"On Battleship Hill" as written by and Polly / Harvey....
The scent of thyme carried on the wind,
Stings my face into remembering
Cruel nature has won again.
Cruel nature has won again.

On Battleship Hill's caved in trenches,
A hateful feeling still lingers,
Even now, eighty years later.
Cruel nature.
Cruel, cruel nature.

The land returns to how it has always been.
Thyme carried on the wind.
Jagged mountains, jutting out,
Cracked like teeth in a rotten mouth.
On Battleship Hill I hear the wind,
Say "Cruel nature has won again."
Cruel nature has won again.
Cruel nature has won again.
Cruel nature has won again.

Lyrics submitted by stentorian

"On Battleship Hill" as written by Polly Harvey

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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On Battleship Hill song meanings
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  • +5
    My InterpretationThe song is about someone who has been reminded of the 1915-1916 trench wars at Gallipoli. Herbs were used to counter the smell of death. This person has smelled a scent of Thyme and has been reminded (by cruel nature's scent) of that terrible time. Why PJ says that it has been 80 years I don't know. Perhaps the person is visiting Battleship Hill in 1995 or 1996 (or standing in their Australian kitchen in 1995 or 1996)or PJ wrote the song in 1995 or 1996 and has only just found a place for it on her concept album.
    AlanHogg1on March 12, 2011   Link
  • +5
    My InterpretationI love this song, I think its making a point about how life goes on after tragedy. Really poignant i think.
    Reference to 'nature' i think is man's nature not the earth's; it is man's nature to brutally kill, fight in wars etc.
    hanginginthewireon May 02, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General Commentthat's interesting hanginginthewire. or it could mean that cruel nature has won out over good nature again.
    yurigon May 18, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI love how PJ's voice sounds on this one, specially on the last "Cruel nature has won again."
    ceciqiuon March 31, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General Commenthistory of thyme from wikipedia

    "Ancient Egyptians used thyme for embalming. The ancient Greeks used it in their baths and burnt it as incense in their temples, believing that thyme was a source of courage.

    It was thought that the spread of thyme throughout Europe was thanks to the Romans, as they used it to purify their rooms and to "give an aromatic flavour to cheese and liqueurs".

    In the European Middle Ages, the herb was placed beneath pillows to aid sleep and ward off nightmares. In this period, women would also often give knights and warriors gifts that included thyme leaves as it was believed to bring courage to the bearer.

    Thyme was also used as incense and placed on coffins during funerals as it was supposed to assure passage into the next life."
    amandaribon August 15, 2011   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI love this song. It a reminder for me of how life goes on, even when your life goes bad.
    RunaBlusson March 27, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI defy anyone to listen to this song and not cry.
    To me it defines the true meaning of memorial days such as ANZAC day here in Australia - beyond all the flag toting and children too young to understand marching in their forebears medals.

    My great-grandfather who raised my mother was the only male survivor of his siblings of the first world war. He had four brothers. The only reason he didn't die was because he was too young to go. It really brings home the message of the slaughter that was world war one - when I heard this song I thought of him and how he would have reacted. He was a farmer - a scottish crofter. He would have understood the references to nature at a deep level. It seems all the more sad to me that the generation who went through that will never hear this song. Never hear that we still remember them.
    clareakon May 03, 2012   Link
  • +1
    My OpinionI was never sure but thought the song was about growning old and people pondering their life. Also that time catches up on all of us, hence 'cruel nature wins again'.
    derek52956on January 19, 2015   Link
  • +1
    General Commentcould be about the continuity of wars and brutality throughout generations
    aabsoon January 05, 2016   Link

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