"The Shortest Story" as written by and Harry F. Chapin....
I am born today
The Sun burns a promise
In my eye

Mama strikes me
And I draw a breath and cry
Above me a cloud
Slowly tumbles through the sky
I am glad, to be alive

It is my seventh day
I taste the hunger
And I cry

My Brother and sister
Cling to Mama's side
She squeezes her breast
But it has nothing to provide
Someone weeps, I fall asleep

It is twenty days today
Mama does not hold me

I open my mouth
But I am to weak to cry
Above me a bird slowly crawls across the sky
Why is there nothing
Now to do but die?

Lyrics submitted by harveyknox

"The Shortest Story" as written by Harry F. Chapin

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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The Shortest Story song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentHarry Chapin was an avid protester for word hunger, he created the charity World Hunger Year. This song is about a baby being born to extreme, inescapable poverty in which he has no hope of surviving. The music to this song is haunting.
    Acephalouson February 05, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentYeah, it's about a 20-day-old baby dying of starvation. Not in a hospital per se, but in the inescapable poverty of the third world. It's a horribly depressing song, but powerful.
    docsigma2000on August 23, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentHarry's most pointed and depressing song, because this happens too much to too many people around the world.

    When you throw away food, remember: Each year is a World Hunger Year until there is no more world hunger!

    RIP Harry!
    sammyblueon December 25, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is a really depressing song. I thought it was about a bird but birds dont have breast to squeeze. If ssomeone can come up with another meaning for the words Id love to hear it but all I can think its about a young kid starving to death.
    theziggon April 06, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI read somewhere that this song is about a dying boy in a hospital.
    Armoon May 06, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAside from the obvious meaning (starving child), Harry was too much of a lyrical poet to simply leave it there.

    The greater metaphor is the human condition itself.

    We are born with the potential for happiness (the "promise under the sun") and in our childhood we actualize that potential. But this is only because we are unburdened the bitter truths of life that time teaches us. By our "seventh day" (end of our childhood), we understand pain, and loss, and hunger. With the dream now beyond our reach forever, we cease even to weep for our losses and learn how to simply "fall asleep" in our lives and stop caring or feeling just to avoid the pain of a reality we cannot change.

    By our "twentieth day" (around 3x the end of our childhood, so the onset of middle age/retirement) we are suddenly cut off from our only source of support and love ("Mama" being our families, our friends, our jobs, all the things that define us as living people) and cease to have any purpose at all. Our bodies and minds slowly fail with age, we become too weak to cry or move to resist the coming darkness of death.

    The final question: "Why is there nothing now to do but die?" may as well be "Why does human life come full circle like this?" We begin strong and happy but ignorant, became cold and cynical in order to function once we realize the truth of existence. Now as we weaken and the end draws in sight, we realize suddenly that we've never touched that "promise under the sun" and never will, and with that final knowledge of inescapable failure, we yearn again to cry out like children against the unfairness of it all, and yet we no longer have the strength.
    jf998247on July 27, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song makes me wonder what would Harry think about 1.3 billion bushels of corn going to make ethanol every year.
    jackwinabox57on August 07, 2016   Link

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