Pass me that lovely little gun
My dear, my darling one
The cleaners are coming, one by one
You don't even want to let them start

They're knocking now upon your door
They measure the room, they know the score
They're mopping up the butcher's floor
Of your broken little hearts

(Oh, children)
Forgive us now for what we've done
It started out as a bit of fun
Here, take these before we run away
The keys to the gulag

(Oh, children)
(Lift up your voice, lift up your voice)
(Rejoice, rejoice)

Come on
Come on
Come on
Come on
Here comes Frank and poor old Jim
They're gathering round with all my friends
We're older now, and the light is dim
And you are only just beginning

Oh, children
We have the answer to all your fears
It's short, it's simple, it's crystal-clear
It's roundabout and it's somewhere here
Lost amongst our winnings

(Oh, children)
(Lift up your voice, lift up your voice)
(Rejoice, rejoice)

The cleaners have done their job on you
They're hip to it, man, they're in the groove
They've hosed you down, you're good as new
And they're lining up to inspect you

Oh children
Poor old Jim's white as a ghost
He's found the answer that we lost
We're all weeping now, weeping because
There ain't nothing we can do to protect you

(Oh, children)
(Lift up your voice, lift up your voice)
(Rejoice, rejoice)

(Hey little train, we're jumping on)
(The train that goes to the Kingdom)
We're happy, Ma, we're having fun
And the train ain't even left the station

(Hey, little train, wait for me)
(I once was blind but now I see)
And have you left a seat for me?
Is that such a stretch of the imagination?

(Hey little train, wait for me)
(I was held in chains but now I'm free)
I'm hanging in there, don't you see?
In this process of elimination

(Hey little train, we're jumping on)
(The train that goes to the Kingdom)
We're happy, Ma, we're having fun (children)
It's beyond my wildest expectation (oh, children)

(Hey little train, we're jumping on)
(The train that goes to the Kingdom)
We're happy, Ma, we're having fun
The train ain't even left the station (oh, children)
(Hey, little train, wait for me)
(I once was blind but now I see)

Lyrics submitted by n4398734

O Children Lyrics as written by Nicholas Edward Cave

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

O Children song meanings
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  • +8
    Song Meaning

    There's just no f*cking hope, it doesn't matter how much you hold onto your infancy, you will lose what draws a line from your innocence once you reach the adulthood. And it may be a single moment when you suddenly realize you just don't care anymore about what just a second ago could make you so happy as a child... or it may be years later when you catch yourself lying to a kid exactly the way you hated so much being lied at.

    Life with all its expectations, cruelty, greed and all sh*t will come forth eventually and truly eat your heart out from your body while it still beats in hot blood. There's no other way around... it will happen at some point. Just like you as a grown up adult will start vomitting all those crappy lies onto another children, making them swallow empty promises of others being able to heal their pain, empty and false hopes of answers to their fears, luring them into a world of an illusory freedom...

    ... one can easily see how much everything out there wants you to grow up as fast as you can, all that marketing for children, high-tech games and toys for creating little consumers from the earliest age, or those freaky genius kids looking so adult on tv or cinema, 6, 7 years old people acting and speaking as adults, 10 years old girls in the streets wearing clothes, sometimes even sensual ones, as mini-adults who can't barely wait to be older and make hard mistakes for real, actually already feeling older for real... 11, 12 year old kids already knowing everything about sexuality....

    ... money, needs, drugs, tribal identification, all that crap that adults keep telling them like where you to belong to. As if they really could tell! As if anyone could really tell such thing to another being. As if an age difference could make you able to do so! Like f*cked up parents brainswashing kids with all kind of religion craps, trying to explaing complex philopshical concepts of God... or the complete opposite, parents simplifying everything down to right and wrong, good and evil...

    It would be just great not having all that sort of basterds coming into our infancy door as soon as you do something wrong, scoring and cleaning your mess just to give you a sense of responsibility disguised in a forgiveness cloak to be planted in your heart just to steal you naivety.

    Then you get close to death... when you finally get tired beyond even being or simply feeling older... that's when you see how much you wronged other that are today what you were so long ago... that's when you finally open your eyes and want so hard to get yourself back there... and it crushes you, it makes your heart weigh so heavily, your chest shrinks so hard that you just need to shout out to the children not let it all repeat itself again... begging them to rejoice, to lift their voices, begging them to make themselves be heard for their real voices... imploring them to simply have fun... admitting to yourself and whispering to them that no adult can really protect a kid from the world... it is a lie that only reflects this sick desire adults have to wax and mold their kids into what is clearly an individual vision of the world that only apply to the self...

    and children are no f*cking third parts of other selves... nor a parent choice for they to correct their own mistakes... children are what they are... or at least they should be let be so...

    damned times these now when children are less children... and go killing and shooting and growing up before even being able to really miss being... children themselves...

    rahulaon December 05, 2010   Link
  • +7
    General Comment

    These comments are all really apt, but in the context of the album and its self-proclaimed adaptation of Orpheus & Eurydice, this song marks the moment after Orpheus has lost Eurydice to Hades forever, after which he pretty much wanders aimlessly into nothing until he's devoured by beasts. It's a bittersweet tragedy in which he laments his situation, but rejoices in its easy solution: death, where he can be reunited with his lost love for all eternity.

    Really beautiful stuff. Makes a great story even better.

    feel me loudon November 20, 2010   Link
  • +5
    General Comment

    I see it like this -

    1. The protagonist's generation of adults have f##ked up the world and built human systems which make it a generally horrible place (the "gulag", which in history is the ultimate example of the horrors people inflict on one another). They have done this to their short term profit but long term detriment.

    2. The protagonist feels he is about to die - by his own hand, perhaps, or at least unwillingly ("pass me that lovely little gun", "the light is dim" etc). At the same time, he and his peers have had the shocking realisation that they have lived worthless lives and made the world a worse place by forgetting their original values ("poor old Jim's white as a ghost/he's found the answer that we lost")

    3. He is speaking to his child, trying in his way to apologise and warn the child about the world that the adults have created.

    4. He knows deep down that the message won't get through to the child ("there ain't nothing we can do to protect you"), and that the same type of people he once was (the "cleaners") will come to the child, and convince it that the ways of the world are good and correct, and that as an adult the child will subsequently participate in building and maintaining the very same system, the "gulag" - so "here take these before we run away/the keys to the gulag", i.e. the world, such as it is, is yours now.

    5. The "cleaners" will make is all seem like it is the right way for things to be by hiding the blood - "the cleaners have done their job on you/they've hosed you down, you're good as new" - i.e., when the child makes the same choices that the protagonist did, it will be because society is structured in a way that hides the true costs of those choices until it is too late. Consumerism, supporting corrupt governments, "righteous" wars, etc etc. To me the "cleaners" are governments, corporations, the media, and other manipulative people/groups who profit from the current system.

    6. I find the gospel part at the end to be intentionally ironic - after selfishly wrecking the world and abandoning his child to its fate, he now has the temerity to ask God (or whoever) for salvation (getting him to "the Kingdom"). I think this part highlights that this is said slightly mockingly: "we're happy Ma, we're having fun, the train ain't even left the station", i.e., his generation have forgiven themselves and found 'salvation' and now they're back to having fun even though the "train" isn't necessarily going anywhere. But there is also a real fear in there - "have you left a seat for me? is that such a stretch of the imagination?", i.e., after all I've done, is it even possible that I could be redeemed?

    I think this song ties together with another great line from this album: "I went to bed last night and my moral code got jammed/I woke up this morning with a frappacino in my hand". There's a theme of obsession with success clouding our vision of what is really important

    Absolutely unbelievable song.

    caitsith01on March 04, 2009   Link
  • +4
    My Interpretation

    i personally think its talking about world war two because gulags are camps and in the end its talking about hopping on the train to the kingdom so its like when they took the jews to be killed by transportation of the trains and the kingdom is obviously heaven. at one part, it explains the nazis coming and breaking into the house and taking them out and another part explains how they would line them up in the street. but that is just my guess.

    i found this song from harry potter and i think its just so soulful and beautiful.

    hplvr1256on August 24, 2011   Link
  • +4
    General Comment

    Quite Marxist. In other words, the adults love the next generation, but end up screwing it up unintentionally the way they were screwed up. Just hand over your "gun", your rebelious spirit, and let us teach you the secrets we all think we really know but we don't. But in the end, even though we have brainwashed you into believing our ways are right, we can all still ride that same train home to a place where we will all be happy.

    mitigatoron July 10, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    I agree with the opinion that "the cleaners" are a personification of Time, but I think we can actually combine a few of the ideas already brought forth. The narrator is speaking to his child in regret for how he has led him/her astray from Christ, and how he and his friends have become exceedingly arrogant and materialistic through their lives to the point where they have lost sight of the true spiritual treasure they had known. A sudden realization of this fact as they approach death sends the narrator into an apologetic tailspin as he is separated from his child as he is carted toward heaven after his repentance.

    And I have to say, the fact that a train was used as a metaphor for the transportation into the afterlife fit VERY WELL into the Harry Potter story, and I'm glad they used it in the film; Harry is told by Dumbledore that all he would need to do to move on is board a train, which would take him into the next life. It's actually much more significant to me now than when I actually saw the film.

    jerbazon January 27, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I'll try and make it a bit clearer what I think it's about, cause I might be wrong, but it seems to fit.

    Nick's putting himself in the position of someone older, nearing death. He and the others have done things in this world ("Gulags"), which although left them richer ("Lost amongst our winnings") are morally a bit wrong and left the world a bit rubbish. The gun reference could be an allusion to regret, which the song seems to be full of...

    I think part of it is the realisation that even if they wanted to make everything right they couldn't. People will be people, and people replace other people and become in the same position and it doesn't matter how much they try to convince the young that they need to look at everything, they never will.

    The other feeling I get from the lyrics is the realisation that Death is quite near and it's something to fear whatever age you are, so maybe people should live their lives to the fullest.

    xdvron December 12, 2007   Link
  • +1
    Song Meaning

    This is among the most sophisticated songs ever written; it is true literature.

    The verses alternate between a young person with a broken heart and old folks who are passing away. What links them together is Time, in this song represented by "the cleaners".

    Time heals all wounds, including the young person's broken heart. But there's a paradox because the passage of time is also leading us inexorably toward death.

    The cleaners will clean our broken little hearts but they will also, eventually, clean every last trace of us off the Earth.

    What is the solution to this paradox (the "answer to all our fears")?

    For a Christian like Nick Cave, the solution is to embrace Christ, so that Time ceases to be a set of cleaners wiping us from history, and becomes a train carrying us in the direction of the Kingdom which we will reach at death.

    We lost this answer in our pursuit of winnings (earthly possessions); the desire for earthly possessions is a trap ("a gulag") which keeps us from discovering the way out.

    Jim rediscovered the answer (the Kingdom) at death, and then the narrator has a conversion experience (much like Nick Cave). He "once was blind" but now can see, he was "held in chains" (in the gulag) but now is free.

    As soon as he has this conversion experience, his experience of time changes from dread (fear of getting old) to anticipation (of meeting God at death). Instantaneously he is free of the gulag and celebrates, even before the train of his new life starts moving. Merely being pointed in the right direction (being born again) is a basis for happiness.

    You might expect that having been freed of his chains and having gotten on the train, the narrator would now "lift up his voice" and "rejoice". But here is where the song, to me, becomes literature. If you'll note, the rejoicing comes before he gets on the train. That is, I think, because the song is actually the means by which he will be saved. Lifting up his voice to God in song (accepting Christ) is the act that converts his heart to God, puts him on the train and keeps him heading toward the Kingdom. You might even say that rejoicing (ie exclaiming Christ as one's saviour) is the train itself.

    The lesson of the song is that instead of singing our woes (our broken little hearts, poor old Jim, the light is dim) we should change our tune so to speak and lift up our voices in song to God.

    It is a song, therefore, about song.

    seanbradyon July 03, 2010   Link
  • +1
    Song Meaning

    I think everyone is over thinking the meaning to this song. School massacre, suicide and my favorite.. CONCENTRATION CAMPS?? I think not.

    To me it's about a person who lost faith in God. They get drug down by the world and lose faith getting cought up in the hype and excitement of the world

    "Forgive us now for what we've done It started out as a bit of fun"

    As they near death unhappy they find what they needed all along, something that was right there in front of them but obscured by the temptations of the world

    "We have the answer to all your fears It's short, it's simple, it's crystal clear It's round about, it's somewhere here Lost amongst our winnings"

    After this they find peace and live happy, waiting for the train(death) to take them to the kingdom(heaven).

    First I would like to say I love this song and it made HP7 that much better Secondly, anyone can pick any song apart so far it looses its meaning, JUST LISTEN and don't over think it

    jaymartin990on November 30, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    Once I look at it closely... it seems like a song about children in camps (concentration camps that is). I looked up gulag and that's what it means, the USSR's concentration camps.

    "The cleaners have done their job on you They're hip to it, man, they're in the groove They've hosed you down, you're good as new And they're lining up to inspect you"

    I don't know about Soviet Russia, but in Germany and other Nazi camps, children were used for experiments, they cleaned them and then "inspected them".

    Prisoners were sent in trains, and during this period of time children weren't told what was really going on...

    Everyone has their own interpretation though

    itzelloon July 16, 2013   Link

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