Bombs go off in London,
Stirring panic's rhythmic creep,
The city turns its shoulders,
Smooths the cracks and tries to sleep

And split the Gulf sky red,
As the oil fields start to blow,
And weep a heavy storm of black, black rain
Onto the earth below

And the millions cried "Sweet Mary",
A million more cried tears of shame,
When they saw what they had done in the name of all of their hopes and fears,
When they realised what they became

In hidden Eastern passes,
That defenders will not yield
To a soldier from the Edgware Road
Come to burn the poppy fields

And the millions cried "Sweet Mary",
A million more cried tears of shame,
When they saw what they had done in the name of all of their hopes and fears
When they realised what they became

Behold a pale rider, new war partisan,
Twenty years still with the desert dust,
Slipping slowly through his hands

And from the Water Margins,
To Death Row, Guantanamo,
You can hear that King's Cross countdown,
As the detonators blow

And the millions cried "Sweet Mary",
A million more cried tears of shame,
When they saw what they had done in the name of all of their hopes and fears
When they realised what they became

Behold a pale rider, new war partisan,
Twenty years still with the desert dust,
Slipping slowly through his hands


Lyrics submitted by Rohful, edited by slam

Behold a Pale Rider song meanings
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  • 0
    General Comment"Bombs go off in London,
    Stirred panic's rhythmic creep,
    The city turns its shoulders,
    Smooths the cracks and tries to sleep"

    So true.
    Negrul1on October 13, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe title is "Behold a Pale Rider", not "Behold the Pale Rider".
    slamon December 14, 2012   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningThe title of the song is a reference to the Revelation of St John, 6:8: "And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth." Although the Bible verse actually describes the horse, rather than the rider, as 'pale', the two have become merged, so the 'rider of the pale horse' is a 'pale rider', who is Death.

    The song reflects this theme of death and destruction being unleashed, in the context of the 'Global War on Terror' of the early 21st century, with multiple references to events and themes of the war.

    "Bombs go off in London" refers to the 7/7 terrorist bombings in London, in which Islamist suicide bombers killed 52 people and injured more than 700. One bomb exploded on an underground train that had just left King's Cross Station, hence the reference to "... that King's Cross countdown/As the detonators blow".

    The verse that begins with the words "Split the Gulf Sky red" refers to the American invasion of Iraq, in which the oil fields were set on fire, resulting in thick smoke clouds and the black rain described in the song.

    The "hidden Eastern passes" are the passes of Afghanistan, defended by the Taliban. One side goal of the Western mission in Afghanistan has been to destroy the fields in which opium poppies are grown, in an attempt to stop the flow of heroin to the west. The Edgware Road is a major road in London, thus "a soldier from the Edgware Road" is a British soldier.

    The 'water margins' are historically famous marshes in China; Guantanamo Bay is a US internment camp in Cuba where terrorist suspects are held and tortured without trial. The line reflects the global nature of the war on terror.

    The 'pale rider' himself is described as 'a New World partisan': the tone of the chorus and the image of "the desert dust slipping slowly through his hands" after twenty years suggests the futility of the whole enterprise. The alternating chorus of "And the millions cried 'Sweet Mary' ..." reflects the horror and remorse of ordinary people at the atrocities committed in the name of fighting terrorism.
    slamon December 14, 2012   Link

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