"The River" as written by and James Alan Hull....
I will fight the spirit
With a sword in my side
And she found a way out
Crack my rib
Wait to die
I think I know you best when I sleep
I think I know everything

Me and my brothers
We have tongues sharp as knives
And I found a way out
Make a noise, close your eyes
I think I talk to you best when I sing
I sing about almost everything

Oh God I need it
So let me see again
Take me to the river
And let me see again
Oh my God
Let me see again
Oh my God
Let me see again
Let me see again

Grace taught her daughter
Daily I'm strained to be
God how I feel it
Fetter pride to your feet

I'm gonna leave you the first chance I get
I'm gonna leave you the first chance I get
I'm gonna leave you the first chance I get
I'm gonna leave you the first chance I, get

And oh God I need it
Well I was wrong again
Take me to the river
And make me clean again

Oh my God
Make me clean again
And oh my God
Let me see again


Lyrics submitted by hobomclacey

"The River" as written by John Andrew Hull

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

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The River song meanings
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  • +3
    General CommentI fought the Spirit with a sword in my side
    Cheat...What a way out.
    Crack my rib, wait to die,
    I think I know you the best when I sleep
    I think I know everything
    Me and my brothers, we have tongues sharp as knives
    I found a way out, make a noise, close your eyes
    I think I talk to you best when I sing
    I sing about almost everything

    Oh God I need it
    So let me sing agian.
    Take me to the river
    And let me see again
    Oh my God
    Let me see again
    Oh my God

    Let me see again
    Let me see again

    Grace taught a debtor
    Daily I'm starined to be
    God how I feel it
    Fetter pride to Your feet

    I'm going to leave You the first chance I get
    I'm going to leave You the first chance I get
    I'm going to leave You the first chance I get
    I'm going to leave You the first chance I get

    Oh God I need it
    Well I was wrong again
    Take me to the river
    And make me clean again

    Oh my God
    Make me clean again
    Oh my God
    Let me see again.

    This is directly from the booklet.

    This is talking about the struggles someone is facing and all they want is grace. They doubt that God can save them because they keep repeating it ("I'm going to leave you the first chance I get"). Yet they still desperately want Him to save them.

    This song makes me cry. It's beautiful and true.
    mundanelyon April 21, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentGalaxynamedafterme and Mundanely summed this one up very well, but for funsies I want to elaborate.

    What I love about lyrics and poetry, especially the lyrics of Andy Hull and Aaron Weiss is the layers. There are so many layers to Andy's words, many I would venture to say not entirely intentional. Such is the mystery of language, such is the mystery of G-d. Here's what I get:

    The Holy Spirit, or perhaps spirit of repentance, submission to G-d is weighing heavily on the speaker here (presumably Andy, given recent press releases and comments from the M.O. website concerning the album). He is like a wounded fighter though. He can't put up much of a fight at all. "Sword' could also represent the Word of G-d (whatever you take that to mean) as such an analogy is made in the Bible. "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." from the book of Hebrews.

    I am uncertain about the line beginning "Cheat. . ." Perhaps the seemingly unjust system of grace and mercy? That it is cheating to not have to pay for sins. The image of a cracked rib, as though something burst or was ripped literally out of one's heart through the rib cage is phenomenal. Of course, literally this action would lead to a very painful and physical death, but spiritually speaking, it is the speaker's pride that is to be ripped through his rib cage, and it is the death of self of which he speaks here more so than any physical death.

    "I think I know you best when I sleep." My first inclination is to say this line couples with the following line to say simply "I am lazy and arrogant." Also, it could refer to revelation through dreams, or my mystically, the loss of consciousness and self in sleep is the closest the speaker can feel to G-d because during his waking hours he is prideful and therefore distant from G-d.
    I like coupling the lines together best, though.

    Brothers refers to either brothers in faith (the way Christians in the Bible refer to one another as brother and sister) or brothers in deed, anyone who is in the same boat, so to speak, as the singer. Tongues sharp as knives testifies to the power of words, possibly narrowing down "brothers" to mean others who communicate through song or poetry, wordsmiths of sorts, that have the passion and skill to pierce hearts, as Andy certainly does. The singer then declares to his brothers that he has found a way out. Out of what? Presumably the laziness and arrogance, the preoccupation with self. To simply call out to G-d, as he does throughout pretty much the rest of this song. To close your eyes and disappear into G-d.

    The final lines of this verse again testify to Andy's profession. He is a songwriter, and it is through his songs that he best communicates with G-d. Not to say anything about how well or with what confidence he does this, just that it is the best he can do.

    The chorus is clear. He calls out to G-d to give him perspective, to "see" to understand the ways of selflessness and love. "Take me to the river" is reference to baptism in a body of water like a river, which many Christians still practice, and indeed even Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River. It is a call, no doubt, to repentance. Which is the clear intention of the singer.

    The verse beginning "Grace taught" is without a doubt from the hymn Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing. It's a tactful rephrasing of a small section of it retaining the same meaning. Fetter of course is a shackle of some sort used to bind arms or feet.

    The honest in the repetition of "I'm going to leave You the first chance I get" is beautiful. What I love so much about Andy's lyrics is the honesty. He does not preach about religious views, he merely expresses them. He does not portray a spiritual life that is comfortable and confident (whose ever is?) nor does he condemn G-d or faith simply because he fails to understand it all the time. His lack of faith is not a testimony to the absence of G-d. He cries out in his songs because he has to, and for no other reason. So we have in the same song desperate cries of repentance and honest declarations of betrayal. He knows that he lacks understanding, and will turn from G-d again as soon as something else in life, big or small, appears to distract him. It is a confession of the dismal state of his heart.

    The song's not that mysterious, and for most probably doesn't require this much explanation, but I just love it so much. This is a good album.




    SinginSilenceon April 23, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIdk what these lyrics you guys are talking about are. The version on the album is different
    wake49on April 29, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentGod knows you're on my mind
    you can't try to tell him otherwise
    God knows it's only time
    before I break the chain in my eyes
    fear keeps you hiding at night
    when the creatures play ball outside
    the chances are slim we are right
    but I'd never think it any otherwise

    so we'll find the answers in time
    when the bodies pile up sky high
    and I'll sail the ship towards the sky
    but I'll end alone on the other side
    if you could pull that rope just a little higher
    we would dangle alone like a firefly

    so Jimmy I heard the voice of God
    and he whisperes fear is logical
    and he said it's magical wonderful
    and he swears to him it's wonderful
    and the lake you speak of is magical
    so I skip stones on it practical
    and I make sure we're both wonderful

    you're a brother and that's alright
    we're brothers and it makes it right
    cause this blood is so red in spite
    of the way that are sharp tooth bites
    in each other during the night
    we're the creatures that play outside

    cause Jimmy I've heard the voice of God
    and he whispered fear is logical
    and the words that we heard aren't repeatable
    with a thought that could kill comprehendible
    we're brothers and that's alright
    yeah we're brothers until we die.
    ericcampbellon April 14, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'm pretty sure the words in the middle come from an old hymn/song called "Come Thou Fount".
    The words being "oh to grace how great a debtor, daily I'm constrained to be, let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee."

    So I'm pretty sure it's...

    "Grace taught a debtor
    Daily I'm strained to be
    God how I feel it, fetter pride to your feet."
    jmharkeyon April 16, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Commenthere's what i hear:


    I fought the spirit
    With a sword in my side
    And gee, what a way out
    Crack my rib
    Wait to die
    I think I know you the best when I sleep
    I think I know everything
    Me and my brothers
    We have tongues sharp as knives
    And I found a way out
    Make a noise, close your eyes
    I think I talk to you best when I sing
    I sing about almost everything
    Oh God I need it
    So let me sing again
    Take me to the river
    And let me see again
    Oh my God
    Let me see again
    Oh my God
    Let me see again
    Let me see again
    Grace taught a debtor
    Daily I'm strained to be
    God how I feel it
    Fetter pride to your feet
    I'm gonna leave you the first chance I get
    I'm gonna leave you the first chance I get
    I'm gonna leave you the first chance I get
    I'm gonna leave you the first chance I get
    Oh God I need it
    I was wrong again
    Take me to the river
    And make me clean again
    Oh my God
    Make me clean again
    And oh my God
    Let me see again
    ianwellmanon April 19, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song just gives me the goosebumps. Andy Hull has a way of writing lyrics that are both shocking and inspiring at the same time.

    I think this song is basically about his guilt for becoming the person he is and he wants a clean slate.
    galaxynamedaftermeon April 21, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI like what SinginSilence has to say. Also, when I first heard this song I immediately thought of the end of "Now that You're Home" from "I'm Like a Virgin..." when Andy sings:

    Well now that you're home I can see again,
    I can see again
    Now that you're home I can see again,
    God, I can see!

    The confidence he seems to sing with in Now That You're Home seems to be lost in The River. I think it's interesting and goes back to what SinginSilence had to say about Andy's honesty. Andy is still discovering and learning about his faith, and sometimes he loses his once found sight.

    Yeah not sure if that was coincidence or not, but that's what I thought about.
    bduperon April 29, 2009   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationI also think the song is from the hyme "Come Thou Fount" by Andy put a spin on it that applied to himself. I also think at the beginning (I fought the Spirit, with a sword in my side, Gee what a way out, crack my rib, way to die), that he is referring to God making him do His work and it took a "sword" in his side to motivate him much like Paul in the NT and he is saying that it nearly killed him ("[what a]way to die"). Throughout the song he is telling God to let him see the way, then turning his back, then asking again, showing his spiritual struggle with God. 2Corinthians 12:7b- there was given me a THORN IN MY FLESH, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
    DementiasFineston July 09, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe song relates to all of us..let me see again..the fear that your losing your way through all the shit that happens in life. Great Song.
    sunflowerbullon January 03, 2010   Link

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