Have you seen the old man
In a closed-down market?
Kicking up the paper
With his worn out shoes
In his eyes, you see no pride
And held loosely at his side
Yesterday's paper
Telling yesterday's news

So, how can you tell me you're lonely?
And say for you that the sun don't shine?
Let me take you by the hand
And lead you through the streets of London
Show you something to make you change your mind

Have you seen the old girl
Who walks the streets of London?
Dirt in her hair
And her clothes in rags
She's no time for talking
She just keeps right on walking
Carrying her home
In two carrier bags

So, how can you tell me you're lonely?
And say for you that the sun don't shine?
Let me take you by the hand
And lead you through the streets of London
I'll show you something to make you change your mind

In the all night café
At a quarter past eleven
Same old man
Sitting there on his own
Looking at the world
Over the rim of his teacup
Each tea lasts an hour
And he wanders home alone

So, how can you tell me you're lonely?
Don't say for you that the sun don't shine
Let me take you by the hand
And lead you through the streets of London
Show you something to make you change your mind

Have you seen the old man
Outside the seaman's mission?
Memory fading with
The medal ribbons that he wears
In our winter city
The rain cries a little pity
For one more forgotten hero
And a world that doesn't care

So, how can you tell me you're lonely?
And say for you that the sun don't shine?
Let me take you by the hand
And lead you through the streets of London
Show you something to make you change your mind


Lyrics submitted by Novartza

Streets of London Lyrics as written by Ralph Mctell

Lyrics © T.R.O. INC.

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Streets Of London song meanings
Add Your Thoughts

16 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +2
    General CommentI think the 2 previous people misunderstand the lyrics to this song. The song isn't expressing how wonderful London is to cheer you up but instead that London (or in fact any large City) provides you with all that is best and worst. In this case it highlights the downtrodden, the tramps, the vagabonds.
    It is a another song that reflects that however bad your life is - your delf-loathing, or feeling of worthlessness (whether it be following the loss of a loved one or just feeling pity for yourself) there is always someone worse of than you, and as such you should pick yourself up, find the hope to carry-on. A traditional folk song that is very much still relevant today as it was 100 years ago.
    CharmingManon February 26, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General Commentto me it sounds as if the singer is talking to someone spoilt, they dont realise how good their life is, so they assume its bad. the singer could be saying, hey look around you, almost saying grow up. look how much worse it can be. this is particularly illustrated in the chorus, with the let me take you by the hadn and lead you through the streets of london... etc

    i doubt it would be aimed at a poor or struggling person, as it would illustrate that their lives are hopeless.

    just my ten cents, but it makes sense
    aidan1233on July 17, 2008   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationEveryone is interpreting this song wrong. Yes its about the homeless, but its not about seeing how much better our lives are than the homeless. The last stanza truly explains what this song is about:

    And have you seen the old man - An aged man.

    Outside the seaman's mission - He's by the water or the port

    His memory is fading, - He's old

    With those metal ribbons he wears (its METAL ribbons , not medal) - Wait... he's by the port and seaman's mission, and has fading metal ribbons? Seems as if he was a sea captain at one point! You can tell he was of high stature, because the lyrics say RIBBONS, not RIBBON (meaning he had more than one). And in the navy, aren't ribbons awards? Could he have been famous?

    And in our winter city, - Filler text, just to give a more gloomy atmosphere

    the rain cries a little pity - Symbolizes that people feel pity to this man (or if people don't then the rain does!)

    For one more forgotten hero - FORGOTTEN HERO!?!? I think that cemented the fact that he was at one point a navy captain or something like that! He was a hero, someone who changed lives and maybe even fought in wars! But he was forgotten??? Well, maybe the last line will help us.

    And a world that doesn't care - Ahhh... see? Even though he did so much, everyone just took him for granted and doesn't care about him anymore, he's just another old man, homeless, and forgotten.

    I hope you understood what I wrote here!
    bowiz2on January 15, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthis is a sad, sad song about oppression, and the lost of individuality that one has when in the big city, but at the same time there is a tiny ray of sunshine, because when u hear it, you almost feel better because your life, no matter how shit it is, has something that the people in this song don't have
    Pixie_dust_tton May 29, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentBeautifully written lyrics that really make you think about those who aren't as lucky as some. Really makes you appreciate what you have. True lyrics are the best and these are spoken like a true story. "Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London I'll show you something to make you change your mind." says it all, I really like this song and think it has a lovely melody.
    Bistokid1991on April 16, 2012   Link
  • +1
    MemoryWe used to sit around as children listening to my Dad playing this on his acoustic guitar, even as a child I knew the words had real meaning to them, such a beautiful song...
    Liberty123on February 01, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentSimply
    , he's showing you there are far many others in a state worse than you.
    phil102068on March 10, 2017   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song could be interpreted as a call for political awareness of the issue of homelessness, or a reminder to be grateful for what you have since there is always someone worse off, but it works very well on another level, as simply a depiction of the sadness and suffering that some areas of modern big cities are so full of. Ian Anderson, in much different kind of song that described a similar kind of setting, described it as "crowded emptiness". There are several very evocative poetic lines in this song, like "yesterday's paper telling yesterday's news" and "the rain cries a little pity". Several people have talked about why we should be kind to other people, as everyone is "fighting their battle". The world is full of suffering people, but they tend to learn how to hide it well in order to live and function in the everyday world. When you see the homeless, you see people in a whole different light.

    The final verse has a kind of personal resonance for me. My grandfather was a WWII veteran, severely wounded in the Pacific Theater. He came back with a bunch of medals, but they didn't do much for him. And, although they got him to the hospital at the very end, he lived like the old man in the final verse after he returned from the war, homeless and mostly forgotten, right up until he died.
    JT1968on October 11, 2017   Link
  • 0
    General Commentbeautiful.
    makes me want to live a better life.
    moomoosnakeon December 14, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song says so much in one go. I love it, it makes me feel so much better about life. Strange for an 18 year old, but true. Never lived in London, but I sure as hell would love to.
    shaffywaffyon January 23, 2006   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top