"Written on the Forehead" as written by and Polly / Harvey....
People throwing dinars at the belly-dancers
In a sad circus by a trench of burning oil
People throw belongings; a lifetime's earnings
Amongst the scattered rubbish and suitcases on the sidewalk

Take palms and orange and tangerine trees
With eyes that're crying for everything
(Let it burn! Let it burn, burn, burn)

So I talked to an old man by the generator
He was standing on the gravel by the fetid river
He turned to me and answered, "Baby, see."
Said, "War is here in our beloved city"

So I jumped in the river and tried to swim away
Through tons of sewage; they had written on their foreheads
Take palms and orange and tangerine trees
With eyes that're crying for everything

Let it burn, let it burn!
Let it burn, let it burn!
Let it burn, let it burn!
Let it burn, let it burn!


Lyrics submitted by queenofhz

"Written on the Forehead" as written by Winston Holness Polly Harvey

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Written on the Forehead song meanings
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11 Comments

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  • +1
    General CommentFishbellyface, you botched the lyrics a little too. This is a correct version as far as I can hear:

    ----

    People throwing dinars at the belly-dancers
    in a sad circus by a trench of burning oil
    people throw belongings and lifetimes' earnings
    amongst the scattered rubbish
    and suitcases on the sidewalk

    Date palms and orange and tangerine trees
    and eyes are crying for everything
    (Let it burn, let it burn, let it burn, burn, burn)

    So I turned to an old man by the generator
    he was standing on the gravel by the fetid river
    he turned to me and then surveyed the scene
    said, "War is here in our beloved city."
    (Let it burn, let it burn burn burn)

    Some dove in the river and tried to swim away
    through tons of sewage, fate written on their foreheads

    Date palms and orange and tangerine trees
    and eyes are crying for everything
    (Let it burn, let it burn, let it burn, burn, burn)

    (Blood, blood, blood, blood and fire)

    ---

    The main changes being "date palms", "some dove into the water" (which makes a lot more sense than doves swimming about) and the "blood and fire" loop at the end.

    This is a truly excellent song I think, probably the best on the entire album. It is pretty obvious to me it is about war coming to a Middle Eastern or North African city. Maybe the attacks on Beirut in 2006? People are fleeing or have already fled, leaving their belongings scattered about. It might also be a sign of bombing or general chaos, no one cares any more about stuff that used to be valuable.

    People (women, children?) are crying from fear and/or about the destruction around them, their lives and everything they knew being torn apart. The burning oil trench might be from a burst pipeline during the attack and the generator means that the electricity grid is down. The belly dancers at the beginning implies that the immediate danger is over and people are distracting themselves with what entertainment there is to be had.

    The phrase about the river is what intrigues me. Why swim away if there is no immediate danger? Maybe all bridges have been bombed, and it is the only way to cross? And why are their fates written on their foreheads? Because the river is so dirty they will die of poisoning or illness? That sounds very unpoetic. Perhaps the other side of the river is controlled by enemy forces and they will be caught and executed? I don't know.

    The song fits well into the war theme that is apparent in many of the other tracks on the album. Excellent stuff.
    OhHowToDoNowon February 18, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think this song is about the battle of Galipolli in Turkey, at least 3 other songs on this album are- the setting makes sense to this as well i think...
    hanginginthewireon May 25, 2011   Link
  • 0
    Lyric CorrectionThese lyrics are pretty botched.

    Here are the lyrics:

    People throwing dinars at the belly-dancers
    in a sad circus by a trench of burning oil
    people throw belongings and lifetimes earnings
    amongst the scattered rubbish
    and suitcases on the sidewalk

    Date, palms, and orange and tangerine trees
    and eyes are crying for everything
    (Let it burn, let it burn, let it burn, burn, burn)

    So I turned to an old man by the generator
    he was standing on the gravel by the fetid river
    he turned to me and then surveyed the scene
    said, �War is here in our beloved city.�
    (Let it burn, let it burn burn burn)

    Saw doves in the river who tried to swim away
    through tons of sewage, fate written on their foreheads

    Date, palms, and orange and tangerine trees
    and eyes are crying for everything
    (Let it burn, let it burn, let it burn, burn, burn)

    Good-good-good-good-good-bye.
    fishbellyfaceon December 04, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentFishbellyface, those ARE the correct lyrics.

    So what does this song mean? War? Maybe it talks about the cold war?
    stentorianon December 09, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Commentit's not all world war I themed, pj harvey has said so herself.
    yurigon May 18, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Commentwhat is the man saying? i don't think it's "good bye"
    yurigon May 18, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Commentoh, blood and fire. never mind.
    yurigon May 18, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Commentoh, blood and fire. never mind.
    yurigon May 18, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Commentso strange the timing of the release of this song- 'dinars' are a common middle-easern/north african currenct but they just make me think of Libya where they are used, obviously this song predated the conflict there but still... creepy
    hanginginthewireon February 03, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI looovvveee the ambience of this song... I can feel the compassion she has for these people and it makes me love her as the artist she is. She is telling it like it is. Just like you guys are interpreting it to be.
    GrungyBeatleon March 01, 2012   Link

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