably a larger metaphorical meaning I'm missing.

    I think the main characters in this song are mourning something that they can't put behind them - probably the death of their child ("the baby's breath, our bravery wasted, and our shame"). It's not that they'll stop living their lives (they're still "pitching glass at cornfield crows and folding clothes"), but that for a while it'll just be going through the motions (living "like our ghosts will live"). But like the boys, they'll carry around the mementos of a meaningless and cruel tragedy around with them ("grandma's gun and the black bear claw that took her dog") and stare the tragedy in the face ("we'll see everything, in the timid shade of the autumn leaves and the buzzard's wing"; note the two signs of dying: autumn and a carrion bird).

    I think the chorus is supposed to evoke a lot of gut feeling: imagine that tight feeling in your gut, like your belly was wound up in wire, seeing yourself and someone you love as you really are (undressed), next to the unpoetic and uncaring evidence of something that used to be beautiful (the ashes of a fire). It's such a cold and sad image, but we're told that even though the two of them are out of reach (underwater), they're still beautiful (pearls), and one day they'll come back into themselves (like a resurrection fern that, though appearing to be dead, is just waiting for water).
    larrynivenon November 05, 2007   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationThis song is about how arid impoverished dryness can be misleading, and we always hold a deep inner ability to grow from pain. Underwater pearls are a symbol of how life can suddenly spring from pain and death - dry irritating sand becomes a pearl in an oyster. A Resurrection Fern plant will be brittle and dry, but incredibly arise lush and green in just a few hours after receiving water.

    Everything in the lyrics are dry, brittle and dead:

    Glass
    Folded clothes (dried after washing)
    Corn (dry when crows eat it in autumn)
    Gun (steel, dry)
    Grandma (wrinkled)
    Bear claw (dried and old, killed by Grandma after it killed her dog - a long time ago)
    Tin-car trains (brittle metal, and trains tend to not have foliage on the tracks)
    Fallen house (dried wood; possibly burned down)
    Baby's breath (a dried flower that is included in lush bouquets)
    Ashes of a fire (very dry)
    Baling wire (often used for hay, which is dry; and hay is usually most moist at its core)
    Autumn leaves ("We'll see everything" because the leaves are dry and falling off trees)
    Buzzard's wing (a sign something has died)

    Search Google for "Resurrection Fern will rise from the dead" to learn more about this amazing plant.
    cweison December 04, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIt's "Sister Lowery," and toward the end, it's "timid shade of autumn leaves" instead of "tender."

    I love this song. Look up what a resurrection fern is; it's a really cool plant that I never knew about.

    The music itself is really greatly, slowly Southern. I love this album because there's so much on it that I picture to be the musings of an old-fashioned Southern boy years and years ago.

    Baling wire is used to repair fences and such, and I love the references like that one in this song. Great.
    kyle171on October 11, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentRemember that "amen" is just an agreement to what was said previously - it's dependent on there being something already there in the first place in order to attain its meaning. So, if you're someone who doesn't have anything to say (to God, presumably), it's literally meaningless. I suspect this is supposed to reflect the helplessness of a baby bird - they can't even leave the nest to feed themselves. Also, this echoes the helplessness of children in general, thus (if my prior interpretation was right) alluding to the couple's own dead child.
    larrynivenon November 16, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI always imagined this song was about marriage... as in they will settle into routines "pitching glass" and "folding clothes." When "Sister Lowery says amen," the word is carried off by the train, like a bird in the breeze, as all they can focus on is each other. They keep all the memories from their past lives apart, like grandma's gun and the bear claw, but essentially combine lives as marriage entails.
    a.follyon April 15, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe first verse alone is so moving. I can't wait to hear the studio version. It sounded amazing at the Pabst Theater.
    pervnerveon April 29, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe first verse alone is so moving. I can't wait to hear the studio version. It sounded amazing at the Pabst Theater.
    pervnerveon April 29, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti will bet my not-yet-born first-born on this line:

    When sister always says, "Amen"

    should be:

    When sister Laurie, says, "Amen"

    you can really hear the Laurie in the Pabst show that was online.
    thejones2on July 02, 2007   Link

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