St. Leonard touched a philistine--a sacred tongue, a perfect rhyme
But even he was "not much nourished by modern love."

So i told her that everything she does is divine and she replied with a blank expression (an object lesson in making me feel benign)
Then whispered, "independence and indifference are the wings which allow the heart to fly."

Feelings i’ve had too often, still no plan in place to soften the inevitable blow (the rituals we know).
And with the right revolting piety of tone, the word "freedom" can make you want to lock yourself in a deep dark dungeon.

But I know everybody follows pleasure, everybody gets somewhere.
I swear, I wish I could be less aware... now it’s absolutely clear to me that solitude is not the same as singularity, but that’s not why i’m lonely.


Lyrics submitted by NeoNess

Why I'm Lonely song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentI once asked my friend what he thought this song meant, and he replied "I have no idea. This is what happens when incredibly smart people make music."

    I think what Sean's getting at though, is that he's lonely because no one quite understands him but himself. The line "..solitude is not the same as singularity" indicates that he's isolated in the world even though there's people all around him.
    applejackon April 09, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think it's about un-requited love, and wanting someone who wants to be single, especially with the line "with the right revolting piety of tone, the word 'freedom' can make you want to lock yourself in a deep, dark dungeon," because it sucks when you're lonely, and everyone is just talking about how they love being single.
    tay-parkeron May 01, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWhy I'm lonely - it's obviously a love song! :)

    solitude is not the same as singularity, but that’s not why i’m lonely.

    I think that refers to an unhappy relationship... but that they know their unhappiness is due to another reason. Like an unhappiness in themselves.
    Miaowrenon June 26, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"Not much nourished by modern love" is a song lyric from Queen Victoria, by Leonard Cohen. Don't know enough about that to speak further on it.

    Also not sure whether St. Leonard is a double reference to St. Leonard of Noblac, who was made a patron saint of political prisoners, for having given freedom to so many.
    Tadhgon January 31, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI really like this song because I think it's a broader commentary on how modernity makes it difficult to love and achieve intimacy. As Tadhq pointed out, "not much nourished by modern love" is from a Leonard Cohen song. In that song, Queen Victoria is an obvious symbol of the Victorian age, an era known for its emotional and sexual restraint. The Victorian era is also when the Industrial Revolution occurred, which marks the beginning of modernity and helped to create the consumer culture we have in the western world.

    Today, the new modernity in the western world tends to focus on upward mobility, independence, and freedom. Having such a focus on those values has had a huge impact on how we express and react to true intimacy. HD captures that perfectly with the lyrics:

    "So i told her that everything she does is divine and she replied with a blank expression (an object lesson in making me feel benign)
    Then whispered, 'independence and indifference are the wings which allow the heart to fly.'"

    Here, the speaker offers an honest expression of admiration and love, and is met with the independence and indifference that an unrelenting focus on upward mobility at all costs has taught us.

    In the next stanza, we see a kind of existential terror set in when the narrator is struck with the realization of what the costs of our "freedom" really is:

    "And with the right revolting piety of tone, the word 'freedom' can make you want to lock yourself in a deep dark dungeon. "

    This feeling of rejection causes the narrator to feel even more alienated, as we see in the next stanza:

    "But I know everybody follows pleasure, everybody gets somewhere. I swear, I wish I could be less aware."

    To me, that really speaks to our consumer culture... everybody else is just able to stop thinking, buy things, engage is purely physical relationships, follow pleasure, and it seems to work for them. However, the narrator isn't able to ignore his own feelings.

    The next line, I think, speaks again to how our consumer culture expresses their ideas of freedom & independence.

    "now it’s absolutely clear to me that solitude is not the same as singularity, but that’s not why i’m lonely."

    We think our freedom makes us "singular," unique individuals who are self-sufficient & free-thinkers. But really, we just end up "solitary," physically alone in the world and emotionally alienated & detached from others. We just end up pushing others away in order to reinforce our false ideas of independence that modernity has taught us.

    The very last line ("but that's not why I'm lonely...") I think is meant to be sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek. To the narrator, it's very obvious that the cause of his loneliness is not his own doing, but representative of larger social problems. However, because people love to cling to their consumerism and modernity, if you speak out against this, people will do everything they can to make you feel like it's your problem to discount your feelings. So the narrator is effectively laying this all out there, and then bitingly saying "but *that's* got nothing to do with it..."
    relampagoson March 02, 2012   Link
  • 0
    MemoryAt one of Harvey Danger's "Last Tour Ever" shows, somebody asked Sean Nelson what this song's about. He said that "Saint Leonard" does refer to Leonard Cohen (by the way, good Queen Victoria catch). He also said that at the time he wrote it, he was listening to a bunch of Leonard Cohen and reading a bunch of philosophy about humanity, meaning, etc, and at the end of it all just thought "Fuck, I still feel like this".
    andipalmuron February 27, 2013   Link
  • -2
    General CommentI know this song isn't political, but these two lines...

    "And with the right revolting piety of tone, the word
    'freedom' can make you want to lock yourself in a deep dark dungeon."

    ...remind me of the Bush administration and the War on Terror. Especially after the political commentary in the first two songs on the album ("I had a lovely brunch with Jesus Christ..." "Family and Christian/Untenable position/Here comes the inquisition" etc. etc.)

    Vote Obama in '08! ;-)
    Archaia Sophiaon February 12, 2008   Link

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