Another user has already pointed out the references to the French Revolution, so I won't repeat that. But the lyrics also make repeated references to Christianity, and Catholicism in particular (Pr-Reformation Church). ...

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning, I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy's eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing
"Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!"

One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can't explain
Once you go there was never, never an honest word
That was when I ruled the world

It was a wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People couldn't believe what I'd become

Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?

[Chorus]
I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Calvary choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can't explain
I know Saint Peter won't call my name
Never rule this world
But that was when I ruled the world

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

[Chorus]



Lyrics submitted by zsub, edited by mike, christianbro9p, otac0n, stevenbol1, Adatasha, KeroseneFire, wolfkirby, maddie2325, Conbear1026

"Viva La Vida" as written by Christopher Anthony John Martin, Guy Rupert Berryman, Jonathan Mark Buckland, William Champion, Daisuke Fujii

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Lyrics powered by LyricFind


Viva la Vida song meanings
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  • +20
    General Comment:Given that this album seems to revolve around the theme of celebrating life (Viva la Vida) and revolutions (the cover art depicts the French Revolution by Delacroix), I think this song embodies the nature of revolutions. The lyrics to this song seem to refer to revolutions in history thus far, about kings, queens, emperors, and other rulers who fall from high places after revolutions from below. The French Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and the British Civil Wars in the 17th century all come to mind when I hear these lyrics. Each revolution overthrew a powerful central government, with a powerful head of state in a violent and bloody fashion (think "heads on a silver plate"). These lyrics are telling their stories from the point of view of the fallen leader, in a very poetic way, but the message is essentially "Oh, who would ever want to be king?" Because revolutions have occurred over and over in history, and they will continue to occur, but such is the story of life and of humanity.

    In a way, the sound of this album is a "revolution" from previous works of Coldplay. The inclusion of instrumentals and choir-like vocals is quite a departure from their previous works. So, to me, this song is about celebrating revolutions of every form -- political, economic, social, and especially artistic. Because without revolutions, there would be no progress. And this fourth album is part of Coldplay's progress.
    the7keyson May 11, 2008   Link
  • +11
    General Comment:Reading again the lyrics of Viva La Vida just after ending a book about Louis XVI (Louis Vincent - and Stephan Zweig with Marie-Antointte) makes everything clear to me: THE SONG IS OBVIOUSLY HIM!
    And let me tell you why:

    1. "I used to rule the world
    Seas would rise when I gave the word
    Now in the morning, I sleep alone"

    Well after reading this part, we are sure about the fact that we're talking about someone who used to rule, a king. But that's too obvious and I didn't mention this part to say this, because what that catched my intention is the "now in the morning, I sleep alone". That's Louis XVI in his last moments, captured in "La conciergerie", where he spends his last days before the trial. He's seperated from his Family, (the Queen and their 3 children). He is alone and he's thinking about what he had become.

    2. "Listen as the crowd would sing:
    "Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!"

    This part refers to when Louis XVI had become a king when his grand father Louis XV, died with the smallpox. He was waiting with Marie-Antoinette in a parlor (the heir apparent wasn't alowed to enter the room of the dying king in order not to get affected. He was going to be king) when the courtiers came running to them and screaming all over the castle after hearing that the king passed away in his chamber : "The old king is dead! Long live the king". That's when Louis XVI fell on his knees and said his famous prayer: "Dear God, guide and protect us. We are too young to reign."

    3. "One minute I held the key
    Next the walls were closed on me
    And I discovered that my castles stand
    Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand"

    For me it refers to when Louis XVI became a king, and started to reign and discovered how bad was the situation of the country, he was trapped. He became the king [of a nation in decadence]. That bringed absolute power (restaured at the time of Louis XIV), but also a lot of responsibilities, and a hope of change from the people of France, who were living in misery for so long and to who God bringed a new young king full of good intent. (Louis XVI ruled at 19 years old, and succeed at his grand father who was well known for debauchery, and also for his negligence of the affairs of the country in his last years. His death was like a relief for the people at that time.)

    4. "My missionaries in a foreign field"
    Louis XVI was recognized to be a learned king: he was reading a lot, and passioned by the geography and the maritime navigation. He was sending missionaries to discover and to study foreign countries.

    5. "For some reason I can't explain
    Once you go there was never, never an honest word
    That was when I ruled the world"

    "Shattered windows and the sound of drums
    People couldn't believe what I'd become"

    They say that the history is always written by the winners, and that's true. After the revolution, the king was falsely remembered to be "weak, without personnality, dominated by his woman, stupid, fat, a good for nothing" (and even to be a tyrant and a despot which was hard to imagine, all the people who knew truely the king knew that he could has been anything but a tyrant), this is how the revolutionnaries wanted the king to be remembered, all in order to save and defend the Revolution. But the truth is that Louis XVI loved his people to the much that he didn't want to spill blood even when the times got hard, he believed in a revolution (but a monarchic one, that's why somehow, he led the revolution). That's maybe the fault I reproche him: he could had spilled blood and mainted the order of the country but he didn't, that was the safetest option for him but he didn't want to do it, but badly the times never forgive the powerful nations that wants to get weakned. Blood had to be spilled at that time anyway, so he payed with his own, he was heard to say when about to get guillotined, 'People of France, I am innocent, I forgive those who are responsible for my death. I pray to God that the blood spilled here never falls on France or on you, my unfortunate people ...' When he tried to speak to the crowd and say these words, he was cut short by a roll on the drums.)
    I've said all of this just to talk about the part when CD say "Once you go, there was never, never an honest word " it's like the king is disappointed to see how misunderstood he was : There's no recognition of all the efforts he tried to do (and yes, unlike all what was commonly thought, he did! He was encouraging the science at his time but most of all, it's thanks to him that the united state got the independence I don't wanna talk about this cause I'm not gonna stop if I start haha), everybody is pointing him, they are lying about him, he feels betrayed by his people.


    6. "Revolutionaries wait
    For my head on a silver plate
    Just a puppet on a lonely string
    Oh who would ever want to be king?"

    This part confirms more than ever what I have said: this song is REALLY about Louis XVI. We're talking about "revolutionaries" "head", but most of all (which is for me a great way to end the song!), the "who would ever want to be king?" part which refers the "label" they gave to Louis: "Louis XVI, l'homme qui ne voulait pas être roi" (Louis XVI, the man who didn't want to be a king).


    Good lyrics are good lyrics.
    MalMoukon February 07, 2013   Link
  • +9
    My Interpretation:Ok, so I agree that this song can be taken literally, but I also believe it could stand for something else. Here's my idea:

    Literal- A king who felt like he was at the top of the world for one second, but the next everyone turned on him. He is on the run from the people who used to support him, but turned against him from making one mistake, or for doing something they didn't agree with. Who would want to be king? If you screw up once, then its like everyone turns on you. The people who build you up will break you down.

    Symbolism- Someone who is really popular and well liked. Someone who felt like they had it all, when suddenly, they crumble. This person messes up, or doe something wrong, and now they realize that their "kingdom" wasn't even real, and all of these people who used to like them wouldn't always believe in them. It was all really just almost like a trick.

    Eh , just my interpretation. No hate:)
    carley99on April 09, 2013   Link
  • +5
    General Comment:There is a TON of spiritual imagery in this song. One that particularly caught my eye was when he refers to his castles standing "upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand". I think this possibly is a reference to the sermon on the mount where Jesus speaks of a wise man building is house on a rock while the foolish man builds his house on the sand, only to be washed away. I am not sure on most of the meaning of this song but I do think that there is a link between total power and foolishness, contrasted with the loss of power (dependence on something else?) and gaining wisdom of your situation.
    tgbeinlichon May 10, 2008   Link
  • +4
    General Comment:well, first off, I'm really impressed by this song. I absolutely love it...the instrumentals are amazing and Chris Martin's voice and vocal melodies are perfect. The first verse is talking about a decline from wealth and fame to a nobody. I've been trying to figure out what the relevance of this is, but no ideas yet. In the second verse, his mindset seems to have changed and he's accepted his lower status and now is questioning, "who would ever wanna be king?" Well, he used to be the King and now that he sees what it looks like from an outsider's perspective, he realizes that he's glad to have left it behind.

    I have no idea about the chorus. Hopefully someone else has some ideas.
    raviolicadillacon May 08, 2008   Link
  • +4
    General Comment:Well...
    I seriously agree w/ the last person...the cover IS the clue
    so here's why:
    1. The song seems to be about desperation, about someone who has lost everything- King Louis xiv fled during the French Revolution to escape the new constitution of the national assembly...he was desperate, even going to the queen's family in Austria ( the Hapsburgs) to ask for help...
    2.The song describes something about a kingdom/castle on pillars of salt...during the Revolution, the entire government was falling to pieces...people were executed,arrested, or even tortured for being loyal to dthe king....ESPECIALLY Catholics...anyway, so this is what King Louis would have seen as he was leaving France, his entire kingdom, everything he had ever known, was fall ing apart, and there was nothing he could do about it...



    So, as you can see...there are many different ways this song is connected to the French Revolution...and if ya'll are wondering where I got this stuff, we just covered the French Revolution in Religion, so I just felt like sharin' all this info....
    AYessoon May 13, 2008   Link
  • +4
    General Comment:This song is about awakening to the wisdom that absolute power not only is a fantasy played out by our ego based on fear but it also destroys us and the world around us. Nevertheless this destruction on all fronts is important to awaken us to an all-inclusive, more elevated vibration of love. It uses figurative wording that talks of Christian crusaders, impossing their beliefs in a violent way to a world foreign to them. How the illusion is not only isolating but it can also be hypnotizing, acknowledging the "dark" within ALL OF US is primordial to this process of awakening. The best part of this song is the title "VIVA LA VIDA" which in Spanish means "BRAVO TO LIFE" and in my opinion it's there to let us know that at the end of the day it all will be fine, that we will awaken to this truth. Celebrating life as the classroom that it is for our souls and conciousness.

    VIVA like HOORAY is used to express joy, approval, or encouragement

    The word Missionaries is placed instead of Crusaders for obvious reasons. Missionaries don't carry swords and shields like the song says.

    When he says Roman Cavalry choirs are singing, I think the word Cavalry is placed instead of Catholic to avoid controversy, since it's obviously speaking of a militaristic approach to faith. It makes more sense to say Roman Catholic choirs, doesn't it??

    It uncovers the marriage of the powerful and organized religion that was the norm during the middle ages between the European nations and the Vatican.

    if there's an actual channeling from a past life, It will have to be the king of either England, France or Spain during the middle ages crusades. These were the nations champions of Christianity, puppets of the Vatican. They brought Sheer terror over the arab world particularly Jerusalem during the crusades

    Power combined with Love and Wisdom is invincible

    When the Love and Wisdom aspects are missing, their place gets taken by either Fear,Hatred or Ignorance. In this case Power is LETHAL
    ABSOLUTE POWER corrupts - "Once you'd gone there was never
    Never an honest word. And that was when I ruled the world"
    aware123on October 27, 2008   Link
  • +3
    My Interpretation:I LOVE this song!!!! :D <3 It's truly amazing.

    I think this song has something to do with Jesus Christ. Jesus was referred to as the "King of the Jews" and they mention the word "king" several times in this song.

    "Long live the king!" is what the soldiers said when they were whipping Jesus Christ (remember when he got crucified, he got beaten with nasty whips, a crown of thorns placed on his head, and he has to carry the cross?).

    "I know Saint Peter won't call my name." refers to when Jesus said to Peter that Peter would deny him three times before the cock would crow twice, and this happened, because Peter denied Jesus three times before the cock crew twice.

    "Revolutionaries wait for my head on a silver plate." refers to when John the Baptist got decapitated.
    Jerusalem is where the temple Jesus was in and is present in the bible many times.

    There are still many more lyrics to classify this song as being about Jesus Christ, but I was only naming the basics. Thanks for reading! xD
    TheMusicNinjaon April 03, 2011   Link
  • +3
    My Interpretation:I found something pretty cool about the actual video clip of this song, it's just a very personal interpretation: First of all, there are many many ways to interpret this song, mine is that it talks about Louis XVI, the king that was killed in the French Revolution. The "funny" thing about the video is that, right when Chris starts singing, the drum starts playing, just like in the French Revolution (if anybody knows just a bit about History you may know that Louis was trying to speak to the crowd before getting his head cut off, and he was cut by a drum roll). Just a fun thing i found about the song.
    Gerbailon July 24, 2013   Link
  • +2
    General Comment:To me it is about playing games with people that you love and completely abusing them. Say, you have a woman in your life who would do just about anything for you, yet you continually f*ck her over. Maybe the song is about not knowing what you want from a situation. Maybe it is about not realizing how lucky you are to have this person in your life, who cares so incredibly much about you- YOU MEAN SO MUCH TO HER- and she has been tortured by you over and over again. She loves you and trusts you and you treat her this way! (You say you love her and care for her and feel sad when you hurt her. So, why do you do it?) Then one day you wake up to the brutal reality that she is gone. She is done playing games and she is out of your life. It is then that you realize what an amazing thing you had with her, too late.

    I think this song is saying that you need to spend some time REALLY thinking about what you want from a particular situation. Then have the resolve to act on it and live with the consequences.



    TitForTaton June 12, 2009   Link

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