"Is This Desire?" as written by and Polly Jean Harvey....
Joseph walked on and on
The sunset went down and down
Coldness cooled their desire
And Dawn said, "Let's build a fire"
The sun dressed the trees in green
And Joe said, Dawn, "I feel like a King"
And Dawn's neck and her feet were bare

Sweetness in her golden hair
Said, 'I'm not scared'
Turned to her and smiled
Secrets in his eyes
Sweetness of desire
Is this desire
Enough enough
To lift us higher
To lift above?

Hour-long, by hour, may we two stand
When we're dead, between these lands
The sun set behind his eyes
And Joe said, "Is this desire?"

Is this desire
Enough enough
To lift us higher
To lift above
Is this desire
Enough enough
Enough inside
Is this desire

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"Is This Desire?" as written by Polly Harvey

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Is This Desire? song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentCloudgirl, thank you for calling people stupid. Its always great if you comment on a song what you think the meaning is that someone comes out and calls you stupid.

    On another note, I think, after listening to the song a few times, it is about a young couple who go to the forest because they want to do it.

    "Joseph walked on and on the sunset
    went down and down coldness cooled their desire "

    But once they get there Dawn begins to get a bit scared and want to keep her busy with other stuff. But Joe feels certain of himself and he has a plan in mind to take her.

    "turned to her and smiled
    secrets in his eyes, sweetness of desire "

    But once they are doing it they are both asking themselfes "are we doing it right? is this the way it must be?"

    I just think its about the first time for the both of them
    Lord Pembrokeon November 01, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is about two people running away together and hiding in a forest somewhere and this song is about them wondering if there going to cope with just each other."is this desire enough"?
    Riot Grrrlon March 25, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General Commentum, I don't think it's anything like that. I think it's the desire you have for a boyfriend/girlfriend and you're not sure if they're enough to fit ur needs or if you love them. That's why she says "is this desire".
    RockinRoseon April 24, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti agree with your interpretation but i think i am also right
    Riot Grrrlon June 07, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'd say it's about discovering that you're not in love, you're just attracted. Joe feels like a king, but Dawn doesn't seem to feel so great. Like a bastard taking your virginity or something.
    Jonsion December 11, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentyou people are all stupid.. okay maybe your interpretations are right; but to me it's obviously about sexual desire, and how it gets one through the day sometimes.. but how it can be overpowering, and too much, and then, it's not enough: "is this desire enough?" she's asking this question, and asking you to think about it. does desire lift above? And it's more a question song than an answer song, she's using characters to make it vivid.
    cloudgirlon September 24, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthe name joe(seph) is mentioned in the album in previous songs; those songs being, "the garden," and "perfect day, elise."

    dawn is also said in, "electric light," but it's ambiguous as to whether dawn is a girl or a time of day.

    perhaps those two are recurring themes that some how meet up at the end.

    i think that the sylvan imagery/natural setting is a metaphor. the characters desire each other in a primative way; the fact that they're building a fire, that they're in trees, walking on sunsets, barefoot, etc, helps to show the carnical nature of their desire for each other.

    dawn is nervous about her relations with joe (again, the romantic idea that women wish to civilize men and their feelings.). as lord pembroke said, dawn becomes nervous when they go to the forest. she's not as willing to embrace her carnal desire for joe, but she was willing enough to go to the forest in the first place. dawn tries to distract joe by building a fire with him. perhaps the building of a fire represents that she wants her feelings for joe to build up to the point where they're flaming with passion. her fire had been cooled once they arrived in the woods, meaning that she was passionate and willing until she was actually in the situation. she needs things to be heated up again before she goes all out. i assume that dawn is a virgin, because she's young and nervous about the concept of sex.

    joe, however, is already walking on the sunsets and feeling like a king. he tells her that he isn't scared. if we are to believe that this joe is the same joe as the one in, "the garden," and, "a perfect day, elise," we've seen that his heart has been kicked around before. in both songs, the character of joe has given all of himself to somebody that later turns him away. in, "the garden," he is offered gold and mountains for his companionship, only to find nothing in the end. in, "a perfect day, elise," he sleeps with a girl, but after the act, she turns her back to him and tells him to never return to her. this upsets him deeply. he lets himself into her room and prays for her love. joe seems to fall in love quickly, and he winds up playing the role of the jilted lover. in this song, we're finally shown his method of seduction and his need for physical pleasure to make him whole.

    both of them, however, are brought to the same questions of desire and it's significance. joe and dawn seem to wonder if the liason was worth the changes that would come as a result. joe wonders if all the suffering that he bears after he sleeps with another is worth the pleasure. perhaps it was bad sex, to put it bluntly, that makes them doubt the expirience. they expected pleasure, and may have been let down. or, perhaps they were looking for some sort of uplifting power in their union, and found nothing. either way, they're doubting themselves, the act itself, and each other.

    brilliant song. sorry about the length.
    bruisevioleton December 20, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI can't help but think of the Joseph in the Genesis account who was a high-ranking officer in Potiphar's household, and was propositioned by Potiphar's wife. There are a number of literary references in the album, but all of them skew just a little bit (use of poetic license) from the original story, perhaps a different interpretation of the original, as Joseph rejected the woman's advances in the Bible... PJ uses Joseph or Joe quite a bit in this album to represent a male figure, even when she's referring to a character whose name we know (Seymour Glass from Salinger's "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" in the song "A Perfect Day Elise"), so maybe I'm way off on this one, but the idea of passion and relationship and uncertainty seems to lend itself (maybe errantly) in my mind to that account.
    foreignwordson April 23, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentFor me, it sounds more like a desperate shout, like: what can still do to make you love me?
    UUTRon October 13, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think it is about that time of relationship when it comes to love or separation.
    dejzitaon February 01, 2016   Link

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