"Arsonist's Lullaby" as written by and Andrew Hozier Byrne....
When I was a child, I heard voices
Some would sing and some would scream
You soon find you have few choices
I learned the voices died with me

When I was a child, I'd sit for hours
Staring into open flame
Something in it had a power
Could barely tear my eyes away

All you have is your fire
And the place you need to reach
Don't you ever tame your demons
But always keep 'em on a leash

When I was 16, my senses fooled me
Thought gasoline was on my clothes
I knew that something would always rule me
I knew the scent was mine alone

All you have is your fire
And the place you need to reach
Don't you ever tame your demons
But always keep 'em on a leash

When I was a man I thought it ended
When I knew love's perfect ache
But my peace has always depended
On all the ashes in my wake

All you have is your fire
And the place you need to reach
Don't you ever tame your demons
But always keep 'em on a leash


Lyrics submitted by basser, edited by teaspill

"Arsonist's Lullaby" as written by Andrew Hozier Byrne

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Arsonist's Lullaby song meanings
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  • +8
    Song MeaningI think this song is about battling but also embracing personal demons. It's about taking those terrible things that may have happened and creating strength.

    When I was a child I heard voices,
    Some would sing and some would scream,
    You soon find you have few choices,
    I learned the voices died with me.
    -- I think this part indicated that something tragic may have happened when this person was a child. This event was impactful. He indicated that some things were good "singing" , and some were not "screaming", inthis event or series of events. We could be hearing the description of an abused child. He has no escape, no choices, as he is just a child. The abuse goes on long enough to "kill" his soul and the voices "die" because good or bad no longer make a difference.

    When I was a child I'd sit for hours,
    Staring into open flame,
    Something in it had a power,
    Could barely tear my eyes away.
    -- I believe the flame represents what was tragic. He is trapped experience the impactful event. It is apart of his life. Something he has to deal with all the time. Again if we look at the flame as abuse, it is something that he sees all the time, something powerful in it. However, it could be anything negatively eventful.

    When I was sixteen my senses fooled me,
    Thought gasoline was on my clothes,
    I knew that something would always rule me,
    I knew the scent was mine alone.
    -- Teenage years are often a time when people have an emerging sense of who they are and who they may be. I think that he is saying that at 16 he felt as if he may be allowing his fire to spread out of control due to his own actions (gasoline). However, he realizes that it is something that will always be apart of him, something that would dictate certain decisions and courses of actions. It wasn't that he was actually creating "fire", he was just recognizing what was inside of him.

    All you have is your fire,
    And the place you need to reach,
    Don't you ever tame your demons,
    But always keep them on a leash.
    -- I think the use of fire here is very meaningful. As I stated above, I think the flame was the impactful event. Since it was impactful, it is not hard to believe that it left residual damage to him. He has a bit of that flame in him, as flames and fire can spread. However, he is using what happened to him, his fire to push him forward. It is referring to the fact that things happen to everyone and those things change us, inspire us, etc. and we should use it to move forward and be where we need to be. We should never get rid of what can drive us, even if it stems from something bad, Just contain it don't allow it to control us (ie-keep it on a leash)

    When I was a man I thought it ended
    When I knew love's perfect ache,
    But my peace has always depended
    On all the ashes in my wake.
    -- I think as he becomes an adult it is easier for him to come to terms with what happened to him. He is in control of this demons, or he thinks he is. However, since he is using that "fire" as a drive forward it is inevitable that there are going to be times when he is not in compete control of it. His peace is depends on how he controls that fire. If this is a story of an abused child, love(a wife) could be wonderful and fulfilling for him. However, he knows that the fire is still inside if him, and his peach is dictated by his control of that..
    Orion510on January 19, 2015   Link
  • +6
    My InterpretationHe's referencing Plato again.

    First some background, so I can talk about it more easily:

    Socrates was kind of a problem. Prior to his lifetime, Greek life was relatively straightforward. Gods told you what was right and wrong in an unabashedly arbitrary manner. In obeying one, you were almost certain to piss off another, and it would probably bite you at some point. But that was how things worked: You picked your allegiance and listened to one of many conflicting branches of morality that were determined by various gods in the sky (or people who spoke for them). That was virtue.

    Kinda like with modern religions, or any system presented to govern human behavior, like laws.

    Socrates came in and started asking questions, encouraging people to think about their points of view and form their own moral conscience, divorced from the arbitrariness of the prior system. He corrupted the youth by encouraging them to think and make up their own minds about the nature of right and wrong, rather than blindly following any of the accepted, previously extant paths.

    So they killed him, quite logically, for blasphemy.

    Plato wrote about Socrates' defense against these charges in The Apology. Within it, you can find him speaking of his daemon:

    "I have a divine or spiritual sign which Meletus has ridiculed in his deposition. This began when I was a child. It is a voice, and whenever it speaks it turns me away from something I am about to do, but it never encourages me to do anything." (31d)

    And later:

    "At all previous times my familiar prophetic power, my spiritual manifestation, frequently opposed me, even in small matters, when I was about to do something wrong" (40a)

    And again:

    "it is impossible that my familiar sign did not oppose me if I was not about to do what was right." (40c)

    Calling it a conscience is, in my opinion, modernizing the concept too much, but it is essentially an internal, inborn voice that allows someone to perform behaviors that are just, right, and beneficial, by dissuading destructive or even incidentally harmful actions.

    In light of all of that, I think this song is being written from a literal arsonist's perspective.

    The first verse very clearly references a Socratic daemon. A voice that sang of good things and works, and screamed at bad ones, but still allowed the child to choose to do whatever he liked. It was just a warning.
    Unlike for Socrates, that voice died for the speaker. Without the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, he could not genuinely choose to perform either right or wrong actions. (It's demonstrably absurd to imagine that a man can choose to Do Good when he has no way of seeing what Good is.) He was, instead, compelled by whatever moved him most.

    The second verse introduces what moved him most: Fire.
    This could've been anything, but I find the choice especially interesting given that fire is the fundamental foundation of society (just like Socrates is the foundation of Western philosophy and even, to a large degree, religion). Human beings have always gathered around it, watched it burn, exchanged stories next to it. And that's not even mentioning the practical benefits of facilitating warmth, light, and cooked food.
    It's actually a sensible choice of worship, a decent barometer for right and wrong, in spite of its ability to destroy.

    The third verse is interesting, and harder in a lot of ways.
    Gasoline, obviously, accelerates a fire, and an arsonist would use it to light other things on fire. In this case, he mistakenly thinks the gasoline is on him. This could be implying two different things: First, that he fears he's going to light himself on fire, destroy himself. Second, that he mistakenly think others would be able to smell the gasoline and discover he's a criminal. Maybe both are intended.
    In either case, "something would always rule" the arsonist -- even if he destroys himself, he cannot stop. Even if others detect his illegal and destructive acts, he cannot stop. And at least as a sixteen-year-old, he hasn't actually gotten gasoline on him, so he does not yet have to worry about those consequences.

    In the fourth verse he finds something that he thinks will transfix him more than fire, and get him to stop lighting them, but the shift from fire to romance was not accomplished successfully. He couldn't feel peace without burning things down, so he burnt the romance away as well.

    The chorus can be read however one likes, really. The arsonist has accepted his fire, both its beauty and its destruction. He knows it's all that he has, because nothing else to guide him has felt true since he lost his daemon. Now he only has a demon, a criminal compulsion. And because he can't and won't leave it, he seeks only to minimize the destruction it causes.

    Relating a criminal, an arsonist, to Socrates, also a criminal, and poking at what it means to know goodness and be good is absolutely brilliant. This song really pointedly questions whether law and religion have any value, or whether we should instead be motivated by what genuinely moves us. It asks whether a man should be blamed for doing things generally considered evil, partially by appealing to the frequency with which institutionalized thought makes errors in its own determinations of what it means to be good or evil.

    And then there's the title: Arsonist's Lullaby. Why is it a lullaby? Because it's how the arsonist gets himself to sleep at night. It's the perspective that excuses behavior that destroys not only the world around him, but himself. The lyric justifies destructive behavior, the title calls out the lies.

    How is this guy on the radio?
    teaspillon February 13, 2015   Link
  • +2
    Song MeaningI've listened to this song countless times and what I've come up with is that the fire is a dream. A dream that people dream as kids and as they grow older forget about or realize that it is unrealistic.

    When I was a child
    I'd sit for hours
    Staring into open flames

    As a child you have no thought boundaries that prevent your dream from evolving.

    Don't you ever tame your demons
    But always keep em on a leash

    Never lay your dreams to rest but keep them from becoming unobtainable.

    Emilygalvon January 03, 2015   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningFor me this song has a religious meaning. As a child he was torn between good and bad because he was spoken to by angels and demons 'Some would sing and some would scream'.
    Feel that the fire refers to your free will 'All you have is your fire' and that the 'place you need to reach' is heaven; and to get to heaven you must refuse temptation from the devil 'Don't you ever tame your demons,
    But always keep them on a leash.'
    'When I was a child I'd sit for hours,
    Staring into open flame,
    Something in it had a power,
    Could barely tear my eyes away.' This verse refers to the temptation of the devil being hard to resist.
    'When I was sixteen my senses fooled me,
    Thought gasoline was on my clothes,
    I knew that something would always rule me,
    I knew the scent was mine alone.' This verse says that he gave into temptation and did something bad and that the thing he did will stay with him just like the smell of gasoline which is hard to get rid of.
    'When I was a man I thought it ended
    When I knew love's perfect ache,
    But my peace has always depended
    On all the ashes in my wake.' When he was grown up he thought he was past it and he found the love of The Lord 'when I knew loves perfect ache' but he can never truly move on and is worried that no matter what he does from there he will go to hell anyway because of what he's done in the past 'But my peace has always depended, On all the ashes in my wake.' He can never be at peace because he will never forget what be did.
    I think this is a really powerful song about the choice between good and evil.
    MrHal2116on March 20, 2015   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningI think the song is talking to someone. When he says "Don't you ever tame your demons but keep 'em on a leash" I think he means that you shouldn't try to hold yourself to a standard that virtually impossible of doing everything perfect, but "keep 'em on a leash", meaning don't let them run free and cause you to do horrible stuff.

    "You soon find you have few choices"- meaning that you soon in life realize that there's good and bad.

    "I learned the voices died with me"- Your thoughts never can leave you.

    "When I was a child, I'd sit for hours, Staring into open flame" - He'd debate with himself what path or life he wanted to take and who he wanted to be.

    "Something in it had a power, Could barely tear my eyes away" - He always wanted to do what was right, and the sight of doing something "right" always lingered in his mind (cause his voice always stayed with him), causing him to always questions himself as to if he was doing things right.

    "All you have is your fire, And the place you need to reach" - All he has is himself, his thoughts, and his dreams/goals.

    "When I was 16, my senses fooled me, Thought gasoline was on my clothes" - He thought he was doing something terribly wrong.

    "I knew that something would always rule me, I knew the scent was mine alone" - And through that depression overruled him, but deep down he knew it was all himself and "voices" making him unhappy.

    "When I was a man I thought it ended, When I knew love's perfect ache" - When he was older he thought his depression was over, that he'd moved on and was doing things right. But he knew deep down he was still aching because he felt like he was doing something wrong, causing people not to like or love him as much and that he deserved it because of his actions.

    "But my peace has always depended, On all the ashes in my wake" - Yet through all of this he knew that being happy depended on if he was doing everything right through others eyes

    All in all I believe the song means, don't let your aspiration of being perfect or having everything perfect get the best of you, cause you'll never enjoy life, but don't care to little about aspiration or everyday things because then you're just not making the best of your life; you need a balance the way you look at things.

    This is just my interpretation so please no hate!
    Muncaon March 23, 2016   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's a song about destruction for sure, but I think it's up for interpretation if it's self-destruction or destruction of people around him.

    I knew that something would always ruin me
    I knew the scent was mine alone

    He feels guilty about the bad things he's done, likely in anger.

    When I was a man I thought it ended
    When I knew love's perfect ache
    But my peace has always depended
    On all the ashes in my wake

    He found love and then he ruined it because he could never feel peace when he was happy. It's the classic self-destructive relationship scenario where someone feels like they don't deserve the happiness.
    tobiinon December 25, 2014   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationThis is the song that takes me to church. It brings me to a zen-like state and then, as I continue to push repeat, to tears. It is a revelation. Hozier is talking about the soul. How can this child know so much? This is the bookend to Take Me To Church. Once again he is examining original sin but this time more broadly, as in the knowledge of good and evil. We are instructed by church and parents and schools and other authorities that we must destroy or constrain or deny our “evil” parts in order to become good. No, he tells us. You must learn to keep your demons from destroying you, but you must keep them. They are part of you. Your soul needs to integrate its parts, not pick and choose which to keep and which to throw out. The conflagration of these elements is what makes you human, creative, powerful, productive, self-possessed. When he speaks of the ashes in his wake . . . the ashes are his songs.
    marycbon February 11, 2015   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningAll about "DESIRE" the lyrics was Don't you ever tame your demons
    But (it should be "OR") always keep 'em on a leash
    Don't you ever tame your demons
    OR always keep 'em on a leash. that is why there is "BURNING DESIRE."
    WE SHOULD CONTROL IT
    lester1020on April 20, 2016   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationWhen I was a child I heard voices,
    Some would sing and some would scream,
    You soon find you have few choices,
    I learned the voices died with me.
    -when we are little there are somethings we love(some would sing) and some things we hate or we are afraid of(some would scream). Soon we find out there are very few things that we really like(few choices) only things we would like to go after. But both the voices I.e. both the kind of things are ours they define us. They die and live with us.


    When I was a child, I'd sit for hours
    Staring into open flame
    Something in it had a power
    Could barely tear my eyes away
    -- As children we constantly think about our dreams. They had a unique power we couldn't stop dreaming.


    All you have is your fire
    And the place you need to reach
    Don't you ever tame your demons
    But always keep 'em on a leash
    -- All you have are your desires your dreams and your destination or the destiny that you choose for yourself.
    You have your fears and weaknesses(demons). You should accept your weaknesses it will only make you stronger. Your fears, you should never forget for they will always keep you alert and help you make the right choices. Your demons and your dreams both are your own they both guide you to your destiny to what you want.

    When I was 16, my senses fooled me
    Thought gasoline was on my clothes
    I knew that something would always rule me
    I knew the scent was mine alone
    -- At 16 many of us think that there is something wrong with us. We don't like the way we are(thought gasoline was on my clothes). But then we realize that this who we are that this scent belongs to us. This only males us stronger pushes us in the right direction.


    When I was a man I thought it ended
    When I knew love's perfect ache
    But my peace has always depended
    On all the ashes in my wake
    -- When you grow up there are things maybe love maybe other things that distract you from your dreams and make you feel satisfied and good for a brief amount of time. But as soon as the effect fades away you realize that the only peace you will ever find is by chasing your dreams your passion all you have is your fire and the place you need to reach :-)

    This song is about accepting your strengths and weaknesses accepting who you are making peace with it and going after what you want going after what you desire.
    Beautiful song.
    arguan992on October 22, 2016   Link
  • 0
    General CommentFirst - Teaspill - you are said exactly what I came here to say but you said it more eloquently than I ever could. Thank you for that. Thank you!

    I just wanted to add that as far as the chorus goes, I think the point is that morality isn't what we hear from the law, it's not what we hear from religion, it's not what we hear from our parents or from society. All of these voices, are just voices because no matter what we do, there is a little good and a little bad in all of us. Sometimes, no matter what we do, no matter our intentions, we still produce negative, harmful results. How could this be when law, religion, parents, told us that THIS was the way to behave? It's because this is just how it is. This IS life. This IS the human experience. All you have is what drives you and where it needs to take you. You can't deny that part of you, you can't deny the good and you can't deny the bad. When you try to tame those demons, that is when you are most likely to cause damage to yourself and to those around you. You can't deny them, you can't erase them, you can't extinguish their fire in pursuit of keeping the good alive. When you acknowledge them, when you live in accordance with being aware that they are there, when you keep them on a leash, that is when you can do the best you can do in the human experience. And the best is still somewhere between good for some and bad for some, there's nothing you can do about that. You still have to go through life and let it take you where you need to go.

    Brilliant. Brilliant. Brilliant song.
    shewolf80on October 27, 2016   Link

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