"The Ocean" as written by and Kjetil Ingebrigtsen....
When I went to your town on the wide open shore
Oh I must confess, I was drawn, I was drawn to the ocean
I thought it spoke to me, it said, "Look at us,
We're not churches, not schools, not skating ponds, swimming pools
And we have lost people, haven't we though?"
Oh, that's what the ocean can know of a body
And that's when I came back to town, this town is a song about you
You don't know how lucky you are, you don't know how much I adore you
You are the welcoming back from the ocean.

I went back to the ocean today
With my books and my papers I went to the rocks by the ocean
But the weather changed quickly, oh the ocean said
"What are you trying to find, I don't care, I'm not kind
I've bludgeoned your sailors, I've spat out their keepsakes
Oh it's ashes to ashes, but always the ocean,"
But the ocean can't come to this town, this town is a song about you
You don't know how lucky you are, you don't know how much I adore you
You are the welcoming back from the ocean.

And the ones that can know you so well are the ones that can swallow you whole.
I have a good and I have an evil, I thought the ocean, the ocean thought nothing
You are the welcoming back from the ocean.

I didn't go back today
I wanted to show you that I was more land than water
I went to pick flowers I brought them to you
Look at me, look at them, with their salt up the stem
But you frowned when I smiled and I tried to arrange them
You said, "Let me tell you the song of this town"
You said, "Everything closes at five. After that, well, you just got the bars
You don't know how precious you are, walking around with your little shoes dangling
I am the one who lives with the ocean.

It's where we came from, you know, and sometimes I just want to go back
After a day, we drink til we're drowning, walk to the ocean, wade in with our work boots
Wade in our work boots, try to finish the job.
You don't know how precious you are, I am the one who lives with the ocean
You don't know how I am the one. You don't know how I am the one."


Lyrics submitted by aur0ra

"The Ocean" as written by Dar Williams

Lyrics © BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

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The Ocean song meanings
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8 Comments

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  • +1
    General CommentTo me, the ocean represents depression. She is feeling down, and thus is drawn to the ocean. The ocean has lost a people (people lost to depression and suicide). She goes to her friend, who helps rally her just by being there, but that is a double edged sword, because to the extent he can't, it hurts (the ones that can know you so well are the ones who can swallow you whole). The ocean warns her again of its dangers, of those who have not survived it.

    So she tries to put on a brave face, to prove she is more land than water, but he sees through that, and explains he knows the ocean well. The town that means solace for her is depressing to him, with nothing to do in the after hours but drink and/or be alone. He tells her that she is the precious one, the one who rallies him, and that the ocean does more than warn him. It lures him, to the point where he is tempted to just walk into the ocean and suicide (drown).

    He repeats her lyric that she is the precious one keeping him safe from the ocean, with the overall moral that you can't always tell on the surface how depressed or lonely someone might be, that we all need each other to remind us that there is something to live for.

    Not sure if that is what Dar meant by the song, but it is what it means to me. Brilliant song.
    Kimmeraon May 05, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI feel like this is the song of someone deeply in love with a physical place- in this case, the ocean. It's a kind of unrequited, innocent love. Throughout this song, the narrator begins to understand that her childlike infatuation and oneness with the ocean keeps her from human love. She strives to reconcile her two loves, but can't change her natural inclination towards the ocean: "it's where we came from, you know, and sometimes I just want to go back".

    I love this song and Dar's passion in singing it (particularly the afforementioned line).
    katrevaon January 10, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAs weird as this sounds, this song always reminds me of the movie "The Little Mermaid". Like she lives for the ocean but there's someone that she longs for on land, corny, but that's what I always think of.
    alnbk5on February 28, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentTo me, the song has always been about a type of forbidden love; the ocean represents the condemnation of their romance while the town acts as a privacy field, allowing them to block all negativity out. I think it's another song that alludes to her bisexuality and the ocean represents the socially acceptable love existing between man and woman. At times she'd like to ignore her feelings towards this woman, stop having to fight so hard for a love not accepted, because it'd be easier but in the ends decides against it because it's something worth fighting for, something worth saving.
    EffulgentEnnuion June 20, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI wish people didn't just look into dars songs as if she wrote them to represent her bisexuality. I also think "its where we came from, you know, and sometimes i just want to go back" is a clear sign that sometimes he wishes he died. It seems like in this song, she maybe went to visit someone who lives in the ocean who was depressed, and was 'drawn to the ocean', but finds that its not the wonderful thing she thought it was. I find it interesting, that during the different periods of the song, when her opinion on the ocean is rattled, she still thinks that the town and whoever she is singing about is "the welcoming back from the ocean". I don't know if anything i thought about this song is really what she was writing about, but i think dar isn't so shallow as to write a song about the ocean to allude to her bisexuality. But clearly this song is symbolic somehow.
    ryskalchickon July 23, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI've always found this song to be about being drawn to losing your own sense of innocence, only to discover that there's no epiphany, no greater good in the doing so. In this case, the other voice (which I've always heard as male, but whatever) and at the end he's confronting her, telling her that he's been to hell and back, and part of what he loves about her is that she hasn't, and he's warning her against trying to prove that she can brave "the ocean" while he knows it has nothing to offer.
    Navelgazer33on June 04, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think the song is about projection, and then disillusionment. The narrator projects her feelings, first onto the ocean, seeing it as a kindred spirit, a confidant. Then she sees the apparent uncaring malevolence of the ocean ("I've bludgeoned your sailors, I spit out their keepsakes"). Then, she comes to an epiphany - the ocean doesn't think ("I thought the ocean, the ocean thought nothing"), that it was all her projection.

    She eagerly goes all to tell what she's learned to her friend, who lives by the ocean and who she thinks is a guy who has it all together. The guy sets her straight telling her about his utter loneliness and almost suicidal frustration. He says to her "you don't know how precious you are, walking around with your little shoes dangling".

    Brilliant song on so many levels.
    fanofoldieson January 15, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI know the imagery of the ocean is making listeners reach for symbolism, but in this case I think it's really a song about an unrequited love, and much of the ocean metaphor relates to her feelings towards him - and the pain of not being able to have him. The ocean is this sensual, magnetic being she can't quite ever "have" - like him - and like the amoral sea, he has the power to drown her. Him... love... both have the power to "bludgeon the sailors".
    j3ebruleson October 11, 2016   Link

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