"Grace Cathedral Hill" as written by and Colin Meloy....
Grace cathedral hill
All wrapped in bones of setting sun
All dust and stone and moribund
I paid twenty-five cents to light a little white candle
For a new year's day
I sat and watched it burn away
Then turned and weaved through slow decay
We were both a little hungry so we went to get hot dog
Down the hyde street pier
This light was slightly disappeared
The air it stunk of fish and beer
We heard a superman trumpet play the national anthem

And the world may be long for you
But it'll never belong to you
But on a motorbike when all the city lights blind your eyes tonight
Are you feeling better now?

Lyrics submitted by thedouglas, edited by In_My_Dreams, barlights, sippola21, captainfortytwo

"Grace Cathedral Hill" as written by Colin Meloy

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management

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Grace Cathedral Hill song meanings
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  • +4
    General CommentMy boyfriend and I saw both of their concerts in San Francisco last month and spent one of the mornings on a "Grace Cathedral Hill" scavenger hunt...we started out at the cathedral, paid to light a little white candle (even though we only had eleven cents!), then to Hyde Street Pier and a hot dog...yeah...we're dorks. ;^)
    Leslie Ann Levineon May 11, 2007   Link
  • +3
    General CommentHaving listened to this song hundreds of times, I recently began to wonder about the white candle and for whom it might be lit. It made me think that the entire song may be about the protagonist lighting a white candle for his deceased love, the green-eyed girl, who perhaps committed suicide, whom he now imagines follows him around on new year's.

    Interpreting it that way, with the wisps of smoke following him down around the pier, him reminiscing of his dead love and wondering if she feels better now in the after-life, it really tears me apart.
    torpidon September 06, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General Comment"A gorgeous tribute to San Francisco, and a lovely escapism tune at the same time, the beauty of 'Grace Cathedral Hill' lies in how prosaic the tale is, yet how picturesquely told it is. It's New Year's Day. The male protagonist stares at the dying Cathedral hill, and decides to enter the basilica atop it. He coughs up a quarter to light a candle only to watch it melt to its wick. Turning on his heels, he and his 'green-eyed girl' traverse bustling Hyde St. Pier for a hot dog. In the distance the National Anthem is heard. It's made clear that his mate is crestfallen, and he hopes that a night on the town will cheer her up: 'on a motorbike...all the city lights blind your eyes tonight, are you feeling better now?' It doesn't. He stares into her moist eyes, cursing the charlatan's on the corner selling faux religious talismans: 'Fifty-three bucks to buy a brand new halo.' He inwardly declares his love for this Irish brat, finally understanding that he will go to the ends of the earth for her--and why not? He's already been to the Catholic church...."

    knowthyselfon July 05, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis song has great imagery. Not many lyricists can make buying a hot dog sound romantic. The part about riding on a motorbike reminds me of Death Cab's song "brothers on a hotel bed" from the Plans album. it goes something like: "On the back of a motorbike, with your arms outstreched, trying to take flight, leaving everything behind. But even at our swiftest speed, we couldn't break from the concrete" Not just because of the word Motorbike, but because of the whole idea of trying to escape.
    booyah achievedon October 04, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI get the impression that this song is after a funeral. The lighting of a white candle in a cathedral, the imagery of 'dust' , 'bones', 'stone', and 'decay', as well as mention of tears, and comforting a loved one.

    Also, the quote "Some way to greet the year" seems like a sarcastic comment, that the death ruined the beginning of the year, and what should have been a beautiful day. Finally the mention of the world being long for you, seems like the singer consoling the girl, telling her that she will not die any time soon, but neither can she controll the flow of life and death.

    all in all a very deep song!
    yourhero88on April 09, 2007   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationPeople are reading into this "it/he" confusion too much. The song never really mentions a proper relationship of any kind between the singer and the girl, so it makes a little more sense that said girl is depressed about *another* guy, and that's why he's trying to cheer her up.

    Having said that, I really like torpid's interpretation. It explains the white candle, at least. Or maybe if my idea is correct, he bought it for her, and the failed relationship she had?
    PureSophiston November 29, 2008   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningAll really good theories, but I've seen them in concert 5 (glorious) times. Colin Meloy, the lead singer, explained that this song was about when his wife (then girlfriend), Carson's, father died and they had to go up to Grace Cathedral Hill in LA for the funeral which was on New Years of all days. There they were in this beutiful old church and she was (as can be expected) in this horribley sad mood (all piss and vinegar) and he was just falling more and more in love.
    joecool57hon July 11, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love this song.
    stevenlelandon November 30, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI thought the second line in the chorus was "But he'll never belong to you."
    freejoe76on January 02, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love this song, I only wish I had remembered what a great new year's day song it was this morning. Man. And me with my motorbike today.
    freejoe76on January 02, 2005   Link

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