"Cities In Dust" as written by and Peter Clarke Susan Ballion....
Water was running; children were running
You were running out of time
Under the mountain, a golden fountain
Were you praying at the Lares shrine?
But oh your city lies in dust, my friend

We found you hiding we found you lying
Choking on the dirt and sand
Your former glories and all the stories
Dragged and washed with eager hands

But oh your city lies in dust, my friend
Hot and burning in your nostrils
Pouring down your gaping mouth
Your molten bodies blanket of cinders
Caught in the throes

And your city lies in dust

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"Cities in Dust" as written by Siouxsie Sioux Peter Edward Clarke


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Cities In Dust song meanings
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  • +4
    General CommentSIOUXSIE: "This was our first trip to Pompeii, another amazing experience. Seeing a whole civilisation petrified in lava was like putting yourself in the place at the time, and imagining how it must have been to be there when it happened. I find it really easy to do that, to get ghost images of life continuing as it was. I often wonder if that’s what real hauntings are - your imagination and your senses bringing things back to life. That’s why you’d never be able to capture it on film." Source: Melody Maker 17/10/92.
    JJKelsallon December 01, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General CommentLooking back (while seeming to tell the tale to one who passed on there) at the time before the eruption of Vesuvius and the subsequent rain of ashes covered the denizens of Pompeii.
    traumahoundon October 12, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis song was written after the band took a trip to Pompei whiel on tour. Siouxsie said being there felt as if she could feel the agony of the people who had died there and it was haunting for her.
    lokithecaton February 03, 2006   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationIMO this song is about a person who lives in a total Delusion.

    Its a big peace of art.Using words to describe an event and then using the event to make the point.

    Lets start with this - The City symbolizes all of his Illusions And Lies Bundled together.

    -Water was running, children were running
    pretty obvious imo,somebody started destroying his world of illusion and pieces are falling down
    -You were running out of time
    He was running out of time to make up something new so he could cover the places that were destroyed.
    -Under the mountain, a golden fountain
    This shows how well build was his "City" or in other words how much he lied himself and what not
    -Were you praying at the Lares shrine?
    as probably the most of you Lares were the "good" gods of ancient Rome to make the long story short.This one is pretty much obvious he got nothing else to do so the only thing he can do is hope.
    -But, oh, your city lies in dust, my friend
    Note "my friend" He is probably a close friend of the delusioned guy and just tries to help him
    There is nothing he can hope for they almost destroyed all the illusion he wrapped himself in.

    -We found you hiding we found you lying
    He hid cause he didnt know what to do,everything he believed is false and was nothing more then an illusion
    -Choking on the dirt and sand
    he couldnt speak,he had no idea what could he say
    -Your former glories and all the stories
    He probably thought that he head a good and happy life,that he was invincible or whatever
    -Dragged and washed with eager hands
    Note "washed" and "eager hands" Eager hands pretty much mean that his friend wanted to help him Washed is rather simple too more or less - he washed his stories and former glories - he destroyed the illusion around them and made him see them as they truly are.

    -Hot and burning in your nostrils
    -Pouring down your gaping mouth
    at first he is angry at his friend for doing that to him
    -Your molten bodies blanket of cinders
    Molten bodies and blanket of cinders symbolize the pieces of his illusion that are left but are going to disappear soon
    -Caught in the throes
    He realizes that the bodies and blankets are not in pain but he is..

    -And your city lies in dust
    Best line in the song imo.Its done,your city lies in dust.And you are still alive.
    Aerrison May 03, 2010   Link
  • +2
    Song MeaningThis is about the eruption of Vesuvias, and the destruction of Pompei. Siousxie visited an arcaeological site there.

    "We found you hiding we found you lying
    Choking on the dirt and sand
    Your former glories and all the stories
    Dragged and washed with eager hands"

    A body, uncovered by archaeologists, and artifacts excavated and cleaned.

    Who could not be affected by such a sight?
    WingedWolfon September 21, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis song is not only about the destruction of Pompeii by Vesuvius, but also the deterioration of the Roman society.
    "Under the mountain, a golden fountain
    Were you praying at the Lares shrine?"

    It's seen here that Siouxsie is talking about how avaricious and greedy they were as well as how dependent they were on their pagan gods (the Lares is actually the gods of the household who protected the family, property and farms. They also gaurded entire cities. Shrines to the Lares were found in peoples homes and often at crossroads). Due to their self-absorbtion, the empire collapsed and was easily taken down by unkindly enemies.
    Siouxsie was inspired by this song with a visit she had to the remains of Pompeii, and we can see her thoughts on the way the archaeologists treat the site:

    "Dragged and washed with eager hands"

    Siouxsie is quite the historian and intelligent woman! =]
    BonjourLaFilleon December 22, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General CommentInteresting that a lot of people read a Christian or culturally conservative ethic into this -- I don't see any censure in the song of pagan idolatry or of the moral character of Roman civilization in late first century A.D. (which, actually, was thriving and centuries away from collapse).

    Rather, the focus is on the suddenness of a city's collapse, and how impotent an ordinary person is when faced with annihilation. The people of Pompeii, obviously, could not have stopped Vesuvius no matter how well they behaved. Nor could their gods ("Were you praying at the Lares shrine?"). The song also dwells on the insignificance of human accomplishment in the face of death ("Your former glories and all the stories/ Dragged and washed with eager hands"). Everything can be erased in a second by powers well outside of an ordinary person's control.

    Again, I think it's wrong to read this as a general rebuke of Roman civilization. Rome's collapse was not sudden. It occurred over centuries of deterioration and for a great multitude of reasons, beyond the simple rote Christian reading of bad morals. It took Edward Gibbon thousands of pages to describe, after all.

    I agree with those who draw parallels to nuclear war. The terrifying aspect of this song is that we imagine the bodies at Pompeii, permanently fixed in the positions they died in, and we can readily imagine the same thing happening to us.
    Caecuson May 16, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI wonder why siouxsie would write a song about Pompeii, which happened so long ago. I suspect it's meant as some sort of allegory to the modern threat of destruction of cities by nuclear weapons.
    Sozlukon December 28, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentA song about the sudden destruction of Pompeii. This the song that made me a true fan. The entire album TINDERBOX is acceptionally good. And Budgie is one of the most talented drummers in the business.
    MrLongroveon January 29, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentMy friend and I took it as a big symbol. Yes, it is about Pompeii (literally), but it is also about a deceitful person (figuratively). Someone who is a liar usually will eventually feel guilt (even more-so after being caught), and the feeling of guilt is like this burning feeling like lava pouring down your throat.
    btrswtbutterflyon October 11, 2007   Link

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