"Holocene" as written by and Justin Vernon....
"Someway, baby, it's part of me, apart from me"
You're laying waste to Halloween
You fucked it friend, it's on it's head, it struck the street
You're in Milwaukee, off your feet

And at once I knew I was not magnificent
Strayed above the highway aisle
(Jagged vacance, thick with ice)
And I could see for miles, miles, miles

3rd and Lake it burnt away, the hallway
Was where we learned to celebrate
Automatic bought the years you'd talk for me
That night you played me 'Lip Parade'
Not the needle, nor the thread, the lost decree
Saying nothing, that's enough for me

And at once I knew I was not magnificent
Hulled far from the highway aisle (Jagged vacance, thick with ice)
And I could see for miles, miles, miles

Christmas night, it clutched the light, the hallow bright
Above my brother, I and tangled spines
We smoked the screen to make it what it was to be
Now to know it in my memory

And at once I knew I was not magnificent
High above the highway aisle (Jagged vacance, thick with ice)
But I could see for miles, miles, miles


Lyrics submitted by thuglifeforevs, edited by musemadness

"Holocene" as written by Justin Vernon

Lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

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Holocene song meanings
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  • +29
    General CommentAfter the first few listens, I think Holocene is my favorite on the album. It's stunningly beautiful. The chorus makes me think of this moment I had once while hiking. You're concentrating on making it it to the top and everything, but then you stop and look behind you and see the most beautiful natural landscape. It makes you feel small. You see how magnificent the world is and then see how not magnificent you are compared to it. I can see Justin having an experience like that. Off of the highway in the snow and ice, alone, or with his brother. "I can see for miles, miles, miles." In times like those you can see for miles, literally, and figuratively, miles within yourself and within your mind.
    llscienceon May 20, 2011   Link
  • +25
    General CommentThe Holocene is basically the last ~10,000 years that the Earth has existed; in other words, all of the world's written history and the entirety modern civilization--it's a song about points in time where you realize you're part of something much bigger. The specific times aren't really as important as the overall idea, which is why they appear in glimpses, yet the overall feeling, that "I could see for miles, miles, miles..." is recurring.

    Beautiful song, beautiful images, and beautiful idea. The best song on the album.
    dolleon June 04, 2011   Link
  • +22
    General CommentComing from Mr. Vernon himself:

    "Holocene is a bar in Portland, Ore., but it's also the name of a geologic era, an epoch if you will. It's a good example of how all the songs are all meant to come together as this idea that places are times and people are places and times are... people? [Laughs.] They can all be different and the same at the same time. Most of our lives feel like these epochs. That's kind of what that song's about. "Once I knew I was not magnificent." Our lives feel like these epochs, but really we are dust in the wind. But I think there's a significance in that insignificance that I was trying to look at in that song."

    source: npr.org/blogs/allsongs/2011/06/22/137328981/…
    gazelleon June 23, 2011   Link
  • +21
    My InterpretationI frequent this site- but have never been prompted to sign up for an account until now.

    I have been listening to this song regularly for over a year and never gave it too much thought beyond the beauty in the idea of the vastness of the universe simultaneously causing humility and appreciation.

    However, the other day this song hit me so hard and I literally put it on repeat for hours.

    For me, Justin (as others have touched on) uses the chorus and verses in juxtaposition to one another. Each verse is a recollection of a point of maturity. The first verse- being drunk on halloween is growing beyond a children's holiday into adulthood. The second verse is obviously more a direct reference to time as the house is no longer there- but for me it speaks to a relationship: "Automatic brought the years you'd talk for me". The third, again, like the first references a holiday. This speaks to me personally as me and my older brother "connect" often on holidays (we live far apart) by smoking up and disseminating the relevant season and catch up on life.

    Each of these "moments" in his life are times when he seemed happy or perhaps, grounded. Substances, whether alcohol, drugs or music, art, literature and relationships bring him to a point where he feels at ease and connected to the world. It then reaches a head that presents in the respective chorus- the insurmountable, almost limitless universe and the humility of realizing your insignificance. I love the imagery of him above this vast frozen ground between highways that are weaving a connection to another place- to another road, stretching to the edge of the continent and beyond.

    The point that struck me the other day though, was the beauty in the title. Holocene: an epoch spanning over 10,000 years- "connectedness" to the earth from present to the past. Not only are we are aware the world is vast- we are aware that we are only a small speck in time. There is beauty in such simple humanity of a flickering flame, the pink hues of a sunrise- things enjoyed by humankind for eons. It connects our present world of Facebook and Smartphones to centuries of humanity that existed before us- and to the future that lays ahead.

    He has these "moments" where everything is right with the world: "not the needle nor the thread, the lost decree... Saying nothing was enough for me". Conversation is not needed, you are absorbed in the moment of the "hallowed bright" of Christmas Eve or "Laying waste to Halloween", but "at once", you are struck with the realization that your "moment" is not significant... "I was not magnificent". In this though, there is joy in the feeling that despite that, you are still a part of something.

    You are a part of the fabric of humanity- over 10,000 years of 'people'. "Hulled from far the highway aisle", separated from race, religion, politics and war- but connected to love, jealously, empathy, depression and beauty- emotions spanning borders and time. "Someway baby its part of me, apart from me".

    Holocene reminds us, humbles us and empowers us.

    I have enjoyed reading what others have thought of the song- well perhaps except for those that referred to the lyrics as "garbage"- maybe my thoughts will make sense to someone else.
    bevanreayon August 12, 2012   Link
  • +15
    MemoryI'm not sure what the song means. I just wanted to share a story. It's probably the most significant moment in my life, and I haven't told it to many people; for some reason just tossing it out onto the internet to whomever comes across it seems fitting.

    I was in Baghdad a couple years contracting for some shitty part of the military industrial complex. I hadn't made many friends in Iraq, but I made a couple. One was a guy in the Army who got sent out to D8, this shitty little Forward Base in the middle of Sadr City - 4 square blocks of Baghdad, outside of the Greenzone, separated from the streets by a box of 14 foot T Walls. June 8th (my son's 12th birthday) I found out in The Stars and Stripes - the military newspaper, that he'd been killed by an IRAM attack.

    Just before this, my girlfriend, who I was more than in love with, left and moved across the country - she said she was coming back, but I knew. The last time I saw her was when I got on the plane to leave. I think, really, I just wanted to see her one last time. That couldn't be goodbye, not like that.

    After the attack my department there all demobilized and left D8, meaning someone had to go. I volunteered. I guess I thought I'd get killed there too, or that I couldn't get killed, I'm still not sure. I landed on the 4th of July. Every day I walked past the memorial cross for my friend but my sunglasses mostly hid the constant crying. It was a really dangerous place, so I slept in the bunker most of the time once I got there and it was real. At some point I broke, completely. The hardest part was the realization that my entire life I'd been an extreme narcissist - not just obsessed with my appearance, but the toxic kind of person so ruled by their own fear and insecurity that they poisoned every one around them, alienated them, hurt them and was always the victim of my own arrogance. It's hard to explain, but it's a profound selfishness, almost like people only exist when you're around.

    I listened to this album on repeat, nearly constantly the entire time I was there - constantly shaking with anxiety, consumed with loss, and fear, and self hatred. It was the light breeze that kept my mind from drowning in it's own panicked sweat. I couldn't sleep, I'd chew the skin from my fingers until they bled, walk in circles, anything to keep moving, to think a little less.

    I got out, eventually, and on the Blackhawk ride back to my main base over Baghdad in the middle of the night - watching it glitter like billions of stars, watching kids swimming in pools, traffic jams, neon Ferris Wheels - all these people just going on living. It felt like "How could they", after he died, after she left, after I lost, "how could they"? Then, out of somewhere, it just clicked - of course they could, and I just flew back, the desert stretching off forever with:

    And at once I knew I was not magnificent
    High above the highway aisle (Jagged vacance, thick with ice)
    But I could see for miles, miles, miles

    Playing over and over in my head.

    I came back a completely different person, and I'm not sure, without this song, I would have. I think it was the first thing in my life I ever truly appreciated, was capable of appreciating.

    Probably the best and worst moments in my existence, tied together by this song.
    Detroitdregson July 16, 2013   Link
  • +7
    General CommentThis song is like that abrupt shot through the heart when you realize you do not live and breathe without the world, but the world lives and breathes without you.
    catscravekraveon October 10, 2013   Link
  • +5
    General CommentThis song is absolutely incredible. Justin Vernon's music is filled with such passion, and with each and every song I become entranced in the emotion.
    rachaaalon May 18, 2011   Link
  • +5
    General Commentis it incredibly pathetic that i was reduced to tears by "...and at once i knew i was not magnificent"? too real. too relevant.
    ontheinsideon May 27, 2011   Link
  • +4
    General CommentWouldn't it be wonderful to write something this beautiful?
    I wonder what that's like.
    ShelbyLynnon August 25, 2011   Link
  • +3
    Song Meaning"3rd and Lake it burnt away, the hallway
    was where we learned to celebrate"

    Last year, on the corner of 3rd Ave. and Lake Street, a house burned down. The Cook brothers, Justin(?), and other significant EC music folks lived there for a long time. It's the same house the Amateur Love EP was recorded in.
    NiceStreion May 23, 2011   Link

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