"A Poem For Byzantium" as written by and Joanna Stevens Wilhelm Leeb....
Unforbidden shadows of you formed yesterday
I ran away to a room here on the bay
Interrupted life again, another new beginning
Where the silence echoes
You're no longer with me

Here and now
I feel that I'm embracing freedom
Even though I may be alone
But that's okay

Through the darkness
I would walk in the streets
Confessions never seemed
To provide me with a release
Held me down and tried to cure me
Tried to give me reason
But nothing could sepearate
This burdened mind from me

Here and now
I feel that I'm embracing freedom
Even though I may be alone, but that's okay
Looking out to a different sky will disengage me
Absence is never the answer, I know
But it serves as my shade

I do not seek and not intend to find
A calmer ocean or a sun that'll never rise
My world will never change
And time will bring you to my thoughts
I'll move on and forget you all over again
Moving on, I can forgive you all over again

Here and now
I feel that I'm embracing freedom
Even though I may be alone, but that's okay
And looking out onto a different sky
It seems so easy
Absence is never the answer, I know
But it serves as my shade

Lyrics submitted by Christiangoth

"A Poem for Byzantium" as written by Wilhelm Leeb Joanna Stevens


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    General CommentLine by line:
    Unbidden...-The "shadows" are memories. Unbidden means unsummoned, or to put it differently, undesired and unasked for. Yesterday does not necessarily mean literally yesterday, but instead possibly a period of time that is now passed. Thus undesired memories of someone were haunting her.

    I ran...-She changed her place of residence to an apartment or other small abode near a bay, obviously in response to those memories. She is trying to run from them.

    Interrupted...-Moving is very interrupting to life. You have to find a new job, new friends, a new life. "Another new beginning" confirms that uprooting her life is what she has done. Interestingly, "another" and "again" suggest that this is not her first move, probably not her first move to flee memories, and possibly a realtively common occurrence for her. This means that the memories haunting her have been over for some time.

    Where...-Echoing is obviously something that silence can not literally do, but an echo can be taken to mean a repeating report of a sound, or in this case, the lack thereof. The silence contrasts with what she used to hear when her past love was with her, and its constance reminds her that she is now alone.

    *skipping chorus until end*

    Through...-A lovely image of sullen solitude and cloaking one's self in the comfort of the night's physical darkness. Incidentally, she uses "in the streets," not "down the streets," which would have fit just as well. This is probably a deliberate choice, meaning what it states, that she walked ~in~ the street. This may reflect suicidal intentions, especially given that she did so in the darkness, and by her language on multiple occaisions.

    Confessions...-The release is for emotional distress. It is unclear whether the confessions being referred to are to friends, family, psychologists, God, or some combination thereof. The point is that the singer can not rely on this as an outlet, which is strongly negative considering her state.

    Held...-Being held down probably was for her own good, to protect her from self harm. Trying to cure her is likely by psychoactive medication. "Tried to give me reason" supports this. This strongly paints the picture of a mental institution, suggesting that the confessions of the previous line were likely to a osychologist. This also clearly follows the theme of the verse, which begins with suicidal intentions, progresses to talking to a shrink in a mental institution, and now has come to the point of her being forced to take medication.

    But nothing...-Despite the efforts of her caretakers, she can not be, as she put it, "cured." Her overarching statement that "nothing" can do this for her paints a picture of hopelessness and despair.

    *still skipping chorus until end*

    I do not...-This one is obvious but obviously what she is talking about is contingent on the next line.

    A calmer...-Obviously "calmer ocean" and "sun that will never rise" are both metaphors. Given that the song is about despair for the hopelessness of lost love, we can understand "sun that will never rise" as the source of light that will never return, her lost love. She isn't looking for him and doesn't intend to find him, important in light of the chorus. She also isn't looking for and doesn't intend to find "a calmer ocean." If the sun metaphor refers to her love then we might assume that the calmer ocean is also along this line. Importantly, we should ask ourselves "calmer than what?" The answer is than her current state. The ocean, to her, is the vast, unending body of salt water, not unlike an idea of a succession of tears that will never end, or simply a period of sadness without end in sight. She isn't seeking a calmer such period. She is content with the agony in which she dwells even though it is awful for her, seeking neither comfort in her lonely sadness, nor a resolution of that sadness by being with her love.

    My world...-She has come to accept her pain as reality, believing that it will remain forever. This is the world that will never change. She also accepts that her love will return to her thoughts again.

    I'll move...-When those memories return to her, she will again push them away.

    Moving on...-Obviously she feels that she was wronged. She is having difficulty forgiving. True forgiveness would not allow for her anger to keep coming back, resulting in the need for further forgiveness, so this need indicates that she never really lets go of her anger, only pushes it aside.

    And the chorus-
    Here and now...-She is moving on, living her life and making the most of it.

    Even though...-Her moving on and "embracing freedom" is despite her loneliness, which she has accepted. Incidentally, she seems content to remain alone, as also noted in "do not seek and do not intend to find / a calmer ocean or a sun that will never rise." If that sun won't rise, she'd rather feel the pain of it it than release it, and that is why it's okay to be alone, even though it is clearly not.

    And looking...-The different sky refers to the fact that she has moved. It seems easy because she is far away from that first place with him, but ~seems~ is not the same as ~is,~ and her words are chosen very deliberately.

    Absence...-Absence here is absence not from him per se, but from human contact, especially romantic love. Absence is not the answer, as she notes, but is, in fact, the problem. However, she has chosen to cloke herself in her loneliness, to dwell in it. She has chosen to be solitary because of her previously stated unwillingness to move on, to seek other love, and her previously stated belief that seeking any kind of comfort is futile. She not only believes that fighting her pain is futile, but seems to prefer it to the prospect of losing that pain.

    To me, this song is incredibly beautiful. I relate to her very strongly, and prefer the pain of my own rejected love to letting go. I love how she embraces her pain, and I understand her despair. If the song is based on true human experience, however, then I genuinely hope that the singer will move on. Her misery is both a danger to her physical health as she has demonstrated a desire to harm herself, and simultaneously a negative in itself.

    Incidentally, Byzantium was a city of the Roman Empire that became the autonomous capital of the Eastern Empire some centuries after the Christian conversion. Although originally Byzantium, it was renamed Constantinople in honor of Emperor Constantine, the Roman Emperor that legalized Christianity, built Christian churches pretty much everywhere, gave large amounts of money to the church, and was himself a Christian. The city was a major hub of Christianity and the center of Greek Orthodoxy after the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches split in the early second millenium over the issue of who had more religious authority, the Pope of Byzantium or the Pope of Rome. After the fall of Rome (well before that split) Constantinople lived on for centuries, often fighting the Muslims of the Middle East. During this time it was seen as the last surviving piece of the great Roman Empire, and a beautiful Christian city of great religious import. However, after I think more than 800 years it was conquered by the muslim Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans converted the Christian places of worship into muslim places, looted the city, murdered the men, and raped and murdered the women. This is obviously evil, but for the day it was, while uncommon especially to such extremes, not unheard of. Constantinople had been the capital of the Ottoman Empire's greatest enemy and destroying the city on conquest was not entirely surprising. After three days the general of the Ottoman Empire called of the rape stating that it was evil. The city was rebuilt as an Ottoman city and the people that survived continued to live there, but eventually were genetically mixed with the Ottoman Empire's other people (who were themselves diverse). The city was renamed Istanbul, a name that it retains to this day. Significance to the title of the song may be found in the European reaction to the fall of Constantinople. One reaction was fear that with Constantinople gone the Ottomans would successfully sweep into Europe and conquer all of the Christian kingdoms. However, more relevant to the song was the sense of loss. The beautiful Constantinople was gone, perhaps irrevocably. It was a prized and beloved city of Christian tradition, and its loss was painful.

    In Christ,
    Christiangothon May 18, 2007   Link
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    General Commentdude... you could turn that comment into a novel. hahaha!
    jules77on October 04, 2008   Link
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    General Commenti heard this song for the 1st time last nite and was blown away how beautiful are the words.

    Christiangoth thanks for an in depth view in to the lyrics after reading it the song is now even deeper.x
    aidy10on November 19, 2008   Link
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    General CommentWow, that's a very in depth analysis, but I don't think it's about psychoactive medication...
    badluckshadow13on August 10, 2009   Link
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    Song MeaningThis is not a love song. The title says this song is about Byzantium... its not some generic pop love song like many seem to be interpreting it. Love songs are a dime a dozen, but this is something different. To understand its meaning you have to understand what Byzantium was. It wasn't someone's lover, it was an empire.

    In 1453 Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks, who made it their capitol and changed the name of the city to Istanbul. This was the final death knell for the 1000 year Byzantine empire. Many citizens of Constantinople fled to other parts of Europe, namely Italy, and this flood of well educated Byzantines helped culminate in the Renaissance which finally lifted Western Europe out of the Dark Ages.

    So in my opinion, this song here is from the perspective of one of the refugees from Constantinople after its conquering by the Turks.

    Look at the lyrics.

    "I ran away to a room here on the bay."

    This line seems to reference the flight from Byzantium. The author "ran away" to someplace still safely in Christian hands. Here they found a "room here on the bay" which would have been an apartment or something similar.

    "Interrupted life again, another new beginning"

    Life was indeed interrupted by the Turkish conquest, but a "new beginning" refers to the new life in the West.

    "Where the silence echoes "you're no longer with me.""

    Byzantium ceased to exist, therefore it is "no longer with me". Pretty self explanatory.

    "Here and now, I feel that I'm embracing freedom
    Even though I may be alone, but that's okay."

    The Byzantine citizens who did not flee from the Turks faced a bleak existence of persecution and unspeakable atrocities. Fleeing to the still Christian West meant "embracing freedom". Yet, these refugees were still foreigners in a strange and therefore may have felt "alone, but that's okay".

    "Through the darkness I would walk in the streets."

    The streets of medieval Europe were poorly lit, but the darkness mentioned here is probably a reference to the darkness of the "Dark ages" where superstition and illiteracy were rampant. To a refugee fleeing from enlightened Byzantium, this darkness would have been a shock.

    "Confessions never seemed to provide me with a release.
    Held me down and tried to cure me, tried to give me reason.
    But nothing could separate this burdened mind from me."

    This "burdened mind" may refer to a feeling of guilt the refugee has for fleeing his/her homeland at its moment of greatest need. Perhaps this individual wishes they had remained behind and fought to the death alongside his/her comrades rather than abandoning them. "Confessions" could not release this guilt.

    "I do not seek and do not intend to find
    A calmer ocean or a sun that never will rise.
    My world will never change and time will bring you to my thoughts, and
    I'll move on and then forget you all over again."

    The narrator seems intent on remaining in their new home rather than finding some other place. They do not intend to seek the "calmer ocean" of greener pastures, nor the "sun that will never rise" which refers to Byzantium which will sadly never rise again. The author's "world will never change" from this point on, but "time will bring" Byzantium back to their thoughts over and over again.

    "Moving on, I can forgive you all over again."

    Might refer either to forgiving the Turks who ravaged the narrator's homeland, or it could refer to the nations of Western Europe, which did not lift a finger to aid their Christian brothers in fending off the Turkish advance in Byzantium's darkest hour.

    The bottom line is this is not a romantic love song between two lovers. It is a song about Byzantium from the perspective of one who had lived there.
    Teabeardon November 22, 2010   Link
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    MemoryThis album was the soundtrack to my South African trip (with all of the African animals on the cover and such). I had originally gone there to meet a lady whom I was corresponding with via email (I'm a Yank). Well, that fell through and we went our separate ways, I heading to the coast to continue my vacation.

    Well, as I am driving into St. Lucia Bay, this song comes on, one whose lyrics I hadn't paid much attention to by that point. Turned out it perfectly summed up what had happened between myself and the woman in question:

    "Unforbidden shadows of you formed yesterday
    I ran away to a room here on the bay
    Interrupted life again, another new beginning
    Where the silence echoes
    You're no longer with me"

    And not only that, but the other stanzas fit perfectly too:

    "Through the darkness
    I would walk in the streets"

    I recall a very enchanting nighttime walk through the streets of said town...

    "Looking out to a different sky will disengage me"

    I had been going agog at all of the southern constellations and other astronomical sights (such as the Southern Cross)...

    "I do not seek and not intend to find
    A calmer ocean or a sun that'll never be mine" (yes above lyric is incorrect here)

    I took my first ever swim in the Indian Ocean that weekend, and on top of that there was a partial eclipse of the sun, one not visible from the States.
    JohnDiFool2on April 07, 2013   Link

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