"Shaking Hands (Soldier's Joy)" as written by and Michelle Shocked....
Shaking hands and fingers that do tremble
Soldier's Joy has been a bitter pill
Though in battle, a brave man I resemble
Alone I am a coward without will

Pierce McGee from the great State of Missouri
To the Show-Me-State militia I belong
And to judge from the pride on the Confederate side
I'd say five hundred thousand rebels can't be wrong

A rebel stand is no place for a traitor
A loveless Union cannot bend us to her will
Cannot command the soldiers who now hate her
Nor demand the fealty of her generals

I took a rifle ball in my shoulder
But my entire body filled with pain
I pleaded with them all at the field hospital
"Oh, God, another shot of morphine!"

Soldier's Joy, oh what's the point in pleasure
When it's only meant to kill the pain
Lay down my armsand take the coffin's measure
Or take up arms and send me out to fight again

Shaking hands, was I a coward, was I brave?
With shaking hands, I took the bitter pill
Now tell the story on my grave, my soul they could not save
What the bullet would not kill, the needle will


Lyrics submitted by verryberrygirl

"Shaking Hands (Soldier's Joy)" as written by Michelle Shocked

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Shaking Hands (Soldier's Joy) song meanings
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  • 0
    General CommentI had originally thought this song to be about a soldier dealing with his side losing the civil war, but upon further reading it seems to be from the perspective of a confederate soldier who is struggling to cope with being wounded, but not too badly wounded, and having to go back out and fight again after seeing the carnage at both the field hospital and on the battlefield.


    "Shaking hands and fingers that do tremble
    Soldier's Joy has been a bitter pill
    Though in battle, a brave man I resemble
    Alone I am a coward without will"

    When he was with his fellow troops he was fighting for what he believed in on an adrenaline high he felt unstoppable. However, now that he has been hurt, and seen how the wounded are treated he knows that he is a man and can be maimed of killed.

    "Pierce McGee from the great State of Missouri
    To the Show-Me-State militia I belong
    And to judge from the pride on the Confederate side
    I'd say five hundred thousand rebels can't be wrong"

    The soldier introduces himself as being from the Missouri Militia and from a formidable force of some 500,000 men.

    "A rebel stand is no place for a traitor
    A loveless Union cannot bend us to her will
    Cannot command the soldiers who now hate her
    Nor demand the fealty of her generals"

    The rebels, confederates, view the Union as 'loveless'. They are fighting for what some president wants as opposed to fighting for their homeland and way of life.

    "I took a rifle ball in my shoulder
    But my entire body filled with pain
    I pleaded with them all at the field hospital
    "Oh, God, another shot of morphine!" "

    The narrator is wounded in the shoulder and is brought to a field hospital. He is not so badly wounded that immediate medical attention is needed and he is left to wait. Here he becomes addicted to morphine.

    "Soldier's Joy, oh what's the point in pleasure
    When it's only meant to kill the pain
    Lay down my armsand take the coffin's measure
    Or take up arms and send me out to fight again
    Shaking hands ..was I a coward, was I brave?
    With shaking hands, I took the bitter pill
    Now tell the story on my grave, my soul they could not save
    What the bullet would not kill, the needle will "

    The soldier has become addicted to morphine and while the high it gives him takes away his bodily pain, it won't erase the painful memories or events he has seen and experienced. He wants to know if he was a coward for being wounded when many of his companions died for their cause. Perhaps he has entered a state of depression. He 'took the bitter pill' ('drugs') with hands trembling from his painful wound and once again makes note that he is addicted to morphine to get him through the horrors of battle.
    callaway4986on December 28, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentFor me its about the futility of war
    verryberrygirlon December 30, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is about morphine addiction. Shaking hands, because he is waiting for his next fix.
    "While in battle, a brave man I resemble
    Alone I am a coward without will"
    Alone, he can't stop himself from giving in to his addiction.
    lunaburningon June 09, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentDude, he's totally right, it's about solders in the civil war getting hooked on morphine. I guess morphine addiction and overdoses were a bit of a problem. Surprising when so many surgeries were performed with nothing but a few shots of liquor and a wood chip to bite on.
    michelle707on February 04, 2014   Link

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