"What the Water Gave Me" as written by and Florence Leontine Mary Welch Francis Eg White....
Time it took us
To where the water was
That's what the water gave me
And time goes quicker
Between the two of us
Oh, my love, don't forsake me
Take what the water gave me

Lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the overflow
Pockets full of stones

Lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the overflow

And oh, poor Atlas
The world's a beast of a burden
You've been holding on a long time
And all this longing
And the ships are left to rust
That's what the water gave us

So lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the overflow
Pockets full of stones
Lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the overflow

'Cause they took your loved ones
But returned them in exchange for you
But would you have it any other way?
Would you have it any other way?
You could have it any other way

'Cause she's a cruel mistress
And the bargain must be made
But oh, my love, don't forget me
When I let the water take me

So, lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the over flow
Pockets full of stones

Lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the overflow

Lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the overflow
Pockets full of stones

Lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the overflow


Lyrics submitted by KatherineKissMe, edited by Mellow_Harsher

"What the Water Gave Me" as written by Florence Leontine Mary Welch Francis Eg White

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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What the Water Gave Me song meanings
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39 Comments

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  • +6
    General CommentI saw the whole song as exploring death.

    'Time it took us
    To where the water was
    That's what the water gave me'

    Thinking of the future and fearing death means you don't enjoy life when it happens.
    Florence clearly accepts death in this song, and even welcomes it.
    Accepting that death does happen and living in the present moment gives you the ability to appreciate the full beauty of life as it happens.

    I feel 'water' is used because it's both bringer of life and a bringer of death. Maybe it gave Florence the realisation!
    dgas1992on August 26, 2011   Link
  • +4
    Lyric CorrectionWhat you have as

    "And don't _____
    The world's a beast of a burden"

    is actually

    "And oh, poor Atlas
    The world's a beast of a burden"
    Aetheron August 23, 2011   Link
  • +4
    General CommentA clear allusion to Virginia Woolf and Frida Kahlo. Perfect!
    The death of Virginia with pockets full of stones and the name of the Frida's painting "O Que La Agua Me Dio" (What The Water Gave Me).
    Simplicity is perfection.
    noelmajoron August 24, 2011   Link
  • +4
    General Commentmy interpretation is that water represents both life and death...'time, it took us to where the water flows'- i think it means time goes by, you age you die...but it may also mean that it took us some time to realize that death is inevitable so we should just surrender to it. In fact in line with the latter meaning she is saying to her loved one don't forsake me, take what the water gave me, accept death as it is the only way out.

    also when she says and time goes quicker...every day you live is a day less in your life so you're closer to death and the closer you get, the faster time will go by (it's like when you're in a holiday and the first days go by slowly but the last couple of days just fly away).

    lay me down, let the only sound be the overflow:- the sweet surrender to death, its no use fightin it

    pockets full of stones:- its a clear reference to virginia woolf. she suffered from bipolar depression, she kept fighting the voices in her head until she gave up, filled her pockets with stones and jumped in a river, its a bitter sweet end. She just surrendered to death.

    then there is the reference to atlas, the titan who was punished by zeus by having to hold the weight of the world on his shoulders for eternity. its a metaphor obviously. it means how long do I have to hold the weight of the world on my back, i am tired i just want it to be over, i just want to die, i'm giving up on life.

    and the shields are left to rust:- another metaphor, the water has a corroding effect on metal. we are born innocent yet life corrupts us, it bends us and it breaks us- that's what the water gave me

    cause they took your loved ones:- again people you love die or go away and you're left behind missing them and you're aching.

    but returned them in exchange for you:- now this is a bit enigmatic. maybe it means when you die you'll see them again or maybe it means that you need to make sacrifices for the people you love to see them happy even if then you're the one who will be suffering.

    in fact it says would you have it any other way:- even if you're miserable its a small price to pay for the ones you love cause you know you'd do anything to see them happy.

    she's a crueller mistress and the bargain must be made:- you're giving up on life, its too cruel. you're making the bargain, you're letting death take you because you want to be freed from life

    my love, don't forget me, remember. remember that i have lived, that i have loved you, i just lost the fight and gave up, i'm letting the water take me...i'm letting death take me away
    twelve2001on October 15, 2011   Link
  • +4
    Link(s)Florence Welch elaborated on the title and meaning of the song: "It's a song for the water, because in music and art what I'm really interested in are the things that are overwhelming. The ocean seems to me to be nature's great overwhelmer. When I was writing this song I was thinking a lot about all those people who've lost their lives in vain attempts to save their loved ones from drowning. It's about water in all forms and all bodies. It's about a lot of things; Virginia Woolf creeps into it, and of course Frida Kahlo, whose painfully beautiful painting gave me the title."

    digitalspy.co.uk/music/news/a336706/…
    zinigataon September 12, 2012   Link
  • +3
    Song MeaningI have to agree with other posters. This song, and Florence in general, is simply the best. I love the Virginia Woolf reference, makes the song that much more haunting, to me at least.

    Florence, herself, on the meaning, "It’s a song for the water, because in music and art, what I’m really interested in are the things that are overwhelming. The ocean seem to be natures great overwhelmer. When I was writing this song I was thinking a lot about all those people who've lost their lives in vain attempts to save their loved ones from drowning. It's about water in all forms and all bodies. It's about a lot of things; Virginia Woolf creeps into it, and of course Frieda Kahlo, whose painfully beautiful painting gave me the title."
    effybabyon August 25, 2011   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI think that the water represents turmoil, at first it's about a relationship: "time, it took us to where the water was" -> trouble in the relationship, "and time goes quicker between the two of us" -> it's end is nearing, "oh, my love, don't forsake me" -> don't quit on me, "take what the water gave me" -> past turmoil gave her experience in this sort of thing and she knows it can get better; then the chorus sets in, and the bit about pockets full of stones, I know it's about how V. Woolf killed herself, but I also know that in the dark ages there was this method of telling if someone's a witch by tying stone's to the woman's legs and throwing her in a lake, and if she floated she was a witch, and if she drowned she wasn't and her soul was free, I know it's a stupid idea but that's how it was back then; anyway, Florence is wearing something similar to a witch's hat in the video and that's what made me think that maybe putting stones in her pockets and jumping in water is her way of proving she's truthful, and instead of words, the overflow of the water, her actions alone will prove her innocence; And then Atlas is mentioned, the titan that holds the world on his shoulders and the world is a "beast of a burden" - I think it's simply an expression, saying that it's a "big burden", and that Atlas has been holding on to it for a long time -> again, water is turmoil, the shields are left to rust -> it corrodes your strength and defence, and you're in pain, that's what turmoil gives you, pain so let go of it. And then the chorus sets in again and then there's the bit about they took your loved one's but returned them in exchange for you, and water here seems to be elevated to the status of death -> I think it's about the feeling we get when we lose someone we truly love, we wish we could have done something, we wish we could give ourselves in exchange for them, but in the end we realize that even if we could have had it any other way death still is irreversible, and a balance needs to be kept, the bargain must be made, some die and others live, but we must not forget the lost ones "my love, don't forget me, I let the water take me". I know it's a pretty unorganized chain of thoughts here, but it's my own subjective opinion and that's why it looks like this :P
    Boogie184on September 16, 2011   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThe reference to Atlas is to exemplify the burden of living; since Atlas held the entire world upon his shoulders.
    Emyricalon July 20, 2012   Link
  • +2
    Lyric Correction"And oh, poor Atlas
    The world's a beast of a burden
    You've been holding on a long time"

    I'm pretty sure is

    "And oh, poor Atlas
    was a beast of burden
    You've been holding up a long time"

    Atlas is the beast of burden, not the world.
    embiggenatoron August 24, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI think it's about suicide. Virginia Woolf committed suicide by filling her "pockets full of stones" and jumping into a nearby river. The line "let the only sound / be the overflow" would point towards the fact that the only thing Woolf would have wanted would be for it all to end; something the water gave her.
    thatsrelativityon August 27, 2011   Link

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