"Sword of Damocles" as written by and Lou Reed....
I see the sword of Damocles is right above your head
They're trying a new treatment to get you out of bed
But radiation kills both bad and good
It can not differentiate
So to cure you they must kill you
The sword of Damocles hangs above your head

Now I have seen lots of peoples die
From car crashes or drugs
Last night on 33rd street, I saw a kid get hit by a bus
Bus this drawn out torture over which part of you lives
Is very hard to take
To cure you, they must kill you
The sword of Damocles above your head

That mix of morphine and Dexedrine
We use it on the street
It kills the pain and keeps you up
Your very soul to keep
But this guessing game has its own rules
The good don't always win
And might makes right
The sword of Damocles
Is hanging above your head

It seems everything's done that must be done
From over here, though things don't seem fair
But there are things that we can't know
Maybe there's something over there
Some other world that we don't know about
I know you hate that mystic shit
It's just another way of seeing
The sword of Damocles above your head

Lyrics submitted by SuitBoy

"Sword of Damocles" as written by Lou Reed

Lyrics © Spirit One

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Sword of Damocles song meanings
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  • +2
    General CommentI agree, not too many shades of meaning here, but some back story: the sword of Damocles is a Greek legend, concerning the king Dionysius II and Damocles, a member of Dionysius II's court. Damocles was smitten with the power and privilege of afforded to the king and told him. Dionysius offered to switch placed with Damocles for a day. Damocles greatly enjoyed the wealth and power of being the king, until he looked up and saw a razor sharp sword hanging above his neck, tied with a single horse hair. At the moment, Damocles lost all taste for the banquets and privilege of being in power, and Dionysius successfully conveyed the constant tension a man in power bears.

    In the context of this song, Reed makes use of the Damocles legend as a metaphor in two distinct instances: 1) to demonstrate the tension between treating cancer and causing more harm than good, as is often the case with radiation or chemotherapy treatments. Second, Reed uses the sword as a metaphor to show the tension between maintaining hope, and being cut down by the disease. As with much of the Magic & Loss album, this song references the recent deaths of several of Reed's close friends, in this case most likely Doc Pompus, a blues songwriter, who died of lung cancer shortly before this album was written. Pompus is referenced elsewhere in the album, by lines like "isotopes introduced his lungs to stop the cancerous spread..."
    landfillpoeton November 24, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's crystal clear what this is about. There's a tension and fear in it that is so vibrant. A great song about a bad thing.
    uffyon October 01, 2008   Link

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