Many a hand has scaled the grand old face of the plateau
Some belong to strangers, and some to folks you know
Holy ghosts and talk show hosts are planted in the sand
To beautify the foothills, and shake the many hands

Nothing on the top but a bucket and a mop
And an illustrated book about birds
You see a lot up there but don't be scared
Who needs action when you got words

When you've finished with the mop, then you can stop
And look at what you've done
The plateau's clean, no dirt to be seen
And the work, it was fun

Nothing on the top but a bucket and a mop
And an illustrated book about birds
You see a lot up there but don't be scared
Who needs action when you got words

Many hands began to scan around for the next plateau
Some said it was Greenland, and some say Mexico
Others decided it was nowhere except for where they stood
But those were all just guesses
Wouldn't help you if they could

Lyrics submitted by knate15, edited by Nervjoens

Plateau Lyrics as written by Curtis Kirkwood

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management

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Plateau song meanings
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  • +4
    General Comment

    All the theories are very intelligent. I feel that there may be another perspective to view it from:

    Many a hand (All who have lived and now live on Earth) has scaled the grand old face of the plateau (Earth) Some belong to strangers and some to folks you know (Your relatives and everyone else) Holy ghosts and talk show hosts are planted in the sand (Burials all the same. We all end up with the same outcome) To beautify the foothills and shake the many hands (Death regenerating the Earth. Fertilizer.)

    There's nothing on the top but a bucket and a mop And an illustrated book about birds (A simplistic view of God) You see a lot up there but don't be scared Who needs actions when you got words (An unresponsive God who only communicates via the written word, which comforts most.)

    When you're finished with the mop then you can stop And look at what you've done The plateau's clean no dirt to be seen And the work it took was fun (God enjoying the cycle of life that is the Earth)

    There's nothing on the top but a bucket and a mop And an illustrated book about birds You see a lot up there but don't be scared Who needs actions when you got words

    Well the many hands began to scan around for the next plateau (Everyone who is in search of the answers to life) Some said it was Greenland and some said Mexico (Clues left without answers; i.e. the pyramids and other monuments) Some decided it was nowhere except for where they stood (The answer lies within) But those were all just guesses, wouldn't help you if they could (Endless cycle of disappointed souls who seek the answer to life and never receive it. Forbidden knowledge.)

    kkchocoon October 21, 2012   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    That ending is pretty damn special. Anyone who has only heard the Nirvana version should buy the Meat Puppets II cd just for this song. And Aurora Borealis

    The Lopperon December 21, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    This is an amazing song. The ending guitar solo thing is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I've ever heard. It's like you can just feel the music echoing off the desert plateaus of the bands hometown of Pheonix.

    DubC4Lifeon May 31, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    I might be wrong here, but there are some connections to Henry Darger who had written the unpublished book Realms of the Unreal, the 15,000 page fantasy. Darger was a janitor, hence bucket and a mop, he drew tons of illustrations on gardens, animals and children, - illustrated book about birds.

    They discovered his writings after his death so the "work it took was fun" could mean the satisfaction of finishing the work. Who needs action when you got words.

    The last part might mean that people declared that these realms are of course unreal and in your head. There could be more connections.

    bullockcarton May 13, 2012   Link
  • +2
    My Interpretation

    I'm going to take the approach of understanding poetry which uses four categories. Plain sense, tone, feeling, and intention.

    Beginning with the title "Plateau". A plateau is not a peak nor is it mega high. It is quite high. It also means a state of little or no change. This meaning is more negative.

    The use of "hand" instead of people is interesting. A hand can a mean a worker. "has scaled", obviously means has climbed. It has an added meaning of has weighed or measured. "The grand old face of the plateau" is clearly positive and sounds like admiration and a challenge.

    The other references e.g. "Holy ghosts and talk show hosts are planted in the sand / to beautify the foothills and shake the many hands", must all be referential, all symbolic. The illusions of religion, television, which are also unstable, temporal (sands of time), shallow (not much grows in sand), cosmetic, decorative, entertaining, distracting but also gratifying.

    "A bucket and mop" are clearly for cleaning, but again, must be symbolic. Cleaning what? Illustrated book about birds. Some kind of guide to help understand the world maybe as it is. Why scared? Too much information. Birds are also a symbol of souls, of the dead.

    Who needs action when you got words. What is this? A reference to complacency a reference to freedom or ideals etc being a dead letter. The state of being so caught up in discussions, thoughts and talk that we do not act any more. There is strong irony here. It might refer to personal life or to society. Some important things are just never done.

    Third verse: finished with the mop then you can stop etc. Refers to satisfaction from some kind of useful action, however simple, however commonplace and unglamorous. Nothing is hard if done willingly, it can even be enjoyable to do something that is useful.

    Last verse: again, "many a hand scanning around looking for the next plateau". Sense of restlessness of dissatisfaction. "However, others decided it was nowhere except for where they stood". Some people prefer to look into themselves.

    "Those were all just guesses wouldn't help you if they could". The impossibility of really getting to the bottom of the sense of things.

    Tone (that is the music) is plodding and hypnotic. This gives a sense of labour, hard work drudgery.

    Felling is communicated perhaps more by Kurt Cobain's voice which becomes very emotional and intense almost hysterical in the chorus. The feeling conveyed by the words is surreal almost absurd and of course enigmatic and obscure.

    The voice's intensity in the chorus conveys disbelief and anguish. That is, after all the hard work of scaling the plateau what is found on top is so banal, so confusing, so unsatisfying. The voice returns to its normal pitch in the following verse when the work has been done and satisfaction is expressed.

    Given the amount of symbolism in the words, the intention of the song seems to be to wish to explain reality and interpret life. Is it a search for inner peace, salvation, knowledge, ideals, meaning, or perhaps even just a wish to get high? The latter is unlikely because there are just too many other symbols.

    Is all we can expect from life practical work, the need and the chance to maintain some order and cleanliness in our personal lives, in society? i.e. practicalities and some management? Probably!

    Seron March 22, 2015   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    Great song. DubC those were hardly your words man, nice try, I have all the Rykodiscs as well! I think this song means about as much as Kirkwood playing MTV with a penny.

    Cobra-corneliuson January 06, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    Yeah my folks !!! Fuck Kurt and Fuck Curt. Fuck Nirvana and Fuck Meat puppets. Only one version of the song can be good. You are so smart asses

    I mean Nirvana or Meat puppets (whoever you support) would be very proud when they look at their fans fighting over their song.

    YOu guys are the perfect fans. Keep doing this . Rape the relationship and respect the two bands have for each other and seprate instead of joining together. That is what the 2 bands want you to do right ?

    sleepswithangelson May 09, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    and anorexosist, i don't think it's particularly about nature, but more about capitalism and industrialisation.

    the birds at least represent freedom, not an actual book about real birds.

    dee_from_otton June 21, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    i think the song is social commentary on colonization and real estate. how once green, open landscapes have been demolished for "modern" society. beautify the foothills is another way of saying building over what was already there because it was just plain, rolling landscapes. now it's replaced with a dull alternative..."nothing at the top..."

    doomhavenon January 01, 2014   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    guys... there is a reason kurt chose this to cover... there is a reason the meat puppets wrote this song.. it's got nothing to do with nature. well maybe it does.. but im almost certain that this song is about what happens when you become famous. think about it.

    afreijaton August 02, 2015   Link

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