"St. Stephen" as written by Robert C. Hunter, Jerome J. Garcia and Philip Lesh....
Saint Stephen with a rose, in and out of the garden he goes
Country garden in the wind and the rain
Wherever he goes the people all complain

Stephen prospered in his time, well he may and he may decline
Did it matter, does it now? Stephen would answer if he only knew how
Wishing well with a golden bell, bucket hanging clear to hell
Hell halfway twixt now and then
Stephen fill it up and lower down and lower down again

Lady finger, dipped in moonlight, writing "What for?" across the morning sky
Sunlight splatters, dawn with answer, darkness shrugs and bids the day goodbye

Speeding arrow, sharp and narrow
What a lot of fleeting matters you have spurned
Several seasons with their treasons
Wrap the babe in scarlet colors, call it your own
Did he doubt or did he try? Answers aplenty in the bye and bye
Talk about your plenty, talk about your ills
One man gathers what another man spills

Saint Stephen will remain, all he's lost he shall regain
Seashore washed by the suds and foam,
Been here so long, he's got to calling it home

Fortune comes a crawlin', calliope woman, spinnin' that curious sense of your own
Can you answer, yes I can
But what would be the answer to the answer man?


Lyrics submitted by itsmyownmind

"St. Stephen" as written by Philip Lesh Jerome J. Garcia

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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St. Stephen song meanings
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  • +1
    My InterpretationI can't see any references in this song to the life and work of Stephan Gaskan. If the references are there, I would be interested in reading an elaboration on those references.

    Perhaps I am stating the obvious here, but I do see references to St. Stephen, who is celebrated as the first martyr of Christian Church, and whose life and death are briefly recounted in the Book of Acts, Chapters 6 and 7.

    "St. Stephen with a rose . . ." -- the red rose is a symbol of martyrdom in Christian iconography.

    ". . . in and out of the garden he goes." -- St. Stephen's Green is a beautiful garden park in the center of Dublin.

    "Wherever he goes the people all complain" -- St. Stephen, according to Acts, was a powerful, itinerant preacher who aroused the ire of the the local religious authorities wherever he went.

    "Stephen would answer if he only knew how." -- When St. Stephen was seized by the authorities, he did not answer the questions asked by his inquisitors, but rather told them what he wanted them to hear; they condemned him to death by stoning.

    "Lady finger. dipped in moonlight, writing "What for?" across the morning sky." -- The leaves of the Lady Finger, common across Northern Europe, are used of staunch the flow of blood; but this folk cure would have been no help against the blows that St. Stephen received.

    "Darkness shrugs and bids the day goodbye" -- Death overcomes St. Stephen.

    "Speeding arrow, sharp and narrow" -- Although St. Stephen was stoned, the image of a man tied to the tree and shot with arrows is a well-known image of Christian martyrdom.

    "Wrap the babe in scarlet colors, call it your own" -- Perhaps a reference to wrapping the dead St. Stephen in burial robes (traditionally white at the time but made red by his bloodied body) and laying him in his tomb; his purported tomb north of Jerusalem was a popular pilgrim destination during the early Christian era.

    "Did he doubt or did he try? Answers aplenty in the bye and bye." -- Although Acts reports St. Stephen as remaining steadfast in his faith to the moment of death, the songwriters wonder if St. Stephen did experience a moment of doubt, and recognizes that we will not get the answer to that question in this world.

    "St. Stephen will remain, all he's lost he shall regain." -- A final reference to St. Stephen's death and a reference to the resurrection in which St. Stephen believed.

    I am not suggesting that this song simply tells the story of the biblical St. Stephen. I am suggesting that the songwriters employed a series of references to the biblical St. Stephen to evoke a certain type -- one of God's Fools -- a man, perhaps a hobo wandering in and out of country gardens, who is so absorbed in his experience of spiritual reality, that he cannot function in world; this Fool's disconnection from the day-to-day is so extreme that he unwittingly provokes his own death at the hands of fellow men. The songwriters see the Fool as heroic, which is evidenced by the reference to Calliope, the muse of heroic poetry.

    I have made no attempt to connect every image in this song with St. Stephen's story. Ultimately, the beauty and power of the imagery, and the music to which it is set, transcend the story being told. I agree with those who consider this a great musical work.





    ". . . darkness shrugs and bids the day goodby" --





    According to Acts, St. Stephen was a powerful p

    The song imagines St. Stephen, who is described in Acts as "a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit", as a simple-minded hobo.

    PubliusNYCon March 28, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI say that the song is about sex. Look at all the in-and-out imagery, phallic imagery, and references to getting hard and then going down (limp).

    1) Saint Stephen with a rose

    The engorged male organ is pink; in medieval times, blushes and inflammations used to be referred to as a “rose”; confirm rosacea (a type of facial acne)

    2) In and out of the garden he goes.

    Obvious

    3) Country garden in the wind and the rain

    Similar to a million bad jokes about the location of the female organ between the excretory and urinary exits: “between mud and flood.”

    4) Wherever he goes the people all complain.

    Sex is controversial. People see sex in the open and they complain. So it has to be disguised in a buch of obligue song lyrics.

    5) Wishing well with a golden bell, bucket hanging clear to hell,
    Hell halfway twixt now and then,
    Stephen fill it up and lower down and lower down again.

    If the song were really about a bucket and a well, then the lyrics wouldn’t make sense: You don’t fill a bucket at the top and lower it; you fill it at the bottom and raise it. So instead, the well is the female organ (often maligned in medieval literature as the road to hell). Stephen fills the well up, and then he goes down (limp).

    6) One man gathers what another man spills.

    The Bible cautions against men spilling their seed via masturbation. So the song line says that some men retain and some spill (some are abstinent adn some indulge).

    7) But what would be the answer to the answer man?

    The biggest question in the world is, What’s the purpose of life? (“Lady finger, dipped in moonlight, writing "What for?" across the morning sky.”) Darwin and Freud answered it: To procreate. Species that are bent on procreation survive; those that aren’t don’t. So sex is its own answer, and Stephen is the “answer man”: “Sunlight splatters the dawn with answers, darkness shrugs and bids the day goodbye.” In other words, splatter your answer and be on your way.

    8) Saint Stephen will remain, all he's lost he shall regain,

    Stephen recuperates quickly. After sex, he just needs a little time to “regain what he’s lost”, and he’s ready to go again.

    9) Fortune comes a crawlin', calliope woman, spinnin' that curious sense of your own.

    Back to it, with a new woman delivered by Fortune. Confirm the earlier section about “Several seasons with their treasons, Wrap the babe in scarlet colors, call it your own.” The two sections make references to the fickleness and possessiveness of lust: You claim a woman as “your own” until the next morning, when you’re no longer so interested in her and already looking for the next “calliope woman,” i.e., parade of women on the merry-go-round of life.

    10) And so on. Stuff like “Speeding arrow, sharp and narrow” and “washed by the suds and foam” should be obvious.
    Duchampson April 09, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"Lady finger, dipped in moonlight, writing "What for?" across the morning sky.
    Sunlight splatters, dawn with answer, darkness shrugs and bids the day goodbye. "

    Greatest lyric of all time
    sexwax310on May 06, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General Commentsexwax, i may agree with you on that. great imagery!
    BarryKardonon April 10, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commenthaha ya. that's my favourite part of the song..
    givepeaceachanceon November 16, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentgood call...my favorite dead song of all time...and those lyrics are the most amazing
    sucks_at_lifeon December 15, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song may or may not be about Stephen Gaskin, a late sixties San Francisco counterculture figure who later moved (along with quite a few other hippies) to Tennessee where they founded the commune/intentional community called "The Farm" which still exists and where Stephen is still living. I have met him several times and nominated him to be the Green Party candidate for President in 2000.
    Jerrybearon December 15, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI've seen this song refered to as "the forgoten song" or "the other one" anyone know why?
    Drucker Truckeron January 15, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentDrucker: that might be b/c the bridge (that lady finger part talked about above) was becoming difficult for the band to play correctly so they dumped it from the song rotation, adding to the song's legend among fans.
    *Merlin*on February 11, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThanks merlin. Thats interesting. It makes sense though.
    Drucker Truckeron March 13, 2005   Link

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