Rain bird, laughing in the olive tree, la la dee dah
Collared shirt, with the alabaster altarpiece, you made for me
Some are sweet, and some forgiven
Your advice is all that seems to matter much to me
Call it "sweet", call it "something paradise"

Is it the right word you that designed for me?
Is it the broken word or good advice I need?
Is it the half as sweet set aside for me?
Is it mysterious? Is it something ripe and sweet?

Snowbird, your sister said she needed me, la la dee dah
Show them first, show them what you did for me, la la dee dah
Quiet song, and little soldier sent beneath
And epaulets that covered every shoulder
Stuttered sweet, "Come take
Forget the things I said, to please."

Is it the right word that you designed for me?
Is it the broken word or good advice I need?
Is the tapestry set beneath my wings?
Is it mysterious, is it glorious? Indeed

Don't stop, don't break
You can delight because you have a place
Quiet room, I need you now

Is it the right word?
Is it the broken word?
Is it the tapestry?
Is it the majesty?

Is it the right word?
Is it the broken word?
Is it the tapestry?
Come to me, majesty

Don't stop, don't break
You can delight because you have a place
Don't stop, don't break
You can delight because you have a place
Don't stop, don't break
You can delight because you have a place
Don't stop, don't break
You can delight because you have a place
Don't stop, don't break
You can delight because you have a place

Quiet room, I need you now


Lyrics submitted by y2penni, edited by emaildump, TheGreatIncog

Majesty, Snowbird song meanings
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22 Comments

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  • +1
    General CommentIn a nutshell, “How will I come to know you best, God? How have you designed me to come to know You? Scripture (right word/good advice) and contemplation (quiet room) or the imperfect community of church and the hard lessons of life (the broken word/tapestry/altarpiece)?”

    The rain bird seems to me to be the life of innate, effortless grace, where God’s presence is obvious and manifest.

    The majesty snowbird is the more common life of quiet suffering, the snow falling upon us, piling high on our shoulders like epaulets. But if we endure it, if we soldier through, we will emerge into the majesty from “winter” before those with an easier life (or before we ourselves would had we not been blessed with hard life lessons).

    The chorus is God saying, don’t let the suffering break you. Know you have a place and that I am there with you. This life is the life i designed for you because it’s the life you need.

    Thinking about this reminded me of the documentary Into Great Silence. There’s almost no dialogue in the film, which examines life in a monastery in Europe…but toward the end one of the monks speaks. He’s blind, decrepit, and looks to have been there for decades. He says he is thankful that God has made him blind, because he knows that God is both infinitely good and infinitely wise and therefore his blindness is a gift God has given him for the good of his soul.

    Some may know by word alone, some need suffering to drive them to contemplation and through that find God.

    I analyze a lot of sufjan songs here: mindthatknowsitself.tumblr.com
    TheLightIsMineon June 08, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThere are several potential meanings to this song (or maybe more than one that was intended by Sufjan at once). Here are three possibilities (all of which I think build off of Sufjan's faith, as this song clearly has spiritual undertones):

    1. It is simply a well written song dealing with the poem "Paradise Lost." The song fits pretty well if you just read the poem (which features references to birds in almost every chapter). I lean towards believing this interpretation is correct, with Sufjan offering his own interpretation on the implications of Paradise Lost within the song.

    My interpretation would then be this: the point of the song is that Paradise has been lost, and now we are searching ever so hard for God, and it is hard to find the quiet place where the Holy Spirit can be heard. However, just like John Milton followed up his Magnun Opus (Paradise Lost) with another epic work, "Paradise Regained", Sufjan's song conveys there is hope as long as we don't stop searching and seeking after God.

    2. Based on Sufjan's comment (per reports from a concert) that this is the song that would be sung when the Lion lays down with the Lamb (A Bible allusion meaning when there is peace on earth), I think it may be about how there are different beliefs within Christianity that don't all have the right answer completely by themselves. This is told by contrasting two errors of the historic church (which was almost entirely Catholic for centuries, so he uses much allusion to the Catholic tradition):

    The Rain Bird is Historic Catholicism where the priest's words were that mattered, with some people who were deemed sweet (and helpful to the church), while others were considered wicked, but able to be forgiven for the right price. , In either case the church decided someone's fate, so it is all that mattered to the person. The song then goes into the chorus where the listener is trying to discern if this is truly the way to hear God.

    Moving on, the result historically was the Catholic church losing influence and being in need from her "sister", the Snowbird (an emphasis on sacrifice because the rain bird's promises fell flat in bringing peace to people). The Snowbird emphasizes sacrifice on the part of the believer, and how this must proceed anything else ("Show them first"). The end of the verse emphasizes how hard of a journey this task is to show sacrifice ("stuttered sweet," meaning difficult).

    There is then the chorus again where the listener (Sufjan) is trying to discern what voice is the proper one to hear God. Which voice is the right one to find peace?

    He finally decides what is key is to hear directly from God rather than through man (and doesn't relieve the tension of exactly how to do this, but does emphasize that if hearing God is the goal, if we don't quit seeking His voice, we will have a place (heaven) in the end and find Him. The song leaves a tension with the search continuing because that "place" has not yet been reached.

    3. The third possibility is that it is (as others have noted) two different ways of approaching God; one from ease of life where God is easy to find, and one through the road of suffering. It is possible the easy and hard road are (a) expressing our own experience in following God (sometimes sweet and sometimes hard), or (b) to convey Jesus' own life on earth which sometimes was sweet, and sometimes was hard (Him giving His life for humanity).

    The answer as to which one reveals God is never truly answered in the song; my view on this is that sometimes both the pleasant road (when we need respite) and the hard road (when we need to be challenged and disciplined) can reveal God to us; the key is not to stop.

    In any event, I think it is fair to say this song conveys the rain bird (which seems to promise much and be easier than the weight of the snowbird) is incomplete without its sister (suffering and hardship); that's why the song is called "Majesty Snowbird," connecting the majesty with suffering. (Perhaps an allusion to the suffering Savior?)

    This song is tough stuff to interpret, but hopefully those ideas will get minds thinking and perhaps some more in depth analysis. Honestly, I think the Paradise Lost interpretation is probably the accurate one.
    TheGreatIncogon August 09, 2015   Link
  • 0
    General CommentCool! Thanks for putting the lyrics up.

    I think, however, that "colored" shirt might actually be "collared" shirt.

    This song is so gorgeous. I can't wait to hear a studio version.
    monkishtroyon October 26, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentMost amazing live music experience ever.
    Thanks for posting it. I was working on desciphering the lyrics myself and it looks like we were on the same track.
    zachharrismenton October 26, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthe "is it the" part is near intelligeble in the recording I have. I hope he comes with a studio version.
    zachharrismenton October 26, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthank yooooou so much for clearing up the crazy words i make up and hear when i listen to it myself. you're so smart!

    it's an even more beautiful song now that i know the proper lyrics.
    samsakovon October 28, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthanks so much for posting these lyrics. hearing this song live was one of the best experiences i have had in a long time. i am dying for a studio release. i guess i'll have to get by on my crappy live copy for now.

    such a beautiful song.
    kayleighjaneon October 29, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOh my gosh. I cannot describe the feeling of this song live. I saw him in Portland and I think I had chills the entire time. By far the best concer that I have been to.
    bradkasteleron October 31, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthe words are just beautiful but a little beyond me.

    i wonder whether the words:
    'is it the right word you designed for me?
    is it the broken word or good advice i need?'
    is a sort of inner dialogue / debate about how literally to take the Bible.

    Jesus is described as the 'word made flesh' in the bible and many christians also refer to the bible as the word, confusingly. Is Jesus on the cross the broken word? or is jesus just a great teacher - like gandhi saw him. is the bible inerrant?

    I may be way off track, but that is what I thought of.
    rageofangelson November 04, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is really really really special and just completely mind blowing and, as a single song, my favorite thing that he's done. I can't wait to hear a studio version, though the live version we have is just incredible.
    laocoonon January 01, 2007   Link

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