as someone sets light to the first fire of autumn
we settle down to cut ourselves apart.
cough and twitch from the news on your face
and some foreign candle burning in your eyes

held to the past too aware of the pending
chill as the dawn breaks and finds us up for sale.
enter the fog another low road descending
away from the cold lust, your house and summertime.

blind to the last curse of the fair pistols and countless eyes
a trail of white blood betrays the reckless route your craft is running
feed till the sun turns into wood dousing an ancient torch
loiter the whole day through and lose yourself in lines dissecting love.

your name on my cast and my notes on your stay
offer me little but doting on a crime.
we've turned every stone and for all our inventions
in matters of love loss, we've no recourse at all.

blind to the last curse of the fair pistols and countless eyes
a trail of white blood betrays the reckless route your craft is running
feed till the sun turns into wood dousing an ancient torch
loiter the whole day through and lose yourself in lines dissecting
lose yourself in lines dissecting
lose yourself in lines dissecting
lose yourself in lines dissecting
. . .
lose yourself in lines dissecting in love.


Lyrics submitted by rudegirl, edited by Bob Stein, robthomson

The Past And Pending song meanings
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  • +3
    General CommentIn general, this song is about saying goodbye. A lot of people have already suggested that this song is about breaking up, and that is a valid interpretation. However, I will be going with the interpretation of love lost as in the the death (or anticipated death) of a family member, friend, or significant other. I'll explain why I think so by highlighting the important parts of the song:

    The song opens up with a reference to autumn. Autumn is generally associated with old age and decline, with the coming of winter as death. "We settle down to cut apart" refers to the the act of preparing to say goodbye. The specific scenarios I imagine the song being applicable to would be something like other family members sitting by the bedside of a terminally ill relative, or simply an aged couple settling down, mulling the how quickly life has passed and becoming anxious about their remaining time together.

    "Cough and twitch from the news on your face" means the sudden realization of regrets, and the inevitability of death now that it is so close at hand. "Foreign candle burning in your eyes" - you know that saying, "Oh that person has a faraway look in his eyes?" When someone is so caught up and lost in their thoughts, it's like they're gazing into the distance...like they're looking into the foreign lands of their mind. This ties in nicely with the "Lose yourself in lines dissecting" part, as I will mention later.

    "Held to the past too aware of the pending." You want to cherish the times spent together. But the fond act of remembrance is tainted by the dark certainties of the future. It's always something at the back of your mind, that someday it'll all end.

    "Your name on my cast and my notes on your stay." Those left behind, they suffer as broken people. And the cast they wear during the healing process bears the name of their lost loved one. The "notes on your stay" simply mean memories of time together--the only thing left.

    "We've turned every stone and for all our inventions, in matters of love loss, we've no recourse at all." Pretty self-explanatory. We live in modern society, with apparent solutions to a formidable amount of technological, scientific, and rational problems. Nonetheless, each of us as an individual can be utterly crippled by the emotions of sorrow due to lost love. It is absurdly easy how vulnerable we are in some respects, despite how far we've come intellectually.

    And of course the most poignant line: "Loiter the whole day through and lose yourself in lines dissecting love..." The way Mercer repeats it and softly fades out, you literally get lost in the song... And you'll notice a nice scene in the music video of the freeway overpasses interlacing as "lines dissecting" the sky. Anyway, this relates to my earlier interpretation of "foreign candle." Just thinking so much, having that lost look, dissecting and analyzing the situation, mulling over the past, whatever. It's that flurry of thoughts and thinking and overthinking things that makes you lose time without even knowing it.

    I wasn't able to do a complete line-by-line analysis, but I think the rest of the song kind of falls into place. Plus if you watch the music video (youtube.com/…), it seems to be about a grandson and his grandfather spending quality time together. The grandson is taking pictures, "being held to the past." Perhaps because they are both "too aware of the the pending," no words are ever exchanged between the two during the video.

    The theme of this song is the transience of the people we love in our life. Eventually we all have to say goodbye, whether it be a temporary one or the final goodbye. I know I've focused on the final goodbyes in this analysis, but the song is consistent with milder interpretations. So something even about a student going off to college, leaving their best friends and family--that goodbye is applicable as well.
    bdtrinhon March 07, 2011   Link
  • +3
    General CommentOh, how I love this song. The harmonica part is probably my favorite part of the song. I think the song is about breaking up with someone who you really loved, and who really loved you, and having that break-up hurt you and the other person so much that it nearly swears you off love forever. Obviously you could go a bit deeper than that, as with any Shins song, but that's (part of) the reason why I love the Shins so much - their lyrics are so deep that they can be interpreted so many different ways by anyone.
    NirvanaStrokesluvon March 24, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General Comment"your name on my cast" -- elliot smith reference (no. name #5, "got a broken heart and your name on my cast")?

    also, I think the words in the chorus might be

    "feet to the sun, turns into moon dousing an ancient torch" . . .
    freejoe76on June 12, 2003   Link
  • +2
    General Commenti love the line "and some foreign candle burning in your eyes". to me that sounds like a relationship between people and one of them starts having feelings for another person. the whole "candle" referring to love like a spark. and it is foreign because it is not the look in her eyes he was used to before. now she is gazing past him and at someone else.

    i also like the last line "loiter the whole day through and lose yourself in lines dissecting love". because it holds so much truth. you try to dissect every part of something when it goes bad. you dont think of anything else cause you're heartbroken.

    ahh i love this song. and i loove the shins. how can lyrics truly be this amazing while having a breath-taking melody as well?
    aLieToRiseAboveon July 05, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General Comment"loiter the whole day through and lose yourself in lines dissecting love"

    A most impressive line for any song. A very, very favorite line of mine for any song, ever. Huge kudos, James.

    To me there is no way to see this line representing anything but how we reflect, from every conceivable angle (hence, the "lines dissecting") on the "what could've beens" when things don't go as we thought they could or should in the matters of love.
    BarkingPumpkinon January 27, 2011   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationMmkay, I love this song so much I gave a try to squeeze the most I could from the abstract lyrics James always gives us.

    "As someone sets light to the first fire of autumn
    we settle down to cut ourselves apart.
    cough and twitch from the news on your face
    and some foreign candle burning in your eyes."

    Autumn is also fall, so setting light to a fall means that it
    has just begun. The poetic voice is evidently introducing
    the context for the rest of the song, as ~they "cut" themselves
    apart; this metaphorizing verb implies blood, suffering, something
    usually followed by a fall. Meaning that they're no longer "they",
    as they are now apart.

    Coughs and twitches are involuntary reactions of the body, caused, in
    this case, by news from a face with distracted eyes, eyes that now see
    from other source of light. We could interpret this as the companion
    of the poetic voice, whose mind was stolen by "someone" who set light
    to this fall, involuntarily, perhaps.

    "Held to the past too aware of the pending
    chill as the dawn breaks and finds us up for sale.
    enter the fog another low road descending
    away from the cold lust, your house and summertime."

    After the cutting news, this mind goes through a period of analyzing
    what that relationship was, whatever was, and now is conscious about
    the future of thoughts and experiences that awaits him.
    Now dawn has caught them apart and plans to "sell" them to the world,
    this means that time, represented by dawn, will be the only thing
    responsible for their future being.

    "Into the fog", just extends this sloped uncertainty, a blurry unknown descending path, far away from the warmth that comes with the companion's house in which the poetic voice laid and now sees it as something good, something that provided him with comfortness.

    "Blind to the last curse of the fair pistols and countless eyes
    a trail of white blood betrays the reckless route your craft is running
    Feed till the sun turns into wood dousing an ancient torch
    loiter the whole day through and lose yourself in lines dissecting love."

    I'm not sure about the first line of the chorus.
    The poetic voice is telling us about how it's blind to the last curse,
    it cannot see anything but "fair pistols", which could be the image
    of the inner fights scrutinized by countless eyes, the many points of view
    of this situation.
    Now it finds a discordance in its companion's behavior, which is leaving the poetic voice with a trail of wounds by following a reckless route. The thought of the companion is apparently confusing.
    The sun was a common source of light and warmth, and now it's turned into a lightless, lifeless volatile object, which ironically turns off their own torch, a doused memory of fire.
    And now he spends his time "dissecting love", and we're brought to the final
    consequence of the initial cut; by dissecting something we're acknowledging
    its death for further analysis of its parts, searching for internal causes of death. This is done by writing this song, dissecting this love with words and thoughts.

    "Your name on my cast and my notes on your stay
    offer me little but doting on a crime.
    we've turned every stone and for all our inventions
    in matters of love loss, we've no recourse at all."

    This is the final moment. Now our guy it's in the stage of bearing with
    the break-up. The poetic voice is fading and it says that keeping the
    memory of the loving past just dotes on the crime of hurting himself:
    thinking about it and being held to the past just feeds his increasing
    sadness.
    Turning every stone means that he's been searching ways to cope with
    his love loss, but it cannot be helped, there's no invention that helps
    us all with love losses. We've no recourse at all.


    I enjoy this song very very much though it's deeply sad and reflexive. It
    talks about a very common feeling, love loss, which includes any form of losing a loved one. From simple causes of divergence to complex ones: from having a fight, finding another one to love, or cheating; to great fights, separation by distance, and death, the most complex one. I love how poetic the stages of love loss are described here. And I love The Shins and the marvelous way James uses the only tools he has to directly communicate his feelings, music and lyrics.

    note: my analysis never discriminates the factor of death, and if you think about it, it can be very shocking; oh, how I love The Shins.
    jorgeerrzon April 16, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWikipedia mentions this song was played at Heath Ledger's funeral.
    xcdbfplon November 03, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Commentdiddo :(
    poisonawellon March 09, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe melody and beauty of this song are unbelievable. This is by far my favorite song on this album.

    I thought the chorus started "Blind to the last cursed affair," but I'm sure I'm mistaken.

    Also, I think it's a combination of the two suggestions of the second part of the chorus: "Feed 'til the sun turns into moon, dousing an ancient torch." (like do nothing until the sun goes down and turns into moon)

    I don't really know what I think this song means, other than he is heartbroken because his love must leave him. She sounds like she is having a rough time anyway. I just think it is so beautifully complex in its sound, I could listen to this song forever.
    babychewyon June 17, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti kind of see it differently. I just think this song is so beautiful....the whole idea to me is this fire is starting in their relationship, it's that time where you hit the point where you can advance and get serious, or take a step back. I love the reference to the foreign candle in your eye. how cool. something beautiful is in her eye, but it isn't what he hoped for or recognized.

    The second verse goes on about the chilly and foggy theme. I think she is getting cold feet to committ.

    "trail of white blood betrays the reckless route your craft is running" is the best lyric of the song in my opinion. White blood is cold and distant....I think he's a dreamer, wants to see where things will go, but she's holding back for some reason.
    tms6879on November 09, 2004   Link

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