If to borrow is to take and not return
I have borrowed all my lonesome life
And I can't, no I can't get through
The borrower's debt is the only regret of my youth

And believe me it's not easy when I look back
Everything I took got soon returned
Just to be at Innisfree again
All of the sirens are driving me over the stern

Just to be at Innisfree again
All of the sirens are driving me over the stern

One day at Innisfree
One day that's mine there

In the street one day I saw you among the crowd
In a geometric pattern dressed
Gleaming white just as I recall
Old as I get I will never forget it at all
Gleaming white just as I recall
Old as I get I will never forget it at all

One day at Innisfree
One day that's mine there



Lyrics submitted by Cilogy


Bedouin Dress song meanings
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24 Comments

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  • +4
    General Comment:ok who's with me that this song is about someone's experience on DMT? let me provide some support here:

    geometric patterns are the most common effect hallucinated while on DMT. that fact that the "dress" is gleaming white also lends itself to a hallucination. also DMT is a substance which cause such intense experiences that it is natural that "as old as [he gets he] will never forget it at all" and that it will always be "just as [he recalls]." that is the strongest support for my claim, but the rest of the song is interesting when applied to this theory

    Innisfree is a recurring theme and what is Innisfree? in the real world it is a lake of some sort in ireland. however in the poem which popularized Innisfree by William Butler Yeats it is an imaginary utopia that encompasses all the desires and dreams an individual has. it emphasizes a natural existence based in agriculture, of which robin pecknold is fond. so this Innisfree is where the person is during his DMT experience. and while he is there, the sirens are his sheer joy and pleasure at the experience. they are literally "driving [him] over the stern" of his existence, as he wants to reach their island (Innisfree) faster than his ship (reality). he didn't know something so beautiful could exist.

    there is also a lot about borrowing, taking, returning, and this resonates with my idea about being in and out of reality. in the sense of this DMT experience, he borrows reality, taking it with the expectation not to return. his experience also validates this because he does not necessarily want to return, he's at his Innisfree. however all that is good must end and he does in fact return his reality, and the disparity between reality and his reality are great and probably upsetting. he is now left with a debt; a debt both to his body because he has "borrowed all [his] life" so the substance has taken a toll on mind and body, and ultimately his existence (soul) for ever having known and loved Innisfree. it's not real and but yet it still haunts him, and it's not easy for him to look back on it. and in a dual sense the sirens of real life are driving him out of his mind. he cannot put up with the inferiority of reality and longs for Innisfree

    woooo i enjoy this interpretation. let me know what you think
    Spartan3500on March 31, 2011   Link
  • +3
    General Comment:If to borrow is to take and not return
    I have borrowed all my lonesome life

    **The song starts off by rethinking the nature of borrowing. In the context of this song, I believe the singer is referring to how he borrows love. To him, borrowing means taking someone's love but never offering his own; instead, when he is done, he gives everything back and leaves.

    And I can't, no I can't get through
    The borrower's debt is the only regret of my youth

    **He regrets never trying to share his love.

    And believe me it's not easy when I look back
    Everything I took got soon returned

    **His memories are filled with people who offered to share love, or some type of experience, but to them he was never able to offer anything back.

    Just to be at Innisfree again
    All of the sirens are driving me over the stern

    **He's going mad longing for that time when he didn't care.


    In the street one day I saw you among the crowd
    In a geometric pattern dressed
    Gleaming white just as I recall
    Old as I get I will never forget it at all
    Gleaming white just as I recall
    Old as I get I will never forget it at all

    **He'll always remember the girl who he thought he could love but never did. He'll always remember how she is just another person who gave him her love, and how he always viewed their situation as temporary and eventually gave back what he was borrowing. He knows that he has hurt people.
    poetogethron August 07, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General Comment:I'm kind of surprised no one has thought of this yet. That's probably because it's too obvious. I could be wrong, seeing as how Fleet Foxes' songs usually mean more than what they do on first listen, but I think this is sung from the POV of a prisoner.

    Just think about it.

    "If to borrow is to take and not return
    I have borrowed all my lonesome life."

    He was a thief.

    "And I can't, no I can't get through
    The borrower's debt is the only regret of my youth."

    Now he's paying the price. He's imprisoned, "can't get through," meaning he can't get out. In retrospect he regrets his actions.

    "And believe me it's not easy when I look back
    Everything I took I'd soon return,"

    I imagine him alone, sitting his cell, remembering over and over again what put him in there. Wishing he could change the past.

    "Just to be at Innisfree again
    All of the sirens are driving me over the stern."

    Innisfree is a metaphor for freedom here. In the Yeats poem, Innisfree symbolizes peaceful, natural, out-doorsy (for lack of a better word lol) surroundings. So obviously he wants to breath fresh air and get out. The sirens can mean two things: police car sirens which is kind of too literal, and temptation. I like the temptation one. He's looking back at the what made him steal. Maybe he's a kleptomaniac ;)

    "One day at Innisfree, that's mine there."

    Fantasizing about freedom and a normal life. From the poem: "While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray/I hear it in the deep heart's core." Just like the character in the song, he can cling to the image of Innisfree to feel at peace in the least peaceful of times.

    "In the street one day I saw you among the crowd
    In a geometric pattern dress
    Gleaming white just as I recall
    Old as I get I will never forget it at all."

    This is especially sad because I think it's him reminiscing about the love of his life. Or, she could have been someone he barely knew, but always admired. Either way, she represents the potential for love and happiness that he squandered. Now he can't forget that day, maybe the last day of freedom he had, even if he spends the rest of his life getting "old" in jail.

    It's really such a perfect story that even if this interpretation is wrong, I don't give a shit because it's how I'll always hear it.



    Aquarius121on June 13, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General Comment:"all of the sirens are driving me over the stern"

    greek mythology, if the sailors heard the sirens' song, they would be drawn to it. the stern is the back of the boat i think. my guess would be that this has something to do with resisting temptation.

    and "adding is free" is definitely "at innisfree". some memory he wants to go back to.
    whatupbrozon April 09, 2011   Link
  • +1
    My Interpretation:I can't explain every lyric but I really think that this song is about him taking the virginity of the girl in the bedouin patterned dress.

    First it is set in his youth and he is stealing and the only thing he regretted was being punished. He looks back as to how things he took were returned (and he doesn't say by him which I think is significant) and I think this is up until the point this line is true until the siren/this beautiful girl he can't resist drives him over the stern, so most likely back into taking things.

    Then he talks about her gleaming white, white being a classic sign of purity and virginity and he says he will never forget her so I'm guessing that's why.

    I'm not really sure where Innisfree and a bedouin patterned dress comes into this. I was kind of thinking that this was him saying she really stuck out to him from anyone else there because the imagery one might think of when they hear Innisfree really contrasts a typical geometric bedouin pattern and if she was from anywhere in the middle east she would've been very different looking than anyone on an island in Ireland which maybe shows that this was just lust, which goes along with the theme of him taking things. I think how he talks of her now, never being able to forget her is a lot more in the tone of regret now as he looks back then how he would've talked about her at the time.

    Does anyone think this a legitimate interpretation?
    AmeliaLHon November 08, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Comment:I will need some help determining the exact lyrics of this song within the next year.
    Cilogyon December 24, 2009   Link
  • 0
    Lyric Correction:you hit the nail on the head with everything accept the chorusy thing, I originally thought it was "born in the air, born in the air" but as it turns out you and I are both wrong it's "wood in the hand, wood in the hand" give it a listen again and I think you'll come to agree with me :)
    huggernaut8on December 09, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Comment:oh, and the a capella part is "wood in hand" hope this is of some use, makes more sense when you read it this way :)
    huggernaut8on December 09, 2010   Link
  • 0
    Lyric Correction:this what i hear on the version released on hopelessness blues [2011]

    if to borrow is to take and not return
    i have borrowed all my lonesome life
    and i can't no i can't get through
    the borrower's debt is the only regret of my youth

    and believe me it's not easy when i look back
    everything i took got soon returned
    just to be adding it's free again
    all of the sirens are driving me over the stern

    just to be adding it's free again
    all of the sirens are driving me over the stern

    one day added is free
    one day that's my [something]

    in the street one day i saw you among the crowd
    in a geometric pattern dressed
    gleaming white just as i recall
    old as i get i will never forget it at all
    gleaming white just as i recall
    old as i get i will never forget it at all

    glocklibertyon March 27, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Comment:Could someone please post the correct lyrics? Which I believe glockliberty posted above here. The ones that are listed must have been from an older version, because with some of the some leaking it's easy to hear.
    hewls183on March 28, 2011   Link

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