James incurred the wrath
Of a jealous woman
Not long after that
Spending all his weekends
Trying to relearn
How a young man yearns after a nurse
Poor, poor James

Most nights he has dreams
All his teeth are missing
Wakes up in a sweat
His impotent heart racing
He throws back the sheets
Begins to weep without much feeling
Poor, poor James

If desire is what makes
Upright mammals human
Put me out to graze
Give this beast a burden
Because the universe
Makes much more sense without a purpose
Poor, poor James


Lyrics submitted by denn

James Blues song meanings
Add your thoughts

7 Comments

sort form View by:
  • 0
    General Comment"james incurred the wrath"

    great song
    gabomaon June 12, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis is such a great song. lyrically brilliant, one of the best around..ive actually just joined this bloody site to comment on this song!
    mckayslateon September 14, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentHearing a couple things differently, and a couple listens in the headphones are confirming it, I think:

    "how a young man yearns after a nurse"

    "his impotent heart racing"

    and a very subtle "if" before "desire"

    I nearly wrote an essay concerning the last stanza, and I think it's actually not a bad place to approach much of J Tillman's catalog from, that statement. There's a bit of confusion of perspective here, and I'm not certain if I'm implying it or if it's there to be found, but "the universe makes much more sense without a purpose" being immediately followed by the head-hangingly sullen "poor, poor James" certainly carries a sense of pity for the character, but, and here's where things might get a little worth arguing over, I think there's a bit of quotation happening here. As in this is a thing that James has said, and Tillman's "poor, poor James" is an expression of pity in response to James' expression of the sentiment.

    Or perhaps it's the other way around, suggesting that James' crippling fear of himself, his future, fate, and the universe, and perhaps even God are keeping him from his own life.

    If desire is what makes upright mammals human,
    put me out to graze, give this beast a burden.

    I can't help this line, though, and it's what I keep returning to. It's a conditional statement, not just a declaration, and Tillman suggests that, if desire is what is human in us, then he wants to be put out to graze, which is an odd idiom to use here. The immediate connotation is that of "put out to pasture," but this carries a different weight in usage. I wish I had a better handle of this, but the image I'm getting is of his desire to be most human, put to feed on desire itself, to take the weight of this humanity as his own burden, so that in doing so he might truly live. A bit of a plea to be thrown into the thick of it all, proclaiming (ah, here we are) that "the universe makes much more sense without a purpose." Perhaps he's not pitying James for coining the line, but proclaiming it in response to the character, choosing to live without needing the answer to it all figured out, instead of being crippled by uncertainty about it.

    Thoughts?
    eiseyon September 29, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think that eisey is right about the last line being a quote and the poor poor james ending line is a Tillman's response to the statement. The desire being talked about is most likely a sexual one, and tillman is stating that if that is life's purpose for humans he'd rather be a "beast of burdern." Sexual desire is invoked in the second stanza as well. The reference to dreams of teeth missing is usually interpreted as the dreamer having many anxieties and in most case sexual anxieties or unfulfillment.
    broderickcojeenon December 07, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe song is about a disillusioned man who has taken some kind of emotional beating...hence the missing teeth. This is the one and only correct interpretation of the song. The rest of you suck.
    MissCharlotteSometimeson December 07, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWithout wanting to induce argument - is it not "how a young man yearns after ignorance"? Slightly slurred for artistic liberty circa syllables? Whole thing makes a thousand times more sense for me that way
    julescarolineon January 16, 2014   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationThis song is the biggest waste of 2 and a half minutes i've ever come across. The music is lethargic at best and the lyrics could have come from a 5 year old, such is their nonsensical bs themes. I honestly would rather be deaf than listen to this drivel again. He sounds like a drug addled drunkard and you asshats all think this is so profound because you don't understand it. Here's a tip, you don't understand it because it's nonsense.
    zx10ron April 16, 2016   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top
explain