"Riverside" as written by and Agnes Obel....
Down by the river by the boats
Where everybody goes to be alone
Where you won't see any rising sun
Down to the river we will run

When by the water we drinks to the dregs
Look at the stones on the riverbed
I can tell from your eyes
You've never been by the riverside

Down by the water the riverbed
Somebody calls you somebody says
Swim with the current and float away
Down by the river every day

Oh my god I see how everything is torn in the river deep
And I don't know why I go the way
Down by the riverside

When that old river runs past your eyes
To wash off the dirt on the riverside
Go to the water so every near
The river will be your eyes and ears

I walk to the borders on my own
Fall in the water just like a stone
Chilled to the marrow in them bones
Why do I go here alone

Oh my god I see how everything is torn in the river deep
And I don't know why I go the way
Down by the riverside

Oh my god I see how everything is torn in the river deep
And I don't know why I go the way
Down by the riverside

Oh oh
Ah ah ah
Oh oh
Ah ah ah

Oh oh
Ah ah ah

Down by the riverside

Down by the riverside


Lyrics submitted by LilyBear

"Riverside" as written by Agnes Caroline Thaarup Obel

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Riverside song meanings
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10 Comments

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  • +5
    My InterpretationThe beauty of this song, for me, lay in the myriad of ways in which it could be interpreted. Everyone I know sees it differently. For me personally, as a person dealing with severe anxiety attacks and violent episodes, it seems to relate with the loss of control, the return to the primitive. An almost conscious choice to sink back down the spiral and edge down to the riverside. It's an oddly peaceful sounding song, but, like Blue Caravan, it leaves me with a sense of disquiet.
    abscondituson January 04, 2012   Link
  • +3
    General CommentSo surprised nobody has commented!
    This is such a lovely song,
    so peaceful.
    fearlessforeveron August 10, 2011   Link
  • +3
    My InterpretationI think the only meaning that fits all the verses is that the river is the life, and the riverside is a state of meditation about the life.

    The first strophe talks about the death, illustrated by the down of the river, where everybody goes to be alone, where you wont see any rising sun.

    The second strophe is a picture about the carpe diem philosophy. When you drink to the dregs, is because you have never meditated about the life meaning (the riverside).

    The third strophe retracts the influence some people have over others on determining the sense of the life.

    The fourth strophe talks about when we deceive ourselves, then the life (the river) comes and washes our eyes.

    The fifth strophe is a reflection about when we face the life after meditating so much about it.

    The chorus is a meta-reflection, a reflection about why the writer is reflecting. "I see how everything is torn in the river deep, I don't know why I go the way down by the riverside" would mean something like "Nothing makes sense, I don't know why I keep on meditating".

    Of course, this is my vision about the song meaning. I consider it could be perfectly interpreted as the thoughts of commit suicide, or attacks of anxiety.
    spukyeson October 21, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General CommentFor me, the riverside refers to a place where a person can reflect, think or simply forget and allow herself/himself to get carried away by the sight and sound of running water.

    A place where one can just be. (that's how i feel when i listen to this song)

    The line "I see how everything is torn in the river, deep" could mean that despite the seeming peace you find by the riverside, not everything is all happy and smiles. Each person has a story to tell or has a personal struggle which he/she must overcome. One cant hide by the riverside. In the end, a person must face his/her demons. Maybe the river itself can be a source of destruction. Maybe it has laid witness to life, in all its color.
    inglestixon December 30, 2011   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationDown by the river by the boats
    Where everybody goes to be alone
    Where you wont see any rising sun
    Down to the river we will run

    This is the place you hide from the world. It's your place where you think, and where you survive the daily things (It's a place in your mind). It isn't a nice place, but you can't escape to anywhere else.

    When by the water we drink to the dregs
    Look at the stones on the river bed
    I can tell from your eyes
    You've never been by the riverside

    You drink the dregs (The bad thoughts comes into your mind). The stones in the river are a symbol of all the mistakes you make (You aren't clean or straight). People don't understand your place, they don't see the things you feel inside. When you tell them about the "place" they look confused and don't understand that a place like that exist.

    Down by the water the riverbed
    Somebody calls you somebody says
    Swim with the current and float away
    Down by the river everyday

    Somebody talks to you, but they can't get through to you. You swim in the river and you float away. (You float away from the positive things) Your "place" isn't just an escape anymore, it's the only place in existence.

    "Oh my God I see how everything is torn in the river deep
    And I don't know why I go the way"

    You realize (or remember) how it used to be, and you don't understand why you can't go back to how it was.

    "When that old river runs pass your eyes
    To wash off the dirt on the riverside
    Go to the water so very near
    The river will be your eyes and ears"

    The old river is your old thoughts (old life). You see it passes by and it cleans the river for a moment (Your thoughts turns good for a moment). But you listen and see the old life with a different view than you used to (Maybe a view that makes it look bad).

    I walk to the borders on my own
    To fall in the water just like a stone
    Chilled to the marrow in them bones
    Why do I go here all alone

    You're alone with the thoughts. You fall deep and hard (Like a stone).
    You feel relaxed (Maybe a try to kill yourself?). And at last you ask yourself, why you did it, when you know that there's another way. But you can't do it alone.

    For me the song explains: the place I go when I get afraid or just feel empty inside (I'm labeled as depressed). People often don't understand my thoughts, or why I'm thinking about suicide almost everyday. (Even though I might not attempt again) - I don't let them be a part of that life, because most people don't understand why I get so nervous.

    In a way I don't want to feel happy, because it frightens me. I feel a safety in the river, and I can't just let it go. So I feel that I can relate to this song.

    Sorry for being so negative. It's such a lovely song. Agnes Obel is a great artist.
    DenmarkESCon June 24, 2013   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI have another interpretation. It was the first thought through my mind when I heared the song.

    ---

    Down by the river by the boats
    Where everybody goes to be alone
    Where you wont see any rising sun
    Down to the river we will run

    This verse reffers to the afterlife. The river is the river that you need to pass to come in the real afterlife (or underworld, like Charon the shipper etcetera). So that explains the boats too. While you need to pass the river, there isn't any sun there. Maybe its afterlife, maybe the unterworld... but maybe both dont have rising sun (anymore).
    You'll be alone there, like many people say: we all die alone.

    ---

    When by the water we drink to the dregs
    Look at the stones on the river bed
    I can tell from your eyes
    You've never been by the riverside

    But then it gets weird, ofcourse you didn't been by the riverside, you only can die once... So maybe the narrator is Charon the shipper, or another figure that stays there. Drink the dregs is coming to insight in the situation. Maybe realising that you/he/she is dead.

    --

    Down by the water the riverbed
    Somebody calls you somebody says
    Swim with the current and float away
    Down by the river everyday

    So just flow with the river to the afterlife, dont hestitate and dont stay too long in the 'grey area'. Just flow with it, get on the ship, let Charon shit you to the afterlife. The last sentence doesn't make sense with this interpretation... why everyday?

    ---

    Oh my God I see how everything is torn in the river deep
    And I don't know why I go the way

    And then the narrator sees its done. Life IS done, its over and its time to move on. But she does see the pain. Then (i dont know why i go the way) the narrator thinks: why am i going to the afterlife? I want back to my life!

    ---

    When that old river runs pass your eyes
    To wash off the dirt on the riverside
    Go to the water so very near
    The river will be your eyes and ears

    old river = old life. People say the see the their life flashes through their eyes, i think that the narrator means that with the old river pass through her eyes.
    Life is done, so it the 'dirt' both literaty as a figure of speech washes away, its time for a new life. Cant figure out the last two sentences though.

    ---

    I walk to the borders on my own
    To fall in the water just like a stone
    Chilled to the marrow in them bones
    Why do I go here all alone

    Again alone, you die alone so you need to do it alone. Borders? maybe she still didn't got on the ship and tried to 'swim'. But that isnt possible, you NEED the ship, so she will sink in the river and feels the cold in her bones. Cold can refer to actual water of the death, like cold bodies.

    Last sentence: still wondering why she is alone, she recognises she is death, but why alone? Why not together with her loved ones?

    ---

    Maybe I'm just wrong, but I needed to share it with you :) I would be happy the see any comments.
    KingofSpadeson February 02, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI partly agree with KingofSpades and Spukyes, yet my interpretation is that the song talks about enlightment and becoming more self-conscious or self-aware!

    Especially this part:

    When that old river runs pass your eyes
    To wash off the dirt on the riverside
    Go to the water so very near
    The river will be your eyes and ears
    Arthaszon February 17, 2017   Link
  • 0
    My OpinionI think that the song is about committing suicide
    asdfghjkl523on April 29, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is obviously about depression. It describes perfectly how it feels like... If you've ever been depressed, you know that is just like the "riverside".
    isaaaaon June 17, 2015   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI believe this song is about being homeless and coming to realise everything in ones life is torn apart. The river is all you have. Perhaps living in the dark refers to always hiding from the world and to avoid being stigmatised and criminalised.

    Addiction and drugs overtake you and the thought of suicide is summoning.
    Remainsnamelesson December 26, 2016   Link

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