"Change of Time" as written by and Josh Ritter....
I had a dream last night
I dream't that I was swimming
And the stars up above
Directionless and drifting
Somewhere in the dark
Were the sirens and the thunder
And around me as I swam
The drifters who'd gone under

Time, love
Time, love
Time, love
It's only a change of time

I had a dream last night
And rusting far below me
Battered hulls and broken hardships
Leviathan and Lonely
I was thirsty so I drank
And though it was salt water
There was something 'bout the way
It tasted so familiar

The black clouds I'm hanging
This anchor I'm dragging
The sails of memory rip open in silence
We cut through the lowlands
All hands through the salt lands
The white caps of memory
Confusing and violent

I had a dream last night
And when I opened my eyes
Your shoulder blade, your spine
Were shorelines in the moon light
New worlds for the weary
New lands for the living
I could make it if I tried
I closed my eyes I kept on swimming

(rough seas, they carry me wherever I go)


Lyrics submitted by awm011

"Change of Time" as written by Joshua Ritter

Lyrics © DUCHAMP, INC

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Change of Time song meanings
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13 Comments

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  • +4
    General CommentHang in there!
    When I heard this song...all I could think of was Pablo Neruda's poem- If You Forget Me:

    I want you to know one thing.
    You know how this is:
    if I look
    at the crystal moon, at the red branch
    of the slow autumn at my window,
    if I touch
    near the fire
    the impalpable ash
    or the wrinkled body of the log,
    everything carries me to you,
    as if everything that exists,
    aromas, light, metals,
    were little boats
    that sail
    toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

    To me, its a song about how the people we love in our lives help us deal with the demons of our past. The past and how it comes back to us can be so real - and I love the way he captures the violence and suddenness of these moments - 'the sails of memory rip open in silence, the white white caps of memory, confusing and violent'. And that even though those injuries were old, and 'rusting', they can be as real and vivd, as if they were happening at that moment.

    And I like the way he seems to be juggling love and chaos, the chorus " time, love", sounds reassuring, as if he were telling his lover that yes, its just been a change of time, he still has issues to settle, but its okay, she's his anchor :)
    lemonbitterson December 13, 2011   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationAn article with the Express (a Washington Post free daily) had a brief thought from Josh about each song on the So Runs the World Away Album. His comment on this one was:

    "It's one of the touchstones of the record in terms of sound. I felt like I wanted it to be an epic about waking up and seeing the person you're lying next to."

    From the lyrics it seems that if his dreams are taking him worlds away, sometimes dangerous place, and he wakes and sees the person he's lying next to, then continues sleeping away and dreaming with the body becoming the next dream.
    dakraniion May 12, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI worked for many years to be a nurse. All I ever wanted to do was be a flight nurse. So there I was with three little kids going to nursing school. I spent many many hours driving between my 3 jobs and school. I came home every night through these country lanes in the dark. I missed my kids so in the dark van I would cry. Cry because I missed time with my kids, my husband, my parents. After 4 years it all paid off. I became a registered nurse.
    I applied to a Children's hospital and started working on my trauma credits. I wanted to fly. All I wanted to do was fly in those amazing, sleek, helicopters. I watched them land and take off. I was infatuated by them. I did a cart wheel on the helipad at my hospital.
    On a dark October night I was driving home from the job I loved. Another driver fell asleep at the wheel and struck the driver door of that van I had spent countless hours in. I remember being stuck and I knew it was bad. I was in and out of conciousness and I was so scared. I was in the middle of a highway and no cars were moving. I was going to die. I knew I was going to die. The lights of the emergency vehicles were chaotic and I listened as my beloved minivan was cut apart around my broken body. Over an hour later I was opening my eyes to the horrific realization that I was in a helicopter. I was going to die in that elegant bird that glided through the skies. I was going to die alone in that dark airspace over the city. The helicopter was headed to the trauma center connected to Children's. I was landing on a familiar helipad. I was going there, to die!
    That was almost exactly 2 years ago. I didn't die, but sometimes I wish I had. My body is broken, my head injury and pain prevents me from being the person I once was. I am forgetful. I get overwhelmed easily. I don't work as a nurse much anymore and when I do I am supervised by someone. I hate this life. Friends tell me I was a stubborn, head strong, outgoing woman who accomplished everything I wanted to. Now I am fragile and vulnerable. I am having surgery again next month. I want to walk like I used to. I want to run and not hurt. Heck I'd like to stand and not hurt. I want to remember things well enough to be a flight nurse.
    I don't want my only flight to be a patient at the end of her nursing career. It's only a change of 2 years. I'm going to keep swimming!
    ackecvon September 01, 2011   Link
  • +2
    Song MeaningI believe this song is simply about a someone, more specifically I'd say a couple, going through a big change in their/his/her life. It doesn't sound like a problem with their relationship necessarily, although I think it definitely could be, but it sounds like it is something that they are going through together. The narrator goes into great detail in the verses to describe the hardships of this change in their life, which, rather obviously, does not look to be a good or positive change. However, in the end, Josh offers us a revelation to the problem.

    "I had a dream last night
    I dreamt that I was swimming
    And the stars up above
    Directionless and drifting
    Somewhere in the dark
    Were the sirens and the thunder
    And around me as I swam
    The drifters who’d gone under"

    In the first verse he starts the metaphor of being lost at sea, more specifically, I would say being shipwrecked. Throughout the song this metaphor seems to be about life and it's hardships. The verses are, in its simplest forms, examples of life throwing all of its troubles at the narrator.

    I think the narrator dreaming all of this is important in that this is really an internal struggle for the narrator, even though something physically may have triggered it. Stars are often used as a literary device for one's future or fate (I like to think of the famous line in Shakespeare's Julius Ceasar: "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves"). Since the stars are "directionless and drifting", the narrator's future seems to be in serious flux. The darkness further describes the metaphor of being directionless because the narrator is unable to see. The "sirens", "thunder", and the perished "drifters" are the warning signs of an imminent danger and, I believe, the "drifters who'd gone under" further serve to illustrate what could happen if the narrator keeps drifting directionless.

    "Time, love...
    It’s only a change of time"

    The chorus serves as a shift in tone, perhaps it is the narrator's love telling the narrator this to comfort him/her, or, perhaps it is the other way around and the narrator is deciding to console his love (and possibly himself) by illustrating, although with simplicity, that time is always changing situations and that life is everchanging. As if to say, no matter what bad things occur, they are only a change in time, which is a part of life for everyone.

    "I had a dream last night
    And rusting far below me
    Battered hulls and broken hardships
    Leviathan and Lonely
    I was thirsty so I drank
    And though it was salt water
    There was something ‘bout the way
    It tasted so familiar"

    The 2nd verse echoes the first verse's description of the narrator's troubles and what appears to be internally haunting him/her. The "battered hulls" makes me think that the narrator has been metaphorically shipwrecked, but it may just go along with the description of entities that have come across this part of the sea and did not suffice to make it. Along with the doomed "drifters", there appears to be the wreckage of a ship or ships. Once again, possibly serving to foreshadow what could happen to the narrator if he/she keeps going down the same path, aimlessly "drifting. Leviathan is a reference to the old testament, believed to be a sea monster, but also symbolizing the devil. I believe the narrator is describing himself as giving into his desires/ making a mistake/ sinning when he says "I was thirsty, so I drank/ And though it was salt water" and the line prior: "Leviathan and lonely", are his reasons for taking a sip of the salt-water that will only further his demise. Also significant is the salt-water which, lost at sea, seems like a good idea drink, although, the substance being salt-water, the narrator knows it is not. The taste being familiar could be his pessimism towards how life has continued to treat him thus far, or could be his realization that he keeps making the same mistake over again.

    "The black clouds I'm hanging
    This anchor I'm dragging
    The sails of memory rip open in silence
    We cut through the lowlands
    All hands through the salt lands
    The white caps of memory
    Confusing and violent"

    In the bridge verse, the narrator continues with the over-arching tone of describing this nightmare he/she is going through. "The black clouds I'm hanging" describes the bleak situation that is hanging over him, but, perhaps more importantly, it highlights the author's realization that it is he/she that has placed these troubles in such a way that it is debilitating and further goes along with the idea of drinking the saltwater and drifting when he/she should be swimming. The anchor symbolizes the 'monkey on the back' of the narrator that is keeping him/her from going to far or, more literally, getting out of the bleak state of mind. This verse goes on to illustrate something in the past that seems to be plaguing the narrator: "The sails of memory rip open in silence", "The white caps of memory/ Confusing and violent." The "sails of memory" ripping open also further describe a sinking or sunken ship, perhaps thinking back, alike the narrator's thinking back to his haunting past, to when his ship capsized and his troubles began. The description of the "saltlands" and the white caps of memory" further serve a time when he/she was on land. My theory is that the narrator can see the whitecaps in the distance and he/she is tempted to swim towards them, but they are confusing because swimming towards the whitecaps, the past in this case, is not beneficial to the narrator.

    "I had a dream last night
    And when I opened my eyes
    Your shoulder blade, your spine
    Were shorelines in the moon light
    New worlds for the weary
    New lands for the living
    I could make it if I tried
    I closed my eyes I kept on swimming...

    Rough seas, they carry me wherever I go"

    The last verse is where the large tonal shift occurs in the song- seemingly moving away from the narrator's pessimistic outlook towards his/her situation and moving towards an optimistic view.

    The narrator, in this verse, wakes up from the nightmare, symbolizing the nightmare as possibly a mere low point in his life; seemingly a break from reality. Instead of reality being bleak he paints reality as hopeful and as a 'light to the end of the tunnel', and it is his waning away from reality that plagues him. The reality is that his love is beside him and has always been there, even through the bad dream. His love is his hope of getting out of this dark place he has been in, she/he is the "shoreline in the moonlight" and instead of going towards the past, the ship that is now wrecked, or the whitecaps that will not suffice as a safe-haven, it is something new he/she goes towards: "new worlds", "new lands"; as if, instead of being reluctant to the change, the narrator is opening his/her arms to it. This is the verse that makes it seem like either his/her relationship was on the rocks, or that they were going through something together. Either way, even If it is only the narrator with the issue, the resolution seems to be this: no matter what bad things happen, I have my love beside me who will be the "shorelines in the moonlight"; the silver-lining in the clouds. And it is this thought that seems to truly comfort him/her and to encourage the narrator to "(keep) on swimming." The "Rough seas..." verse that is sung by backup vocals seems during the chorus seems to simply say that the rough seas, however rough and scary, will carry and lead the narrator on through life and this further resembles the narrator's acceptance of this change in his/her life.
    vivalavida218on March 31, 2014   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningPart A:
    He thinks he is in a dream, with the Sirens in the distance, and floating dead bodies.
    Part B:
    He realized that below him is the now empty hull of a sunken ship. He tastes saltwater, it is strangely familiar. He has swallowed salt water before.
    Part C:
    He starts to remember what happened. He was sailing by the lowlands, and needing 'all hands' off the salt lands. Then a violent and confusing event- the sinking of his ship. The bodies around him were his shipmates. The hull below his own ship.
    Part D:
    He sees his lover across the chasm between the living and dead. She is unreachable like an undiscovered land. He closes his eyes, protraying the sleep of death.

    Chorus:

    He will be together with his love again someday. He's death only changes when they will be together again, not his love or presence.
    bn97068on September 29, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe part about tasting saltwater has always struck me as referring to tears. It's as if the saltwater tastes familiar because he's cried.
    redwingchikon December 31, 2010   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationThis song touched me in that it put words to a world I had lived through that described my perceptions.
    I had fallen in love with a beautiful woman who stole my very soul away in every good way possible. I was a battlefield medic in Afghanistan two back to back tours. She didn't understand my frustrations at the loss of life in war, the things I was seeing and doing. And at the time I couldn't say much to her for security, but I grew so angry and felt myself being chipped away at all that war was and how I couldn't save them all and how powerless I felt. I vented my frustrations on the rare moments she and I were able to actually speak via telephone. She was pregnant with my first child and there were major complications with Lupis. In the end we had to term the pregnancy to save her. It got rough, it got so painful to deal with and I couldn't be with her by her side to help her and it felt like paradise and joy had been detached as if your arm suddenly came apart from you and slowly floating away where all I could do was watch. She left me in a dear john email and this is where this song come in for me. My world felt like a horrible day dream filled with all good of things.

    The stars up above, directionless and drifting we're my beautiful hope and dreams and the potential at the future. The dark and sirens and thunder was the war and I was floating, drifting through it all around me, so very present observing things that just couldn't be real but unable to affect any of it.

    And rusting far below me
    Battered hulls and broken hardships
    Leviathan and Lonely
    I was thirsty so I drank....
    This were more of the horrors that my life had turned to. Memories, loss, pain better left alone. I came back from the war, and even though I had friends and family around me, and an different and amazing ex girlfriend who wanted to be with me, I never felt so alone in my entire life. I was desperate and felt the world spinning around me. I needed someone and this girl wanted to be with me, so I let her in ever so slowly. I was thirsty so I drank (love) and there was something bout the way it tasted so familiar.

    The black clouds I'm hanging
    This anchor I'm dragging
    The sails of memory rip open in silence
    We cut through the lowlands
    All hands through the salt lands
    The white caps of memory
    Confusing and violent

    This is the memories the guilt the pain the decisions I made that I can't ever forget. The ghosts that haunt me. The bodies the blood the loss, the explosions, gun fire, my child, my love, things I could have done better. Every single day was and sometimes is a battle in a world I knew before I left but can't recognize when I came back. Innocence lost. Knowing the cost of life, knowing the things that truly matter, and seeing those around me worry about the temperature of their Starbucks, if traffic was annoying, how long it took to get the food you ordered but didn't like so ended up throwing it all away, how 'hot' it was this summer.
    "The sails of memory rip open in silence" things and thoughts only I and those who served understand silently an island to ourselves.

    I had a dream last night
    And when I opened my eyes
    Your shoulder blade, your spine
    Were shorelines in the moon light
    New worlds for the weary
    New lands for the living
    I could make it if I tried
    I closed my eyes I kept on swimming

    This is two fold. On one hand I always think about the woman who left me, because I will always love her just as fiercely as I ever had. Because she touched my soul and she will always be a part of me that I will miss...do miss daily, and small things in life around me remind me of her very much every single day. A bitter sweet curse I suppose.
    On the other hand,

    "New lands for the living
    I could make it if I tried
    I closed my eyes I kept on swimming"

    This is the life I have now to live. The gift that so many others can't have anymore. The amazing woman that has been there for me I have grown to love too. The life I can have right now.
    "I could make it if I tried." Maybe I could forget it all, but a part of me doesn't want to. I am a witness to the things I saw and lived. I remember their faces. I know hard truths. To forget them would be to dishonor them, would be to erase them and their existence. To forget love would be to forget myself.
    "I closed my eyes I kept on swimming" this would mean to me as I have done to simply find a way to keep on going

    Time, love, time, love, it's only a change of time.
    Corpsman09355on February 24, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI heard Josh in an interview talking about coming to a point where he knows music is what he will be doing for the rest of his life. I heard this song after this and made a connection. I thing the ocean is the music business. What he sees below 'the drifters who've" gone under are those who didn't make it in this business. The stars above direction less and drifting are those who have achieved super stardom but have lives that are empty. He is just trying to stay afloat and the woman in the bed with him is his best chance at staying grounded. I have no idea if this is correct, but it's my best guess.
    sracoleon May 25, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI've got nothing to offer except that I love Josh's use of alliteration in:

    Your shoulder blade, your spine
    Were shorelines in the moon light
    New worlds for the weary
    New lands for the living

    I think this song is about waking up next to the person you love - looking at their face and beautiful features, you realize just how lucky you are, that before you were "directionless and drifting" among the high seas, you have at last made it to the shores.
    Absolutely spellbinding, and Josh reprises the motif of discovery and ships here.
    Skylarkinon January 14, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentYour shoulder blade, your spine
    Were shorelines in the moon light
    New worlds for the weary
    New lands for the living

    This isn't only great alliteration but it reminds me a lot of the idea of bad actress, where her body comprises the entirety of the world (oceans and continents), but whereas the metaphorical voyage in bad actress is doomed to fail, this one seems genuine. These songs really seem incredibly similar, especially in the idea of a confused, drifting dream.

    Though her eyes are big as Canada
    And the hips are South Australia
    And the shoulder blade is Africa
    Looking out on South America
    Im out here on the sea
    And her heart aint where it oughta be...
    Now my apartment lies awake at night
    It tosses every time she sighs

    I hesitate to assume that the narrator in both songs is the same, or that either of these can be ascribed to Ritter's own life/thoughts, but the successful love (destination?) in change of time might reflect the fact that he's now in love and married, not still searching.
    tpeverett1on January 25, 2011   Link

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