Grim-faced and forbidding,
Their faces closed tight,
An angular mass of New Yorkers
Pacing in rhythm,
Race the oncoming night,
They chase through the streets of Manhattan.
Headfirst humanity,
Pause at a light,
Then flow through the streets of the city.

They seem oblivious
To a soft spring rain,
Like an English rain
So light, yet endless
From a leaden sky.

The buildings are lost in the limitless rise.
My feet catch the pulse and the purposeful stride.

I feel the sense of possibilities,
I feel the wrench of hard realities.
The focus is sharp in the city.

Wide-angle watcher
On life's ancient tales,
Steeped in the history of London.

Green and grey washes
In a wispy white veil
Mist in the streets of Westminster.
Wistful and weathered,
The pride still prevails,
Alive in the streets of the city.

Are they oblivious
To this quality?
A quality
Of light unique to
Every city's streets.

Pavements may teem with intense energy,
But the city is calm in this violent sea.

Lyrics submitted by shed27

The Camera Eye song meanings
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  • +1
    General Comment

    The first half of the song describes a street scene in New York. The second half describes one in London. Musically, the song is composed of two very similar halves, one for each city. Aside from statements that find both cities (perhaps all cities) very positive for their energy, there's not too much indirection here -- every line says what it means.

    The New York scene includes a rain "like an English rain", detailing one facet in which New York is like London.

    There aren't too many phrases that actually capture the nature of either city. New York has a limitless rise. London has history and is weathered. This could just as well be about Chicago and Rome.

    rikdad101@yahoo.comon October 05, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I think Neil Peart must have been reading some Lewis Mumford when he wrote this lyric. Mumford's masterpiece, The City in History, explores the dynamic of city growth. He weighs the pros and cons of organic city growth versus urban planning. He notes, specifically, how light is unique to every city's street. Mumford also has a lot to say about function and form in urban planning, which is a phrase that appears in another of Peart's lyrics on "Moving Pictures" (Vital Signs).

    Mumford explores livability in the urban environment, studying things like commuter patterns right down to city tourism and how a city impacts a new visitor ("my feet catch the pulse and the purposeful drive").

    Mumford also discusses how the urban form can bring comfort and security to a citizen and, despite the population density of urban living, the urban form is still an organic one; a natural place for human existence ("Pavements may teem with intense energy, But the city is calm in this violent sea."0

    lemmylemmyon April 01, 2014   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    This song is amazing, but the lyrics are not straight forward. The lyrics must be read in context of the whole album, particularly the first and last songs, "Tom Sawyer" and "Vital Signs". Their next album, "Signals," carried on the same theme. It is said of "Today's Tom Sawyer" that his "skies are wide" and his "eyes are wide", as would be"wide angle watchers" as mentioned in "Camera Eye". All others seem oblivious of such things as beauty and quality. The most difficult phrase is: Pavements may team with intense energy But the city is calm in this violent sea.

    What is "this violent sea"? Is the violent sea this general disconnect, this general oblivion to what is mentioned in "Tom Sawyer": The world is The world is Love and Life are deep. This "focus is sharp in the city." The last song, "Vital Signs", identifies the many various indications of this general disconnect and concludes that "Everybody has to elevate from the norm".

    Ranger1284on February 21, 2018   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    i like this song. the complex world of the big city. so brilliant, so alive, dangerous.

    xl5ronon June 04, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    I like this song. It's not one of Rush's most well known, but the synth opening is great.

    floydfan87on December 20, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    wtf only 3 posts?!?! this song is great

    takingbacksunday_77on January 11, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    I love this song too. I found it interesting to read some of the reviews concerning Rush's greatest hits compilations on Amazon and it struck me as a bit odd that this one has never been included.

    soze_umamaon January 31, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    hey everyone..i love this song...could someone please help me with finding a detailed meaning for this song..i need it for school, cheers.

    marsvoltaon March 07, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    At 10:56, this was the last song Rush recorded that was over 10 minutes long.

    FenJazzon December 28, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    At 10:56, this was the last song Rush recorded that was over 10 minutes long.

    FenJazzon December 28, 2006   Link

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