"Turn of the Century" as written by and Jon/howe Anderson....
Realising a form out of stone
Set hands moving
Roan shaped his heart
Through his working hands
Work to mold his passion into clay, like the sun

In his room, his lady
She would dance and sing so completely
So be still he now cries
I have time, oh let clay transform thee so

In the deep cold of night
Winter calls, he cries "Don't deny me!"
For his lady, deep her illness
Time has caught her
And will for all reasons take her

In the still light of dawn, she dies
Helpless hands soul revealing

Like leaves we touch we learn
We once knew the story
As winter calls he will starve
All but to see the stone be life

Now Roan, no more tears
Set to work his strength
So transformed him
Realising a form out of stone, his work
So absorbed him
Could she hear him?
Could she see him?
All aglow was his room dazed in this light
He would touch her
He would hold her
Laughing as they danced
Highest colors touching others

Did her eyes at the turn of the century
Tell me plainly
When we meet, how we'll love, oh let life so transform me

Like leaves we touched we danced
We once knew the story
As autumn called and we both
Remembered all those many years ago
I'm sure we know

Was the sign with a touch
As I kiss your fingers
We walk hands in the sun
Memories when we're young
Love lingers so

Was it sun through the haze
That made all your looks
As warm as moonlight?
As a pearl deep in your eyes
Tears have flown away
All the same light

Did her eyes at the turn of the century
Tell me plainly
When we meet how we'll look
As we smile time will leave me clearly

Like leaves we touch, we see
We will know the story
As autumn calls we'll both remember
All those many years ago

Lyrics submitted by stickista, edited by Evna

"Turn of the Century" as written by Jon Anderson Alan White

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Turn of the Century song meanings
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  • +1
    My InterpretationThe Roan of the tale is presumably absorbed with capturing the likeness of his lover, who is full of life- "she would dance and sing so completely"- but he's too obsessed with capturing her and preserving the moment, "so be still he now cries
    I have time, oh let clay transform thee so."

    But, whilst he's obsessed with doing this, she falls ill and dies, and all of a sudden he realises what he's missed. In order to overcome his grief, he becomes even more absorbed in his work, imagining that the statue might come to life Pygmalion-style and he would be reconnected with his lost love. The rest of the song exploring the feelings he has, remembering his love and the time they spent together, imagining what it would be like when they'd lived a full life together, and could look back on it.

    Or maybe she does somehow return to life? Who can tell?
    TheLyniezianon December 24, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General Commentwhat a masterpiece just like preety much every other yes song I mean this band gives the best of the best a run for their money! highly underrated song well at least on this site it is. :( I know this is my new fav song by this legendary band!
    floydian18on July 31, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentUnlike a lot of Jon's earlier great works, this story is plain to see. The question is in what it infers. I'd suggest it is a critique of the Industrial Revolution and all of the modern comforts we create for ourselves that actually destroy all that is truly beautiful in our world. Maybe this is obvious, I don't know. I remember talking to my ex-wife (not a big Yes fan) about the lyrics to "Wondrous Stories", and asking her what she thought they meant. I was looking for something deep and meaningful, but her response was "He died". Lesson? Keep it simple, stupid (I hate KISS).
    tripleseeon December 16, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"Turn of the Century", 1978:
    Jon A. has spoken of becoming a friend of the painter
    (sometimes sculptor...) Marc Chagall in Paris in 1970-something, around the time when Anderson became known as an amateur painter.

    Anderson has also told another story which is not strictly historical:
    When the Chagalls moved from Russia to Europe and Marc became the incredibly famous painter (this would be around1920), Chagall's perhaps less adaptive wife was absolutely unsuited and not prepared.
    Deprived of Marc's masculine strengths due to the world's demands on his incredible talent, and feeling so lost in a new environment, "she died" as the song says.
    Anderson might have said "she killed herself", but that's so dramatic.
    (anyway Bella died in 1954, a very long time to spend dying).
    Anyway Chagall himself died in 1985 and since then
    Anderson has hinted this tale is an element
    in this particular song...
    and the parallels are abundant, but the story itself, &
    what a story - is not strictly true.
    The song though.... is one of their more direct lyrics -and the guitar pyrotechnics make it holy and sublime.
    hilarleoon February 13, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIncredible song. I can't get the lyrics out of my head. 'warm as moonlight" Such peaceful imagery. You can always count on YES
    jcparks2on March 25, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentBella died 1944
    Flyersfanon May 14, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentTURN OF THE CENTURY by Yes - adding meanings...
    Pygmalion is a legendary figure of Cyprus. Though Pygmalion[2] is the Greek version of the Phoenician royal name Pumayyaton,[3] he is most familiar from Ovid's narrative poem Metamorphoses, X, in which Pygmalion was a sculptor who fell in love with a statue he had carved.
    The English progressive rock group Yes composed "Turn Of The Century" (1977); it tells the story of the sculptor Roan who, in the grief of his wife's death, "molds his passion into clay." The sculpture of his wife comes to life and they fall in love.
    (read more in en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    For the poetry gifts and habilities of Jon Anderson, we can hear this myth renewed, in this very beautiful song, both music and lirically. I love it.
    Greetings from Rio de Janeiro.
    OrlandoRafaelon August 14, 2013   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningClearly this is a musical interpretation (and a good one) of the myth of Pygmalion, who falls in love with a statue he carves ("realizing the form out of stone his work, so absorbed him". Jon Anderson adds a extra dimension as the main character is mourning the loss of his wife and longs for a love - so he carves one. Absolutely one of the most beautiful songs Yes ever recorded...Steve Howe's acoustic guitar is stellar; listen to it, it really tells a story!
    EricBeeron November 09, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentYES is just an incredible progressive rock group- I can listen to most YES songs hundreds of times & never tire of the superbly beautiful music & lyrics. Pink Floyd, YES, CSNY, Zeppelin & Genesis & my life is complete!
    jibski00on November 20, 2015   Link
  • 0
    General CommentProbably because she's still so strong a presence in my everyday life even 30 these years later, the lyrics to this song always remind me of my first love. Much too long a story to get into, but let's just say that if things could have been different, I'd want us to still be together.
    She recognized sooner than I did that we were probably too young to commit to each other for the rest of our lives, and she was probably all the healthier because she could see that.
    Although this wasn't what she'd hoped for, I came to believe that we should have a clean and complete break, with no contact once it was over. Not only the selfishness of trying to spare myself the pain I'd feel if and when we had any contact, but also because I was terrified by the fear I had of becoming the ex who can't let go, can't be a genuinely good friend because of my selfish desire to keep us together. I didn't want to become "that guy", and risk driving her to detest me for my weakness and childishness. And I know that's what I would have been. So, in a way, "time has caught her, and will for all reasons, take her".
    I've always felt that I have no choice in the matter. I've wished and prayed for the painful longing to go away, been in therapy, but it's never completely gone. Sometimes I'll dream of her - of course, we're still teenagers - and I have smelled her, tasted her kisses and looked into her incredible blue eyes that have flecks of green and silver(!) in them. I used to kiss her fingers all the time (and not because of the song lyrics). It's as if she's alive to me again. I've awoken from many of these dreams in tears, sometimes of sadness, but also sometimes of joy.
    Maybe in my dreams, I've sculpted her to relive that wonderful time in my life.
    The crescendo which builds into the burst of soaring electric guitar and Jon Anderson's beautiful, evocative vocals, brings such vivid memories of emotions and images that - if I'm not careful - it brings me to tears.

    "Was the sign of the day with a touch
    As I kiss your fingers
    We walk hands in the sun
    When we're young love
    Lingers so...
    Was it sun, through the haze
    That made all your looks
    As warm as moonlight
    As a pearl, deep your eyes -
    Tears have flown away -
    All the same light"

    Gotta go find some Kleenex. LOL.

    CruncherBlockon December 22, 2016   Link

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