"Give Up the Ghost" as written by and Thomas Edward/greenwood Yorke....
Don't hurt me
Don't hurt me
Don't hurt me

Don't hurt me
Gather up the lost and sold (don't hurt me)

In your arms (don't hurt me)
In your arms (don't hurt me)

Gather up the pitiful (don't hurt me)

In your arms (don't hurt me)
In your arms (don't hurt me)

In your arms (don't hurt me)
In your arms (don't hurt me)

What seems impossible (don't hurt me)

In your arms (don't hurt me)

I think I have had my fill (don't hurt me)

In your arms (don't hurt me)
In your arms (don't hurt me)
In your arms (don't hurt me)
In your arms (don't hurt me)

I think I should give up the ghost (don't hurt me)

In your arms (don't hurt me)
In your arms (don't hurt me)
In your arms (don't hurt me)
In your arms (don't hurt me)
In your arms (don't hurt me)
In your arms (don't hurt me)
In your arms (don't hurt me)
In your arms (don't hurt me)


Lyrics submitted by maggotbrain, edited by urwellkeen

"Give Up the Ghost" as written by Edward John O'brien Colin Charles Greenwood

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Give Up the Ghost song meanings
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  • +16
    General CommentThis song is the pinnacle of the message in this album.

    The entire span of the album, each song has a repeating rhythmic/harmonic figure that is consistent throughout the song, but evolves over time. This idea of repetition is "haunting" in itself, and relates to the idea of experiences and thoughts. What is "lost and sold" are the pieces of ourselves we have forgotten or chosen to forget, the "pitiful" our regrets, and the "impossible" our personal limits that define us.

    Even though we dislike characteristics or events in our lives, everything that happens to us becomes apart of us, and as we evaluate ourselves and reflect on our lives, we realize that the things we want to expel or to give up make us who we are. How then can we possibly "give up the ghost", or move on from these thoughts and experiences we'd rather forget, when they become apart of who we are?

    It is the ultimate irony and truth: we dwell on things and "have our fill" in order to move on, and although we are the same person we were when we endured these events, we have evolved through our experiences and reflections.

    matchboxmatton February 19, 2011   Link
  • +7
    General CommentIs he alternating between "don't haunt" and "don't hurt?"
    Igorismon February 18, 2011   Link
  • +4
    My InterpretationI've put a lot of thought into the album, and I believe that the last four tracks (beginning with Lotus Flower, when the style of the album noticeably shifts) are meant to be taken together: as but flashes of a single redemptive journey. The tale feels like a very personal tale: the tale of Thom (a well-known dreamer and discontent of modern society; all its superficiality, banality, alienation) as he struggles to come to terms with society, and once again rediscover his love of mankind.

    Here's the narrative, in detail, as I see it:

    Lotus Flower: about his time among the “Lotus Eaters” — i.e. the superficial and befuddled masses. Begins the track by talking about his feelings of alienation and apathy with respect to them (“I will shape myself into your pocket // Invisible // Do what you want” —Followed By-- “I will shrink and I will disappear // I will slip into the groove and cut me off”)

    But, a real artist is never truly cut off from society: yes, he necessarily becomes distant from mankind (“There's an empty space inside my heart...”); but only because he's compelled to reflect upon it; and help mankind transcend itself (...“and now I'll set you free”) and realize the beauty of the world that could be, if only they woke up one day and made the choice — “Just to see what if // Just to see what is...”

    He became an artist to escape reality and banal consumer society: but keeps on coming back to it (“I can't kick your habit”); keeps on writing for the people's sake, “Just to fill your fast ballooning head”; keeps imploring them to “Listen to your heart”, and retreat with him into shared artistic sublime: “We will shrink and we'll be quiet as mice // And while the cat is away (i.e. the “prowl” of marketing and banal consumer culture) // Do what we want”. (Note that it's “we” now — he's lost the apathy of “Do what you want”; the Nirvana-esque “whatever, nevermind”.)

    He ends the track by noting the madness of his task, that timeless desire to help society transcend itself through art (“I dance around the pit // The darkness is beneath”) — but ultimately reaffirms his conviction, repeating: “I can't kick your habit // Just to feed your fast ballooning head // Listen to your heart.”

    Codex: The flipside of Lotus Flowers — for (although it's trite to say) one can never love mankind without first loving oneself. He affirms not only that it's OK to be who he is (“No one gets hurt // You've done nothing wrong”) and cause ripples in the “water” of society (“Jump off the end”): but more profoundly that he, that mankind, are fundamentally innocent. No original sin, no shameful human nature, nothing blameworthy looming over him. No need to seek external justifications for one's life, be it God or State or consumer products: for the beauty of and madness of life justifies itself. “The water's clear // And innocent”

    Give Up the Ghost: Back to his experience as an artist. The background chant (alternating between “Don't hurt me” and “Don't haunt me”) represent the fears and insecurities looping always through his mind as he struggles, by being an artist, in his embrace of humanity. He resolves to gather in his arms “the lost and sold” and “the pitiful” — a feat that “while it seems impossible” he thinks he's “had his fill” of contempt and bitterness towards the pitiful masses. And, in a single profound moment, he realizes it's time to “give up the ghost”: as a cascade of “into your arms” begins. A second loop, falling into the embrace of a million arms, cascading into the “innocent” waters of the previous song, a loop able to overwhelming the initial fearful one (“Don't hurt/haunt me...“).

    Separator: The conclusion and celebration of the journey just outlined. As his perspective shifts after giving up the Ghost, “It's like I'm falling out of bed // From a long, weary dream.” He is rediscovering what he loves in mankind (“The sweetest flowers and fruits hang from trees”) as he's “falling off the giant bird that's been carrying me” (the cold, detached, “birds-eye” perspective from which he's been looking down at and passing judgment without love.) There is no greater burden than being a judge, and now: “Finally I'm free of all the weight I've been carrying”

    Albeit, he does admit that's he's still suffers from artistic detachment, in returning to Codex's water metaphor (“I'm a fish now // out of water”) — i.e. he'll always be better suited to looking from above into the water's reflection than to living truly in it: but now, at least, it's from the perspective of another fish — not a bird. He is one of them, and gazes into the innocent water with love, even if he'll never truly be able to join his contemporaries in it.

    Finally, he concludes by assuring us that he'll keep up the good fight, despite it all: for, rather than being “just a number”: “I want to tip it over // And lay back under” — i.e. turn his callous and indifferent era on its head; and after the madness and violence of social upheaval is over, be able to re-enter its fold — innocent, eternally innocent. His concluding statement (“And if you think this is over // Then you're wrong”) is doubly powerful for being sung over a chant of “Wake me up, wake me up” — the timeless cries of a people, impoverished of body and soul, waiting for artists and visionaries to awaken them to the beauty of the world they have the potential to create.

    Comments/critique of my interpretation much welcomed. Obvious DOT Pseudonym at-gmail-dot-com
    MrPseudonymon June 28, 2011   Link
  • +3
    My InterpretationRadiohead songs in loops on her headphones: It is her way to write a book about the big walk to the
    Tree of Life. She also trains children to be true to them selves & the other (‘Rock & Water’-programme)
    & true to our earth (bo3m).

    SongMeaning: ‘Give up the Ghost/Separator’
    In her youth Bo embraces the lost, sold and pitiful. She pulls newcomers into the group and chases bullies away.

    She has recurring dreams in which she learns how to fly, evolves into a seagull and leaves her flock behind to fly far over the horizon.

    At her 20th, she looses her ego completely walking alone in the autumn forest. For an amount of time there is just oneness, before her ego slowly wakes up again.

    When she is 24, Bo sits in a big tree near the river in the Ardennes. Her friends talk about future dreams. On the melody of their words, the Flow of Life unfurls before her eyes. Seeing all her lives, her foregoers and destiny: she looses her mind.

    She marries, works at the university, becomes a mother of two suns and one moon.

    When she is 36, her flying dreams become very lucid. When she looks at herself from above, she watches a giant bird. Then a low resounding voice, coming from deep within the universe, tells her:
    “Bo, write a book for God. With God as the director and you as the bow.”
    “Why me, I am an atheistic biologist?”
    “To save Al-life on Earth.”

    In 2008 she tries to E-bow the letter from 1998, but she looses her mind in fear of this fame thing and this star thing. Bo forgets her bag, with eraser banner, in the crowd.

    Today bow is facing the impossible. Aligning source-words with worldsoul-views for years now, she understands what is needed to say to the people: “There is no heaven in the skies, humankind can only build it here on earth.” But how can she produce words that both atheists & fundamentalists understand? And how can she reach the heart of mankind when their old-fashioned ego minds still control their souls with fear?

    Thom has had his fill; he thinks he should give up the ghost.
    Bow answers him with a card of the teachings of the Tree of Life, the evolution of spirit
    ( ‘the Power Deck’ of Lynn Andrews/card painting Rob Schouten) card nr. 35 = Time:

    ‘Journey’s End’ for our old time. Fish out of water

    “Heart is calling Spirit. She answers with one possible future view. Both God and Mother Earth show the same thing. God is coming to walk the earth again with us. We have to prepare our planet to welcome the beholder. Every new moon everybody from 8 years and older can build his/her unique piece of heaven on earth by doing or making a project that is good for them-selves, good for the other and good for the earth. We build after our own range. Next full moon we show our parents, our neighbourhood, or the world what we did or made. We are free to choose and all our lives will depend on it. Will Heart and Spirit reach the hearts of humankind in time?”


    Thank you Jamie Sams for explaining what I am going through. Ma-bo.
    Thank you Ramal Silat for healing my soul by showing me that I was allowed to love my 11 year old self,
    also the unexpressed, unadjusted part and become whole again. See ye friend.
    And thank you Radiohead, for helping me through the dark night of soul with ‘In Rainbows’. Maybelin eyes meet yours…
    bo3m21on April 11, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWay I see this song is simple really. The "Ghost" is the fear we live out suppressing our shadow selves. It doesn't make sense to live that way. I think the album is how we come to understand what we're afraid of and realizing how to let go of that. Whatever weight we foolishly place on our backs we don't deserve to carry.
    MP3on February 19, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWhat I get from this song is the urge alot of people feel (and it seems Thom Yorke, in all his politics, feels especially) to bring relief and comfort ("gather up... in your arms") to the poor, the suffering, and the helpless (hence "don't hurt me," the cry of a victim who has no other means of defense). In other words, if you've ever felt guilty for not being able to give every homeless person you see on the street a dollar bill, this song is about the reality that you can't help everyone, that you inevitably have to "give up the ghost," for better or for worse.

    What do you think?
    jessedson February 23, 2011   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningTo "give up the ghost" is to not be able to work any more, to be unfixable. But that's just modern usage, it could very well mean to die in the biblical sense.
    lparks2012on February 28, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentTo me its simply about moving on. beautiful song.

    It was also neat to see him set the recording mic up live with the "dont haunt me" part and then sing in harmony with the recording of himself. God I love this band...
    peoplewithhandson May 31, 2011   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationThis is an absolutely beautiful song. When I first heard this song I knew it had a very Christian message to it, put simply enough for all to decipher.

    Gather up the lost and sold

    (Lost in this life without direction....and the ones who have sold their soul...I'm sure he sees it all the time in the music industry alone)


    Gather up the pitiful

    (God has mercy on the pitiful)


    What seems impossible

    Matthew 19:26

    26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."


    I think I have had my fill

    (So many possible meaning on this verse...maybe his fill of the spirit (the Holy Ghost...Holy Spirit)



    I think i should give up the ghost

    (Possibly his own spirit into the arms of God)

    And after each verse repeating into your arms....its a common saying to enter the arms of God who will protect you and comfort you.

    hinesmamaon June 19, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song to me is about looking for some comfort (into your arms), i do not know if the lyrics refer to someone or something. It could be God, it could be the tree that the album is named after.
    It looks like a child plea to his/her mother. And at the same time, it also looks like that moment in life where you leave your house, your family (i think i have had my fill... i think i should give up the ghost)and start living. That is what the song represents to me.
    medton July 10, 2011   Link

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