And no-one saw the carny go
And the weeks flew by
Until they moved on the show
Leaving his caravan behind
It was parked out on the south east ridge
And as the company crossed the bridge
With the first rain filling the bone-dry river bed
It shone, just so, upon the edge
Away, away, we're sad to say

Dog-boy, atlas, Man-drake, the geeks, the hired hands
There was not one among them that did not cast an eye behind
In the hope that the carny would return to his own kind

The Carny left behind a horse so skin and bone that he'd named Sorrow
And it was a shallow unmarked grave
That that old nag was laid
In the then parched meadow
And it was the dwarves that were given the task of digging the ditch
And laying the nag's carcass in the ground
And boss Bellini, waving his smoking pistol around
saying "The nag was dead meat"
"We can't afford to carry dead weight"
While the whole company standing about
Not making a sound
And turning to dwarves perched on the enclosure gate
The boss says "Bury this lump of crow bait"

And the rain came hammering down
Everybody running for their wagons
Tying all the canvas flaps down
The mangy cats growling in their cages
The bird-girl flapping and squawking around
The whole valley reeking of wet beast
Wet beast and rotten, sodden hay
Freak and brute creation
Packed up and on their way

The three dwarves peering from their wagon's hind
Moses says to Noah "We shoulda dugga deepa one"
Their grizzled faces like dying moons
Still dirty from the digging done

And Charlie, the eldest of the three said
"I guess the Carny ain't gonna show"
And they were silent for a spell
wishing they'd done a better job at burrying Sorrow

And as the company passed from the valley
Into a higher ground
The rain beat on the ridge and on the meadow
And on the mound

Until nothing was left, nothing at all
Except the body of Sorrow
That rose in time
To float upon the surface of the eaten soil

And a murder of crows did circle round
First one, then the others flapping blackly down

And the carny's van still sat upon the edge
Tilting slowly as the firm ground turned to sludge
And the rain it hammered down

And no-one saw the carny go
I say it's funny how things go

Lyrics submitted by Girgo, edited by BluesBison

The Carny song meanings
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  • +3
    General CommentThe bit about the horse's body rising to the surface of its grave actually makes me feel pretty ill sometimes. Not good with a hangover...
    sjtmon July 14, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General Commentok, So I just had an idea. It talks about dwarves named Moses and Noah. Both having to do with Gods people escaping from a watery grave . Moses parted the Red Sea and Noah built the Ark when God decided to flood the earth. But neither one can bury Sorrow.. A hidden pun on saying I drowning our sorrows. "should have dug a deeper one." I know U2 had a song that one of the lines was "in my dreams I was drowning my sorrows, but my sorrows they learned to swim." The name of the song? Until The End of The World. Guess who else had a song almost by that name? They both had songs called Faraway so Close (or similar) and Until the End of the World. Both of which were from the soundtrack to and also the name of two Wim Wenders movies. So maybe that U2 line is a shout out? or just a funny coincidence.
    STUDLYCUDDLYBUDDYon August 30, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti don't know what happened or where the carny went, but this song scares the shit out of me.
    GravityAlwaysWinson February 27, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI wonder whether Bellini murdered the carny? He's a nasty piece of work - poor old Sorrow! After I heard this for the first time I was so freaked out that I couldn't play it again for months - I can't think of another song that I've reacted to so strongly, I couldn't even bear to hear the opening chords - but eventually it kind of grew on me. It's very unusual because the rhymes are understated, often half-rhymes, & it's sung/read to play them down even more so it sounds like prose. There's a horse called Sorrow in Cave's novel, & what happens to it parallels this, but if anything is even ickier!
    morbid moragon May 27, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentInteresting idea. And one of the dwarfs is actually called Noah - the other also has a biblical name, Moses, who led his people to the promised land.
    I still think Bellini offed the carny.
    morbid moragon October 19, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Comment(Taken from 'In Search of Nick Cave', published in Hypno in December of 1994)

    "It's only a story of a horse dying, but, thanks, that's nice to hear. 'The Carny' is just a straight story. When I recorded that, basically everyone had gone home. There was a bit of piano music that was written, and when it came to the singing, I just had myself an armchair, a table, a typewriter, various sorts of paraphernalia around me, hundreds of lyrics, a microphone, ashtrays, lots of alcohol, and just sort of sat down there in the armchair the whole night and just made up the story and sang it into the microphone. It was an enjoyable song to create."
    SimonGon January 08, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General Comment^I'm not calling Mr. Cave a liar, but if there's one thing I know, it's that whenever you try and explain your art, it sounds way less clever than letting it speak for itself.

    I don't think this is just a story about a horse dying. It's about exploitation of the weak, and, like the message of many songs, how everything is everything.
    artsluton July 16, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI have learned to not over-engineer Nick Caves songs and to trust his modesty when he presents it. Part of the pantheon of roots music is often torturous loony tunes like Stalin or ST. Paul but the Search For Nick Cave is accurate. Some songs just sound good. The words just go together. The meaning is in the lack of meaning. A dead horse abandoned by his owner is powerful and emotional without a story. I think the names of the dwarves is insignificant aside from the fact that they're paired together because most names in the 19th century and for a short time thereafter have bibical origin. There's a lot of meaning to be taken from the song but remember everything is a metaphor if you let it be.
    WearyRoboton February 10, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love this song. Just awesome! I don't know where the carny has gone though... The song seems to be about death and slow decay but I'm not sure. anyone else know? such a good song!
    Morphyon March 09, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti dont know either..but the music sounds like u're ready to watch a freak show in some kind of circus....i like nick cave i think this 's an atmospheric song mysterious..and dark.. same class with tupelo,mercy sit o' malleys bar... and redrighthand
    SkyWatcheron April 14, 2005   Link

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