The boy child is locked in the fisherman's yard
There's a bloodless moon where the oceans die
A shoal of nightstars hang fire in the nets
And the chaos of cages where the crayfish lie

Where is the fisherman where is the goat?
Where is the keeper in his carrion coat?
Eclipse on the moon when the dark bird flies
Where is the child with his father's eyes?

These are the soul cages
These are the soul cages

He's the king of the ninth world
The twisted son of the fog bells toll
In each and every lobster cage
A tortured human soul

These are the souls of the broken factories
The subject slaves of the broken crown
The dead accounting of old guilty promises
These are the souls of the broken town

These are the soul cages
These are the soul cages
These are the soul cages
These are the soul cages

'I have a wager' the brave child spoke
The fisherman laughed, though disturbed at the joke.
'You will drink what I drink but you must equal me
And if the drink leaves me standing,
A soul shall go free'

'I have here a cask of most magical wine
A vintage that blessed every ship in the line
It's wrung from the blood of the sailors who died
Young white body adrift in the tide'

'And what's in it for me my pretty young thing?
Why should I whistle, when the caged bird sings?
If you lose a wager with the king of the sea
You'll spend the rest of forever in the cage with me'

These are the soul cages
These are the soul cages
These are the soul cages
These are the soul cages

A body lies open in the fisherman's yard
Like the side of a ship where the iceberg rips
One less soul in the soul cages
One last curse on the fisherman's lips

These are the soul cages
These are the soul cages
These are the soul cages
These are the soul cages

Swim to the light
Swim to the light

He dreamed of the ship on the sea
It would carry his father and he
To a place they could never be found
To a place far away from this town
A Newcastle ship without coals
They would sail to the island of souls


Lyrics submitted by Novartza

"The Soul Cages" as written by Gordon Sumner

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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The Soul Cages song meanings
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6 Comments

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  • +1
    General CommentThis song could have so many different meanings, but to me it seems as if it was nothing more or less than an interesting and frightening story Sting wanted to tell. He's the master of narrative lyrics and he likes telling tales (and he's damned good at it).

    The fisherman and the brave young boy are fantastic characters and the idea of someone collecting human souls like birds makes me shiver.

    The very last stanza, however, is the most powerful. The way how Sting sings it, so full of emotions, and the image of the Newcastle ship almost make me cry.
    WhiteWolfDiefon June 27, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe roots of this song are buried in British folklore. Sting explained in Lyrics By Sting: "There is an old British folktale about the souls of the dead being kept under the sea in the lobster cages of a creature who is half man, half fish. Anyone who dares try to free the souls of the dead must go under the sea himself and drink with the creature. If he drinks him under the table, the souls will go free. If, on the other hand, the creature prevails, the challenger will be imprisoned forever in the cages at the bottom of the sea. You need a strong stomach to treat with this creature."
    kathy10154on December 04, 2016   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think @kathy10154 has the most perceptive post on where the song truly came from. (I'll have to go back and look at that book, which I also have.)
    I think that what she says, along with other things about Sting's upbringing and perceptions of his hometown play very heavily into this song - it's like a mix of the two- If you think of the boy child being Sting; and both the Fisherman and the "king of the ninth world" being his father's boss (a Devil like character - the king of the sea) it can start to come into focus a bit more- Sting makes a deal with the Devil (and wins!) to set his father's soul free. But it's also like "hell" is defined as being trapped in this small town where industry enslaves the people and eventually collects their souls in the end.
    Sting always wanted to "escape" from the doldrums of the shipbuilding town... and he always "felt sorry" for all the workers in the town that seemed to have 'sold their souls' to their employer. So this song - especially revealed in the last verse - is like Sting rescuing himself and his Dad. Sting got out in real life (wrote music, became a star), his father, not so much - but the song paints a picture in which he is able to rescue his father in the end and they both are set free to go to the island of souls (instead of the wicked soul cages at the bottom of the sea.)
    tom1148082on May 13, 2020   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt has the same name as the album, and it reminds me of a picture, called "The Therapist" or something.
    What it says to me is that ones body is a cage, and the soul is like a bird. When we die, the cage opens and the bird flies away.
    Another great Sting metaphore :)
    AprilMoon1991on July 01, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"Young white body adrift" should read "Young white bodies adrift".
    qneillon December 15, 2007   Link
  • -1
    General CommentThis song is in part about his father, who died of cancer the year before this song was written.
    gweepson June 18, 2006   Link

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