We picked our way
Down to the beach
Watching the waves dragging out of our reach
Tangling tails, like a sodden sheet
Dangling entrails from the gut of the sea

Hoarding our meals
Alfalfa and rolls
Trying not to catch the cold eye of the gulls
I hope Mother Nature has not overheard
Though she doles out hurt like a puking bird

We stayed for the winter
No-one told us about the laws of the land
I hold my own
But you, with your hunger
You, on the other hand
Make yourself known

And when we were found
I know we both grieved
My heart made the sound of snow falling from eaves
You and me, Bess, we was as thick as thieves
So I swore nonetheless up and down, it was only me

So they took me away
And after some time
Studying my case, must have made up their minds
By the time you realized I was dying
Must have been too late, I believe you were not lying

It is the day
I wake, with my ears cocked up like a gun
Like every day, of course
Yanked by my wrists
To the sugar-front courtyard
Now tell me, what have I done
It seems I have stolen a horse and
I step to the gallows
Who do you think that you are
Arching your hooves like a crane,
In the shallow gutters
That lights the boulevards,
Crowded with folks who just

Stare as I hang
It's all the same
Kindness comes over me, what was your name
It makes no difference, I'm glad that you came
Forever I'll listen to your glad neighing


Lyrics submitted by theboydetective

You and Me, Bess song meanings
Add your thoughts

8 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +3
    General CommentI can't even read the lyrics without getting emotional.
    Fuck.
    MilkForWhaleson January 22, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think some of the lyrics might be wrong.

    We picked our way
    down to the beach,
    watching the waves
    dragging out of our reach:
    tangling tails, like a sodden sheet;
    dangling entrails
    from the gut of the sea.

    Hoarding our meals (alfalfa and rolls);
    trying not to catch
    the cold eyes of the gulls--
    I hope Mother Nature has not
    overheard!
    (Though, she doles out hurt
    like a puking bird.)

    We stayed for the winter.
    No-one told us
    about the laws of the land.
    I hold my own.
    But you, with your hunger--
    you, on the other hand--
    make yourself known.

    And when we were found,
    I know we both grieved.
    My heart made the sound of
    snow falling from eaves.
    You and me, Bess,
    we were as thick as thieves.
    So I swore, nonetheless, up and down,
    it was only me.
    They took me away,
    and, after some time
    studying my case,
    must have made up their minds.
    By the time you realized I was dying,
    it must have been too late.
    I believe you were not lying.

    It is the day.
    I wake,
    with my ears cocked up like a gun
    (like every day, of course),
    yanked by my wrists
    to the sugar-front courtyard--
    now tell me, what have I done?
    It seems I have stolen a horse.
    I step to the gallows.

    Who do you think you are--
    arching your hooves like a crane,
    in the shallow gutter
    that lines the boulevards,
    crowded with folks
    who just stare as I hang?
    It's all the same.
    Kindness comes over me;
    what was your name?
    It makes no difference.
    I'm glad that you came.
    Forever, I'll listen to your glad neighing.


    In any case, this might be my favorite song on the album, at the moment at least. I don't know what crime she and Bess have committed, though.
    overlyelectricalon February 26, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song is heartbreaking.

    It makes no difference.
    I'm glad that you came.
    Forever, I'll listen to your glad neighing.

    Those lyrics evoke such a hopeless feeling

    The song itself to play on the piano feels so fluid. the chord progression goes through so many unexpected chords; but always comes back to c major.
    cornishrexon September 25, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Commenten.wikisource.org/wiki/…
    Jlayon March 01, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is clearly about dick turpin and black bess, but i think (as in so much of her other work) that joanna is relating this story to the narrator's own in a way. she (the narrator) feels as if she has lost herself, that a part of her has died with the previous tragic events. given her penchant for dreaming, i think that perhaps this song could actually be about a dream that our narrator has in which she is turpin. i'm sure everyone knows how dreams can sometimes feel more vivid and real than waking life, and also, how in dreams, a person can experience being someone else entirely. that could be what's going on here, but again, that's just my two cents.

    to me, this is by far one of the most poignant songs on the album. the imagery is so strong: one can completely picture the pair standing on a lonesome beach, looking out at a looming, unfriendly sea in which the waves "[drag] out of [their] reach, tangling tails, like a sodden sheet, dangling entrails from the gut of the sea." the line, "my heart made the sound of snow falling from eaves" strikes me as particularly sad. i feel like, once again, that's the sort of sentiment or occurrence that would make plenty of sense when one is dreaming, but seem sort of "off" when that person is awake.

    the thought of turpin being in prison and in such a fragile mental state that he can't remember exactly why is very hard-hitting. i picture him there, with a vague memory of a friend with whom he was as "thick as thieves," unable to recall details or remember anything more. then, when bess intuitively shows up for his hanging, he recognizes her, but can't remember her name. he realizes, in the last moment of his life, that her name doesn't matter: what matters is the strong feelings of warmth and kindness that her presence evokes in him. the song is truly touching.

    ericaruthon September 19, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentNow it almost sounds like the horse betrayed her at the end? It sounds like her and the horse were cohorts and when she got caught and arrested as a horse thief, Bess didn't corroborate her story. She first assumes Bess has not betrayed her: "by the time you realized I was dying, must have been to late I believe you were not lying." Then Bess shows up to the hanging and the speaker realizes she is letting her go down. The last few lines are heartbreaking where she is forgiving Bess as she dies and is just content to reminisce; "forever I'll listen to your glad neighing."

    It puts in my head the image of a little girl who goes out playing with a horse, riding around and letting her imagination run wild, believing that her and the horse are best friends. Then she gets in trouble with her parents for taking the horse out and suddenly, the spell is broken and it ceases to be her accomplice and just becomes a regular horse again. She is heartbroken at the betrayal. Don't you remember all the adventures we were just on together? Can't you tell them we were in on it together? Nope just a horse.

    A line that stuck out to me:

    "Dangling entrails from the gut of the sea"
    My first thought is what the hell is she talking about here. Then I get the imagery of a horse dragging seaweed along the beach. I love how she always has a way of saying things like no one else would. It reminds me of the line from monkey and bear, "And with a sigh, she allowed the burden of belly to drop like an apron full of boulders." Which is a poetic way to say that bear took a shit.
    LogicStromon September 23, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI've always felt that the song was also a reference to the Lars von Trier film, 'Breaking the waves'. The line, "You and me, Bess" is in the film! If anyone has watched it, the first stanza mimics the opening visuals heavily, and the last stanza, the last scene.
    coriandercaton February 26, 2015   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI believe this song is about Gallant Bess, which was a horse that was rescued by a naval sailor in WWII, who was from Grass Valley (a town connected to Joanna's hometown of Nevada City). This would seem to play into the connections surrounding Nevada City in many of her songs, especially HOOM, which seems very connected to her home.
    ilovejnon January 02, 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