The rusted chains of prison moons
Are shattered by the sun
I walk a road horizons change
The tournament's begun
The purple piper plays his tune
The choir softly sing
Three lullabies in an ancient tongue
For the court of the crimson king

The keeper of the city keys
Puts shutters on the dreams
I wait outside the pilgrim's door
With insufficient schemes
The black queen chants the funeral march
The cracked brass bells will ring
To summon back the fire witch
To the court of the crimson king

The gardener plants an evergreen
Whilst trampling on a flower
I chase the wind of a prism ship
To taste the sweet and sour
The pattern juggler lifts his hand
The orchestra begin
As slowly turns the grinding wheel
In the court of the crimson king

On soft grey mornings widows cry
The wise men share a joke
I run to grasp divining signs
To satisfy the hoax
The yellow jester does not play
But gently pulls the strings
And smiles as the puppets dance
In the court of the crimson king

Lyrics submitted by KidArt

The Court of the Crimson King/The Return of the Fire Witch/The Dance of the Puppets Lyrics as written by Ian Mcdonald Greg Lake

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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The Court of the Crimson King song meanings
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  • +6
    General CommentThe Crimson King is not Satan, but rather 13th century Holy Roman Emporer Frederick II. I won't waste bandwidth here, but anyone interested in reading the lengthy exposition of these lyrics can do so at Pete Sinfield's website,

    I will say I always felt that these lyrics are highly evocative. Take, for instance, all the colors: "purple piper," "yellow jester," "black queen," "evergreen," "gray mornings," and of course... "Crimson King." The verses are filled with sound and taste ("sweet and sour"). There's also a lot of crying, singing, juggling, etc.: the Crimson King = verbs & action.

    I think that Sinfield strives more toward poetry than he does lyric writing, but ultimately succeeds on both accounts. Few writers of rock lyrics have pulled this off successfully, IMO (Dylan comes to mind).
    CrimsonKarlon June 18, 2007   Link
  • +5
    General CommentI think some of your guys opinions are really good. Undoubtedly this song and the whole album has some beautiful imagery of medieval stuff and that time period among other things. I think CrimsonKarl's post connecting the song to the emperor of rome and pointing out the colors is a good post. All interpretations of the song are correct if that is what they speak to the listener, regardless of what peter sinfield actually meant for them to me.
    Personally, tonight I had the idea that perhaps this song and the whole album are based on the theme of Loneliness. The album starts out with 21st Century Shizoid Man. I have not analyzed the lyrics much on this song but Shizoid Personality Disorder is a personality disorder that is "characterized by a lack of interest in social relationships, sometimes sexually apathetic, a tendency towards a solitary lifestyle, secretiveness, and emotional coldness." With this interpretation, the song clearly points towards a person who is disconnected and lonely, perhaps sad. The discordant/heavy music matches this theme.
    I talk to the wind also speaks of a person who is lonely. The chorus goes "I talk to the wind... my words are carried away... I talk to the wind.... the wind does not hear... the wind cannot hear." The narrator is speaking sadly because no one listens to him, as if he has no friends... not even the wind listens to him. Once again, loneliness. So far the album seems to be reflecting on loneliness and the burdens it brings upon people.
    I'll come back to "epitaph" as I think it is the hardest to connect to this theme of loneliness but the line "will no one lay the laurel wreath when silence drowns the screams" i think might imply loneliness, as silence, dreaded by the lonely man, drowns out his screams although screams are usually louder than silence (sort of hard to explain).
    Anyways, Moonchild is a very imagery-filled song telling about a "moon-child." To the listener the first time, perhaps the lyrics sound like nonsense. But I think they tell of "moon child" doing all these things in their loneliness like "talking to the trees" and "dreaming in the shadow of a willow" and "playing hide and seek with the ghosts of dawn." All of these activities are dark and moody and sad and seem to invoke a feeling of loneliness. Then the song's refrain is that the moonchild- the darkness-shrouded lonely child- is waiting for a Sun child. The sun child seems sort of bright, far away, like some sort of enlightened person the moonchild just wants to meet... a friend, really. The dreamy, far out, spacy music sort of matches the mellow mood of this song and perhaps also provides to the theme of loneliness.
    Finally "In the Court of the Crimson King." The first line of this song is "The rusted chains of PRISON MOONS is SHATTERED by the SUN". Its as if the moonchild has been released from his/her prison and met a sun-child/sun. From here on, the song tells of all the events going on in the Court of the Crimson King. Pipers play their tunes, jesters dance, etc., all for the crimson king. This leads me to believe that the Crimson King is what the moonchild/lonely person has been looking for all along. A popular/famous figure that everyone tries to please. Yet somehow the Crimson King seems evil or something seems twisted- "slowly turns the grinding wheel in the court..." and "smiles as the puppets dance in the court..." The Crimson King is using his power of the people to take advantage of them and play them like "puppets." The evilness of the crimson king also works because like another poster, King Crimson means "Beelzebub" or the Devil. Perhaps the Crimson King represents Ego, which is basically opposite of Loneliness, and its destructive/evil powers. This also connects back to one of the lines in Epitaph: "knowledge is a deadly friend when no one sets the rules, the fate of all mankind i see is in the hand of fools." The King is a fool because he is evil and an egomaniac, taking advantage of all the lonely people, not doing what is best for the people but rather for himself.
    So overall, throughout the album, the theme of Loneliness, as far as I can see, has been built up showing the destructiveness of loneliness and what it does people, as well as lonely peoples' desperateness for a friend. However, when finally in the court of the crimson king, there is a realization that perhaps you don't have to be famous or popular so much as to inflate the ego and become evil and take advantage of others. Maybe sinfield is trying to say that a good place in between where everyone works in peace and friendship with each other but no one is taken advantage of would be a sort of perfect society. Mankind also deserves to be in the hands of someone not taken over by ego so that the right decisions can be made. Perhaps some of you may not agree completely or even at all with this assessment (hopefully maybe you do), but it definitely worked for me and Peter Sinfields lyrics have spoken to me in this way.
    What a great album- brilliant, vibrant, imagery-filled, and meaningful lyrics tucked away within a sea of great music that complements the lyrics and is genius in its own right. Bravo, King Crimson.
    oaktree137on April 08, 2011   Link
  • +4
    General CommentFrom one of the most daring debut albums ever recorded by anybody. There was nothing like it in 1969 and still nothing compares. What IS this song about? It's beyond me. There seems to be some drug influence here. (The album cover art reinforces this notion)

    Note: Be sure the CD you buy indicates it was made or distributed by Caroline Records -- earlier versions sound awful.
    kevveron May 19, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General CommentHere's a very in-depth analysis of the album:…
    SkpVwlson August 10, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song is a culmination of fantasies and imagined dreams by Robert Fripp. Influenced by old world and olde English folklore, he has summarily condensed it down to this song.
    JohnnyGon May 03, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe yellow jester does not play
    But gently pulls the strings
    And smiles as the puppets dance
    In the court of the crimson king.

    Just an awesome line...I love it.
    Faaip De Oiadon November 08, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Comment'the person way above' is wondering if this song inspired Stephen King NOT Stephen King inspiring the writing of this song. Its cool though. Yeah it does seem alot like his Dark Tower series though............. Robert Fripp sounds kinda suspicious for those 'Tower Junkies' out there.. ((mainly RF))
    Vinter43on February 14, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI love the album "In the Court of the Crimson King ( an observation by King Crimson ) " Especially this track. god Bless Robert Fripp and friends!
    CesaroSummabilityon March 18, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song reminds me of the short story "The Masque of the Red Death," by Edgar Allan Poe when I hear him talking about the various colors of that different people are wearing I think of the different colored rooms in the story.
    msecondion April 26, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'm wondering if Stephen King was inspired by this song? The central villian in the Dark Tower series is called the Crimson King and he has already included a few pop culture referrences in the epic in unusual ways. Even one of his own books.
    Tindaloson November 29, 2004   Link

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