The first thing that I saw as,
The fisherman smiled at me
Were empty people dressed in grey,
Floating out to sea
The rain lashed down in darkness
A lizard blinked an eye
And time stopped in the silence
The small fish gave a cry

The next thing that I saw as,
Things were fading fast
Were dreams of children's laughter,
Smoldering to dust
The rain lashed down in darkness
A lizard blinked an eye
And time stopped in the silence
The small fish gave a cry

The last thing that I saw as, my life passed by
Were fields of empty people, laying down to die
The rain lashed down in darkness
A lizard blinked an eye
And time stopped in the silence
To watch the burning sky.

Lyrics submitted by Ministry

Small Fish Lyrics as written by Steven Wilson Alan Duffy

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Downtown Music Publishing

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Small Fish song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentI can't believe no one has commented on this calssic. It's only one of the coolest, most original, criticizing songs ever...

    It mostly deals with the ever so tragic numbess of nature, this world, and most of all (obviously) of men kind. And its showen in such an original, cool, very graphic way & story- of a small fishi caught by a fisherman. Taken all of a sudden out of his life course, and becoming aware in his short moments of clearity, as the clock ticks and as he's dying slowly, of the "emptiness" and ignorance of people. The same ignorance and numbness that eventually and probably will bring to their self-annihilation. All the magic and charm of the little things in life that makes them worth living, like the banal issue of childern's laughter for example, are being demolish as we grow up, by our stupidity. By our activities. The people continued on with their routine as the fish (his soul) suffered so... Only nature was aware of the horror. Another innocent life taken. The scenery is so dark... So sad... So poetic... "The Rain Lashed Down In Darkness", " A Lizard Blinked An Eye". Very nature like, connects to the fabric of the circle of life, in a bizzare way. The "Empty People Dressed In Grey Floating Out To Sea"... Like a herd, reflects the whole getting lost in the vase things we surround ourselves with (modern tech. for instance).
    In the end, in a very tragic way, the fish take its last breath, doing nothing - dying slowly so painfuly - and watching the flaming burning sky... So poetic. Gives me the chills.
    Wakeboard_Snufkinon June 13, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe whole structure of the song is that of a course.
    The last paragraph of the fields of people laying down to die, displayes the powerful lack of actions we do to correct our ways... As we, very much like the fish, slowly dies... All watching the one thing we're not trying to take control on - the hurrifing burning sky... Which represents our sins (not in the religious way).
    Wakeboard_Snufkinon June 13, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General, im so surprised theres not more discussion on this song. its one of my absolute favorites. but anyway, "A Lizard Blinked An Eye".. i think it really gives a feel for time and slowness, the way it's supposed to be, like living in the moment, and taking in very simple observations. and i think the way it was written with the fish being killed relates to how we're so willing to take lives of animals...disturbing their own natural life cycles while ignoring our own as well.
    wldn pondon September 24, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI have a different interpreation to you people.. It's the first thing that came into my head when i read the lyrics.
    I think it's about "Sardine Killing" which was a method of extermination used by the Nazis. The "small fish" represents one person being killed by the nazis. Sardine killing --> small fish. That's how I made that connection.
    The "fisherman" was a nazi, who came and took the person away. He seems friendly at first "..smiled at me" and tricks him into going with him. The empty people dressed in grey are other people being taken out to be killed, and the sea they are floating into is the field where they are to be killed.
    The rain lashing down is literate - it is raining. The lizard blinking an eye is a non-Jewish person who witnesses all of this but does nothing. Time seems to stop for the person as he sees another person being shot - the small fish giving a cry. That section is repeated a few times, and I consider it the chorus.
    As for the second and third "verses". The whole 3nd verse is about how he is walking to the killing ground, and realises what is happening. The children's dreams smouldering is literate as well - children were being taken too, and their dreams were fading away as they realise what is happening.
    In the last verse reflects the sardine killings a lot - he lies down in the hole with all the other "sardines", who are the other victims. They are described as "fields of empty people laying down to die", which accurately describes sardine killing. If you want to know what sardine killing is, look it up on wikipedia.
    (Sorry that this interpretation is pretty sick, but the lyrics reminded me of this instantly).
    Panguion July 06, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWow, Pangui, that's a really original way of looking at it. I'd never have thought of the song in that way, but now you say it, it does make sense. I thought it was about being a small cog in the big machine of society... being just one person among millions of others, who are all the same. I thought the fisherman was like some sort of leader, one person who stands out from the rest, but my interpretation was a little vague. I think yours is better lol.
    Monopatinistaon July 06, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSeems more to me that this is a song about the Greek/Roman underworld. "The fisherman" is Charon, and the "empty people" are the dead entering the underworld. The references to time and the burning sky are descriptions of what it's like to inhabit the underworld.
    Juluiion August 14, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentA lizard blinked an eye always seemed to me like it was representing the time dinosarus had on the earth. Since the universe has been around so long that the life of the dinosaurs was like "a blink of an eye" in the universes time span.
    [Service to busy]on July 03, 2008   Link

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