Among the headstones you played as boys
Crypts and tombs like a roomful of toys
Just up the river from the smoke and the noise
And there's war-whoops and secret signs in the trees
Estuary smells coming up on the breeze
O perfect endless days like these
O Gethsemane

Sailboat on the Cadie, pushbike on the quay
In your eyes there's fire, in your hand destiny
â??O be something, be something fine!'

Just down the river, into the noise and the smoke
Being daring with the staring, uncaring folk
Who laugh with you, laugh at you, you'll never get the joke
And they broke your spirit there in the marines
Flushed your head down in the latrines
Frozen in your sacrement, derailed in your teens
Never saw the enemy

And those bosses betrayed, soon let you go
The fire in your eyes, how could they know
â??O be something, be something fine!'

Now you've got your own boys, hell bent for leather
Dead before they're 18, or bitter old men forever
They never saw the halo moon rise over the river
Of Gethsemane
Now there's a pain in your head puts lead in your shoes
Better get it seen to, it's going to be bad news
How did the perfect world get so confused
O Gethsemane

Who sucked out the freedom, days without end
Under the weight of it all you must bend
â??O be something, be something fine!'

Lyrics submitted by albowlleysinheaven

"Gethsemane" as written by Richard Thompson

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

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Gethsemane song meanings
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  • +3
    General Comment"Gethsemane" is the garden where Christ was betrayed. The song is about starting off with high hopes and being remorselessly ground down by life until you're a shambling old man with a brain tumour wondering what the hell happened. In the song, Gethsemane is the name of a fictional everytown and Cadie is a fictional body of water, so the setting is wherever you want it to be.
    screedon July 19, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentCan't quite lay my finger on what this song is about, the imagery is fantastic. Any help?
    albowlleysinheavenon April 12, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSome of it sounds like the Vietnam War, then thinking about it, the rest may be referring to it also.
    That's my two bits.
    theunicycleguyon December 30, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentScreed is right on the mark with his/her analysis. The name Gethsemane lets us know that this song is about Jesus growing up in a fierce environment, which we know only gets worse as the precious few years wear on. Richard Thompson puts the description of the land and people in modern British slang to throw the listener off the track and in effect create doubt that the song is really about Jesus. Thompson's phrasing turns the mirror on us, an interesting technique to produce the feelings of doubt expressed by Jesus only a short time later on Golgotha.

    The music driving Gethsemane 'home' is every bit as powerful as the lyrics.
    BeBop61on April 21, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentScreed has the essentials. The only thing l would add is that it is a song about betrayal but not in a personal sense. It describes the experience of many ordinary men brought up in a world de-industrialising (the smoke and the noise the song's protagonist grew up with) who joined the armed forces as the newer industries are located elsewhere, require different skills and favour women. But even this does not appear to be an option for his sons - hence the reference to being dead at 18. In my view its a much better song than 'Shipbuilding' which covers this sort of subject but does not really grasp the way a globalised economy leaves many people behind.

    There are lots of things l like about this song. I like the way it appears specific (the smell of the estuary) but is not like and the way that the people in it have little understanding or view of what has happened to them and the song writer only expresses his own view indirectly in that one word: 'Gethsemane'.

    But none of this would have really mattered if it had not been for the ways the song is built around a simple but powerful guitar phrase.

    A very fine song indeed: one of Richard Thomson's best.
    jon1017485on September 29, 2014   Link

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