"Cherry Wine" as written by and Andrew Hozier Byrne....
Her eyes and words are so icy
Oh but she burns
Like rum on the fire
Hot and fast and angry as she can be
I walk my days on a wire.

It looks ugly, but it's clean,
Oh momma, don't fuss over me.

The way she tells me I'm hers and she is mine
Open hand or closed fist would be fine
The blood is rare and sweet as cherry wine.

Calls of guilty thrown at me
All while she stains
The sheets of some other
Thrown at me so powerfully
Just like she throws with the arm of her brother.

But I want it
It's a crime
That she's not around most of the time.

The way she shows me I'm hers and she is mine
Open hand or closed fist would be fine
Blood is rare and sweet as cherry wine.

Her fight and fury is fiery
Oh but she loves
Like sleep to the freezing
Sweet and right and merciful
I'm all but washed
In the tide of her breathing.

And it's worth it, it's divine
I have this some of the time.

The way she shows me I'm hers and she is mine
Open hand or closed fist would be fine
The blood is rare and sweet as cherry wine.


Lyrics submitted by YearsWasted, edited by jiho

"Cherry Wine [Live]" as written by Andrew Hozier Byrne

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Cherry Wine song meanings
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  • +12
    My InterpretationI don't understand why so many are hesitant to interpret this song literally. Physical abuse doesn't happen in a vacuum, and in practice tends to exist primarily to punctuate and reinforce emotional abuse. Sure, there are probably full-on batter-fests, but my understanding (and experience) of reality is that domestic abuse is generally a lot more subtle and nuanced than that.

    This song, in particular, pulls back so much of my childhood.

    Her eyes and words are so icy,
    Oh but she burns
    Like rum on the fire,
    Hot and fast and angry
    As she can be,
    I walk my days on a wire.

    For me, this evokes a painfully specific facial expression. Tiny pupils, slightly narrowed eyes, straight lips, reddening skin, and a very direct and tense stare with the head angled slightly downwards. Complete, unequivocal anger paired with intolerant indignation. That moment when someone is so frustrated, so passionately angry that they are already instinctively moving into stances only suited to physical altercations.
    The victim treads very carefully, but they're on a wire, often deliberately provided with physically impossible expectations to ensure failure. And at the slightest misstep, that passionate and fiery anger is there.

    It looks ugly, but it's clean,
    Oh Mama, don't fuss over me.

    An abuser would never do anything to the abused that the abused wouldn't attempt to hide or dismiss upon being asked about it. Lots of things accomplish that goal, from very gradually increasing violence to threats to actual love on the battered party's side.

    The way she tells me I'm hers and she is mine,
    Open hand or closed fist would be fine...
    The blood is rare, and sweet as cherry wine.

    Batterers tend to see people as objects, possessions rather than as human beings with individual wills. They can do what they want, but the beaten party cannot. The abused must listen very precisely, an obedient servant, or their means of enforcing compliance, physical violence, will come out. The looming threat ensures compliance, their complete possession of their property.
    Meanwhile, battered parties tend to see being beaten as a sign of love. The passion of the anger is interpreted as indicative of exactly how much, how passionately their abuser cares about them.
    The really terrible thing about this is that with enough exposure, if an abused person is attempting a relationship with someone who isn't abusive, they tend to interpret the lack of cutting words and beatings as apathy -- as a lack of love on the part of their lover. Hence, it's very specifically getting hit and abused and "corrected" that makes battered people know that they're loved, that their abuser's heart is theirs. They couldn't feel so angry, so passionate about their failures if they didn't really, really love them.

    Calls of guilty fall on me,
    All while she stains
    The sheets of some other,
    Thrown at me so powerfully,
    Just like she throws with the arm of her brother.

    Let me make the illustration being given here a little more explicit:
    "You've been sleeping around, haven't you? You asshole."
    "Me? No, you're the one who's been sleeping around. I have proof."
    "Well, if you weren't such a shitty lover, maybe I wouldn't need to fuck other guys!"

    Name-calling, accusations, shaming, and blaming. Typical tools of emotional abuse, all being demonstrated here. They're powerful, and are generally applied very liberally in abusive relationships.
    The goal is to create doubt and confusion in the mind of the battered person, make them think that even though they're the ones being abused, they provoke it, they deserve it, and they aren't good enough to find anyone who would treat them better.
    By this method, the batterer can be assured that his property is safely within his possession, too confused and damaged to try to flee his or her control.
    Generally speaking, physical abuse is infrequent even in physically abusive relationships, if only because it's hard to hide from outsiders. Most of it's insults, accusations, and other methods of psychological and/or sexual control.

    But I want it, it's a crime
    That she's not around most of the time.

    "I want it," because he wants to become good enough for her, because he deserves it, because it means she loves him. "It's a crime," battery is a crime, so he shouldn't want it. But wait! He can't let himself think ill of her! So it has to turn into it being a "crime" that she's not around more -- something he causes by not being good enough for her. Typical domestic violence victim thought process, right there. Internalized guilt, self-policing, and all.

    Her fight and fury is fiery,
    Oh but she loves
    Like sleep to the freezing,
    Sweet and right and merciful,
    I'm all but washed in the tide of her breathing.

    This verse is so sensual it literally takes my breath away. But, um, I guess that's not really relevant.
    Sleep to the freezing is obviously referencing dying of hypothermia. And to be crass: Once you've died, you're not freezing any longer. It killed you, but in an extremely equivocal sense it's a blessing and release.
    It's also worth noting that in lying down and accepting the notion of freezing to death, the act of being frozen is completed and epitomized. You're only truly freezing, truly frozen when it's killed you.
    Likewise, the pure pleasure of the sex and the love is, I think, being presented as the culmination of the abuse as well as the release from it.

    And it's worth it, it's divine,
    And I can have this some of the time.

    One of the things people don't realize about abusive relationships is that they can be extremely pleasant a lot of the time. Easy and simple, because the abused has cues to follow, which provides harmony (there's only one person making decisions, but if your self-esteem has been battered down long enough, you don't want to be an individual anyway).
    In addition, the abused wouldn't have stuck through the early stages of abuse if there weren't things they liked and needed in their partner, and those reasons to stay tend to persist.
    Love justifies tolerating a lot of things. Particularly when you no longer know how to live any other way.

    A lot of the time, I'm pretty sure I don't want to know how he hits so close to home.
    teaspillon February 25, 2015   Link
  • +3
    My InterpretationHe's in a relationship with a girl who is with someone else. She, perhaps, loves him but won't leave the other. And he sticks with it because the parts of her that he does get are good enough to keep him around.
    soillusoryon July 12, 2014   Link
  • +3
    General CommentHer eyes and words are so icy
    Oh but she burns
    Like rum on the fire
    Hot and fast and angry
    As she can be
    I walk my days on a wire
    This girl either has blue eyes.. or she's got a cold stare and words to match, she doesn't talk sweet to him, but oh she's beautiful , but she's quick to anger so as long as they're together he's got to be careful with his words..(walking on a wire)

    It looks ugly, but it's clean,
    Oh momma, don't fuss over me. - His mother noticed the way his woman deals with him, and how abusive she is and he knows it looks bad but he's trying to convince his mother that it's not as bad as it may look..so don't worry about me I'm fine,we're fine.

    The way she tells me I'm hers and she is mine
    Open hand or closed fist would be fine
    The blood is rare and sweet as cherry wine- When his woman is being cruel to him, it's out of love and she's just showing him that he belongs to her, so whether she slaps him or punches him,it's okay because it doesn't happen too often, and it's rare like cherry wine.

    Calls of guilty fall on me
    All while she stains
    The sheets of some other
    Thrown at me so powerfully
    Just like she throws with the arm of her BROTHER.- This girl is cheating on him, yet he feels bad..and this girl hits like a man..or her words are as painful as a strong powerful hit.

    But I want it, it's a crime
    that she's not around most of the time.- He doesn't mind the abuse.

    Her fight and fury is fiery
    Oh but she loves
    Like sleep the the freezing
    Sweet and right and merciful
    I'm all but washed
    In the tide of her breathing. This part of the song is so beautiful yet sad at the same time.. the abuser(the woman) is "sorry" when she's cruel to him, she loves him even better the next time they make love.
    maybe i'm wrong, but hey
    Brieannalewis9on August 05, 2014   Link
  • +3
    My InterpretationThis is not about a physically abusive relationship.

    "The way she tells me I'm hers and she is mine
    Open hand or closed fist would be fine
    The blood is rare and sweet as cherry wine"

    When she tells him I'm yours and your mine it is a slap in the face because she is with someone else. It hurts worse than an actually open hand or closed fist slap. They would both feel better than being toyed with.

    With this said just the little time he gets with her is worth the pain.

    "Like sleep to the freezing" = when someone is freezing to death they fall asleep and don't feel the pain anymore. He has now accepted that the only way to be with her is to be her second choice and have little time with her. It's still worth it but it's killing him.
    DewCarton October 19, 2014   Link
  • +3
    General CommentOne of the main beauties of this song is that it can be interpreted so widely.

    In the track by track interview, Hozier said that this song was based on/had the same meaning as "he hit me and it felt like a kiss" by carol king. That song discusses how after her partner discovered she'd been cheating he hit her, but this act of violence instead of repelling her, was taken as a sign of his deep and passionate love in an otherwise mundane and fizzling relationship and actually brought them closer. She's saying that the drastic reaction proved the depths of his love.

    So hozier making the comparison to this song, I personally believe means that he's trying to say that he actually enjoys it when she causes him pain { "open hand or closed fist would be fine"} Because it'sthe way that she shows that she's passionate about him and loves him {way she shows I'm hers and she's mine}

    I think this is also shown when he says {blood is rare and sweet as cherry wine} when she draws blood, it's not painful for him, it's a sweet relief and symbolises her love.

    I can't quite decide whether I think the pain she causes and the blood she draws is physical or a allegory for emotional pain, but either way it's a breathtaking song.
    CD02on April 21, 2015   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationThe lyrics of this song are written just as beautifully as he sings them. I understand the physical aspect that some may interpret from it. I on the other hand believe that it is not physical but emotional abuse. The singer plays the part of the mistress but in a male form. Although this exist in our society, it is rarely spoken of and thus makes the lyrics of this song even more haunting.

    "Her eyes and words are so icy
    Oh but she burns
    Like rum on the fire
    Hot and fast and angry as she can be
    I walk my days on a wire."

    She is cold towards him emotionally at times. She blames him for the feelings of guilt and regret she has for cheating on her husband. He feels that at anytime he could lose her.

    "It looks ugly, but it's clean,
    Oh momma, don't fuss over me."

    I believe he is referring to society including all of his friends and family when he references his mother. He feels what they have is pure although it is looked at with disdain by the rest of the world.

    "The way she tells me I'm hers and she is mine
    Open hand or closed fist would be fine
    The blood is rare and sweet as cherry wine."

    When she loves him, she loves with everything she has. Although the time that they have is fleeting and rare, it's sweet and it's worth all the mental torture and anquish that he feels from knowing that he can never fully have her.

    "Calls of guilty thrown at me
    All while she stains
    The sheets of some other
    Thrown at me so powerfully
    Just like she throws with the arm of her brother."

    The sheets of some other refers to her husband. Here again is referring back to the opening of the song. She blames him for the guilt she feels while she is with her spouse.

    "But I want it
    It's a crime
    That she's not around most of the time."
    "The way she shows me I'm hers and she is mine
    Open hand or closed fist would be fine
    Blood is rare and sweet as cherry wine."

    He knows it's wrong in every way but he craves her with his entire heart and soul. The part about about her not being around most of the time is the fact that she is still with her husband. This again goes to the chorus of "the blood being rare". I think the blood refers to their time together.


    "Her fight and fury is fiery
    Oh but she loves
    Like sleep to the freezing
    Sweet and right and merciful
    I'm all but washed
    In the tide of her breathing."

    "And it's worth it, it's divine
    I have this some of the time."

    Again, he takes the blame and mental abuse from her. He his utterly in love with this woman. He feels that when she is with him, that the way she loves him...the way she gives herself him is worth all the pain he feels when she isn't around. He would rather have her some of the time than not to have her at all.

    We can all relate this to personal experience and interpret it how we wish. This is my take on it. Either way, it's a beautiful song.
    Mitty498on November 29, 2014   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis is one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful songs that I every heard. My favorite line is "Oh but she loves Like sleep to the freezing". As typical in an abusive relationship the abuser often feels guilty and attempts some kind of misguided redemption. The victim is typically grateful. This victim recognizes his abuser's remorse and that she offers him a type of relief, just not exactly the right kind. In this metaphor someone who is shivering cold is given a bed rather than blankets or a warm fire.
    rosie117on July 11, 2014   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI think that this song is not about a physically anusive relation ship, but the line
    Psychotic_wingson November 26, 2014   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningKAPLAN: What's the meaning behind the song "Cherry Wine?" I've seen a lot of different interpretations.

    BYRNE: It's a love song, but it's about some of the more awful parts of love. It's a song about violence: domestic violence and domestic disputes. It's about an abusive relationship and someone who is trying to justify it to themselves.

    interviewmagazine.com/music/hozier/print/

    It is about an abusive relationship. Seems to be both physical and emotional
    fritchhon January 20, 2015   Link
  • +1
    General CommentHe said at a concert I saw him play that this song had a similar sentiment to "he hit me and it felt like a kiss" which was a song documented a girl believing that her boyfriends abuse was motivated by his love for her.

    It was a brutal song meant to show why people don't leave abusive relationships, despite thoughts of it's satirical nature the writer of he hit me maintained it was a song about truth.

    To me that proves this song is about someone in an abusive relationship who has grown to believe that the abuse is love. The subject says they want it. I hope this isn't autobiographical, but if it is then I'm happy that he obviously realised that it wasn't love.
    tobiinon September 10, 2015   Link

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