The man in 119 takes his tea all alone.
Mornings we all rise to wireless Verdi cries.
I'm hearing opera through the door.
The souls of men and women, impassioned all.
Their voices climb and fall; battle trumpets call.
I fill the bath and climb inside, singing.

He will not touch their pastry
but every day they bring him more.
Gold from the breakfast tray, I steal them all away
and then go and eat them on the shore.

I draw a jackal-headed woman in the sand,
sing of a lover's fate sealed by jealous hate
then wash my hand in the sea.
With just three days more I'd have just about learned the entire score to Aida.

Holidays must end as you know.
All is memory taken home with me:
the opera, the stolen tea, the sand drawing, the verging sea, all years ago.


Lyrics submitted by kornchick

Verdi Cries song meanings
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9 Comments

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  • +3
    General CommentI sing this song to my children at bedtime - to me, this song is a lullaby that commemorates and reveres the memories of our childhood. "All is memory, taken home with me" - when the vacation ends, when your childhood ends, when your home is no more - you will always have this clear, happy memory. And when you remember it as an adult, you will begin to understand what you couldn't understand then as a child when you experienced it - the sadness and pain the man in 119 must have felt, listening to Aida over and over, refusing his breakfast. And now that you've lived as much life as the man in 119 has, you can imagine yourself in his place, listening to a beautiful piece of music to ease your grief, losing your appetite from the suffering you feel. It comes full circle.

    I went to a lecture once about this song, and the thing I remember most about the talk was that there's a really lovely use of silence and pauses in the song - which forces us to slow down, and reflect.
    HLsGirlon July 08, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentMerchant was recently asked about this song on a BBC program. She explained it was about an experience in Europe when she was "probably 20". It was about someone (who she never saw - she called the man "fictitious") in the room next to her playing opera all day. Joking she said "he drove me insane".
    Kenneth1on August 03, 2014   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI\'m fascinated with this song--Anyone have any insight what she wrote it about.

    Natalie\'s songs tend to be very autobiographical and often are of \"face value\", so I wouldn\'t be surprised if this were about a real part of her life.
    nittson March 23, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI believe this song is about a vacation she (Natalie Merchant) probably took when she was a young girl.
    She remembers fondly and a bit sadly the man staying in a room near hers who sang opera everyday as well as other memories of her "holiday." Sad that it had to end: "With just three days more I'd have just about learned the entire score to Aida," but happy she'd have the memories: "...the stolen tea, the sand drawing, the verging sea..."

    Of course, I would not know if this is autobiographical but I think it's words a at least literal if not completely actual.
    deedoon June 14, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is pretty cut and dried, but it is beautiful. Natalie has such a way with words that she can paint an entire picture in her song lyrics.
    cruel shoeson July 02, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis might be the best 10,000 Maniacs song of them all, so simple yet so brilliant. It is about the imagery of a past memories that we hold near and dear. It is about the nostalgia we wish we could return to, and because we can't, we feel like we miss that moment. This seems to be about a memory of Natalie's when she was staying at a hotel, listening to the man in room 119 sing to Aida, a Verdi composition, having some innocent fun, and really taking in the moments.
    magoosh008on November 05, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentLove your take on it HLsGirl. It is about memories of a holiday, but it's got a depth to it, both musically and lyrically, that clearly is pointing to more than simply light memories of a good time.

    If you're of a decent age (like I am LOL), you'll start to get this sort of song. Those special times as a child/teenager that are so full of carefree joy and fun that you can't even fully appreciate until you can look back on them from a distance.
    PapaJon February 13, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI believe that this song is about a real part of Natalie's life: her birth as an artist. In the song she evolves from creating memories, to piano practice, to translating the Italian opera's vengeful role of Amneris into a jackal-headed woman thus creating art of art. Internalizing it all, she is on the verge of transitioning into what she will become.

    I'm of two minds as to the title, either it's about Verdi not just writing about passion, he feels it and she feels it, it's a part of her; or as I like to believe, that Verdi's cry is the happy cry of knowing that an artist is born (the happy father).

    She is truly a genius - beautiful!
    david10330on January 18, 2015   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is about a woman in the hotel killing the man in room 119. I believe she had a fascination and love for the man in 119 who listens to Verdi. she says ' draw a jackal headed woman in the sand' she is drawing her self. She then says 'lovers fate sealed by jealous hate' Perhaps she feels this jealous hate towards this mans lover. ' I was my hands in the sea'', she washes the blood off her hand.
    ap125nyon November 26, 2015   Link

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