"A Coral Room" as written by and Kate Bush....
There's a city, draped in net
Fisherman net
And in the half light, in the half light
It looks like every tower
Is covered in webs
Moving and glistening and rocking
It's babies in rhythm
As the spider of time is climbing
Over the ruins

There were hundreds of people living here
Sails at the windows
And the planes came crashing down
And many a pilot drowned
And the speed boats flying above
Put your hand over the side of the boat
What do you feel?

My mother and her little brown jug
It held her milk
And now it holds our memories
I can hear her singing
"Little brown jug don't I love thee"
"Little brown jug don't I love thee"
Ho ho ho, hee hee hee

I hear her laughing
She is standing in the kitchen
As we come in the back door
See it fall
See it fall
Oh little spider climbing out of a broken jug
And the pieces will lay there a while
In a house draped in net
In a room filled with coral
Sails at the window
Forests of masts
Put your hand over the side of the boat
Put your hand over the side of the boat
What do you feel?

Lyrics submitted by dallew

"A Coral Room" as written by Kate Bush

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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A Coral Room song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentKate: "The song is really about the passing of time... I like the idea of coming from this big expansive, outside world of sea and cities into, again, this very small space where, er, it's talking about a memory of my mother and this little brown jug. I always remember hearing years ago this thing about a sort of Zen approach to life, where, you would hold something in your hand, knowing that, at some point, it would break, it would no longer be there."

    'A Coral Room', ushering in Kate's uncanny gift for reporting from the emotion-boggling frontier where love and grief embrace. So few artists go there. Or, more precisely, take you there. A Coral Room requires you pack a big hankie.
    Mojo magazine

    At other points, Bush uses the familiar to personalize a painful memory. The breathtakingly gorgeous, piano-driven "A Coral Room" lifts phrases from the old drinking song "Little Brown Jug" to illustrate an anecdote about a departed mother.
    Kalamazoo Gazette

    'A Coral Room' is an epic map of the human heart.

    The opening lines work like a snow globe. Perhaps the snow globe that draws Citizen Kane into its memories. He remembers being sent away by his mother when it was snowing, and this leads him to remember Rosebud. As he utters "Rosebud", his dying hand falls over the side, releasing the snow globe, which breaks, shattering into a thousand pieces... See it fall...

    There’s a city, draped in net
    Fisherman net...

    We are taken under water to a once towered metropolis. Scuba diving among underwater ruins in Mexico... A lost ruin of time, a micro-environment, an intricate crystal structure, a coral reef, something vast and Atlantean, a city of fallen memories...

    KB lowers us into the collective unconscious, as in a diving bell, and we are instructed to focus on dimmed shadows, on the mystery between light and dark. (The diving bell spider, Argyroneta aquatica, is a spider which lives entirely under water, even though it could survive on land, maintaining an air reserve in a "diving bell" constructed from silk!)

    And in the half light, in the half light
    It looks like every tower
    Is covered in webs...

    IMHO, these lines can suggest New York in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the two WTC Towers. The dust and debris, the snow globe broken...

    See it fall
    See it fall...

    The buildings of New York
    Look just like mountains through the snow...

    But the eternal heart continues to beat, the spider of time continues to weave, and the tapestry of life continues...

    Moving and glistening and rocking
    It’s babies in rhythm
    As the spider of time is climbing
    Over the ruins...

    Ruins... crashing down...

    The song shifts gear like a mirror turning, or the camera zooming out, or the mists unveiling in a crystal ball...

    There were hundreds of people living here
    Sails at the windows...

    Sails... sales... fishermen and world trade...

    The clear vision is one of life, loss, catastrophe, emergency...
    The World Wars... 9/11... the 2004 Asian Tsunami... the social and ecological crises of the 21st century...

    And the speed boats flying above...

    Kirsty MacColl was killed by a speeding powerboat while scuba diving in Mexico on 18 December 2000. Kirsty MacColl was the daughter of dancer Jean Newlove and folk singer Ewan MacColl. She is best known with The Pogues on "Fairytale of New York".

    Put your hand over the side of the boat
    What do you feel?

    The boat holds you up, safe above the watery unconscious ocean of feelings. You can ride above the feelings and be safe from them, but after a while you need to put your hand over the side of the boat and let go...

    If the first part of the song deals with the macro, the second part deals with the micro. And by focussing on one personal grief, we focus on all distant voices, still lives...

    In a room filled with coral...

    The song plays like a photographic slide show or home cinema, weaving and conjuring up memories whose personal and intimate nature we can all feel. The family album - fishermen, seaside boats, sails and masts - history draped in the dust of time...

    The jug, as a vessel and metaphor for life, is full of nourishment, pleasure, pain, joy, craic, etc., and it also becomes the snow globe to a sunken city of moments and memories that are somehow preserved from the ravages of time, like hidden treasure.

    I hear her laughing
    She is standing in the kitchen
    As we come in the back door...

    KB's description of the web of loss is extremely moving. It is both macro-expansive and micro-personal. The song is all of us; and the "little spider climbing out of a broken jug" evokes the eventual coming to terms and moving on from grief to healing. The spider represent time and fates, the universal weaver and the universal mother; and the 'little brown jug' is the finite, mortal, vessel inevitably broken by the 'ravages of time.'

    A truly outstanding piece of work! ...

    A Coral Room can be compared to "Atlantis" an early KB demo:

    Kate Bush - Atlantis

    In that ocean.
    Wide eyed and deeper in your gaze,
    And bluer than the bright that's in the cave.

    There is a city,
    Came out from you, Atlantis
    In ruins, sunken below the waves

    But in the city,
    Where there is no one.
    What's the point of being free, eh?
    When there is nothing there to tie me down,
    Oh, no more here.

    The bluest city,
    Covered in coral and coral,
    On sea chests,
    And sealed Jamaician tales.

    There is nobody,
    To count the soldiering meandering whales,
    With a shoal of herring amongst the sails.

    But in the city,
    Where there is no one.
    What's the point of being free, eh?
    When there is nothing there to tie me down,
    Oh, no more here.

    There is the city Atlantis.

    The most famous of the early prophets of earth changes and Atlantis was Madame Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891), a medium, mystic, and founder of the Theosophical Society. She prophesied: "That the periodical sinking and reappearance of mighty continents, now called Atlantean and Lemurian by modern writers, is no fiction will be demonstrated. It is only in the twentieth century that portions, if not the whole, of the present work will be vindicated."

    The Little Brown Jug 1958 the Clark Sisters
    Theresa_Gionoffrioon June 01, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSometimes things hurt too much to talk about directly, so you have to talk about them by coming at them from an angle, by talking about something else.
    So after a grievous loss, when you’ve wrapped yourself up in layers of protection and enough time goes by, and then you see a thing connected to the loss – the jug. You notice the pain but you can stand it. You decide to peel back one layer of protection and take up the jug in your hands and see if you can stand it.
    What does she feel?
    The boat holds you up safe out of the water, the unconscious ocean of feelings, you can ride above the feelings and be safe from them… but after a while you need to put your hand over the side of the boat – what do you feel?
    Right there, right off the side of the boat, is the pain – her mother. She toys with the pain, holds it in her fingers, examining it gingerly, carefully, the way she’d handle the jug, considering it.
    Her mind reels and for a moment she sees…. What does she see?
    A little town somewhere on the coast where people once lived busy, happy lives, raised their children, watched other men die… The little village saw a lot: It was in the path of the bombers during the war, and the men of the village tried to rescue the drowning pilots. Time marches on, things change, and now the village is abandoned… the local economy collapsed. The fishermen could no longer make a living, moved on, retired elsewhere, and now the place is empty, full only of echoes, of the memories of past lives. Maybe it’s the village where her mother grew up.
    Or maybe this place is down under the water, like a village drowned when a dam broke or some terribly earthquake heaved up the ocean and changed the lay of the land, so that all was lost beneath the waves, like Atlantis. If you swam down to it, you’d find everything unchanged, only coated with soft moss or drifting seaweed, tables with chairs, a cradle, a child’s doll, draped with old abandoned fishermen’s nets. The drowned pilots would sink down into this other world and become part of it, while the speedboats flew up above in another world.
    The little brown jug that holds her memories. Does she take her mother’s ashes out in a boat in this jug and drop it over the side of the boat, to float down to this drowned village, to come to rest there?
    Or maybe this jug lives now with her in her own home, where she sees it every day, watches a spider climb over it, remembers her mother, her mother’s lost childhood, the village she heard stories about when she was a little girl, which seemed so long ago, like another world, a magical world, someplace far away.
    She takes a breath and puts her hand over the side of the boat… and takes a look at the pain, very gingerly, very delicately… and sees her mother in the kitchen as they come in the back door, and then the pain is too much, and her mind jumps back to the jug, seeing it in the water, drifting down to the magic world under the water.
    Putting her hand over the side of the boat, taking the jug in her hands is like allowing herself for just one moment to openly feel the pain of her mother’s death, carefully, to see if she can stand it. We all have pain like this, we protect ourselves from. Kate invites you to put your hand over the side of the boat. What do you feel?
    lidarose9on March 10, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's a beautiful mysterious song, although it offers glimpses it's really hard to see what's going on in detail, but the emotional effect is very strong. It's a song about remembering dear things have have been lost to us.

    Here's my best shot at the lyrics...

    Along the coast of the British Isles there are quite a few examples of towns that have been lost to the sea. In the first two verses Kate describes a particular place that has been inundated: once it was a thriving fishing town with hundreds of inhabitants and forests of masts in the harbour. During the war many planes crashed into the sea around the town, I guess these were bomber pilots trying to get back home and therefore this town was probably on the east/south coast, somewhere between Yorkshire and Sussex.

    Nowadays it lies underwater, no more than a hazard for fishing boats who snag their nets on the old buildings. With the passage of time the nets cover more and more of the old town (Kate uses the metaphor of the 'spider of time' spinning its web). She imagines all the people in pleasure boats sailing over the old town, oblivious to what lies just under the water and wonders whether there remains any echo of the area's past: "Put your hand over the side of the boat. What do you feel?"

    In the third verse she switches to the tangible and personal: her mother's milk jug which, when she holds it, reminds her of her mother.

    The fourth verse ties together the lost town and the lost mother. It seems that the town was once her mother's home, although she might just be linking the memories of the lost town and the lost mother: "In a house draped in net, In a room filled with coral" might also apply to many homes of the time which were draped in net (curtains) and filled with coral (ornaments).

    The third and fourth verses describe a particular memory: her mother singing a baby song to the jug (which I guess she's had since her own childhood) and laughing at herself. As the children come in she spies a spider in the jug and, in her shock, drops it, sending it crashing to the floor.
    Paegaon June 07, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti definitely think this refers to a now-underwater town, with the lines "in a house draped in net, in a room filled with coral". the coral is not ornamentation, it's sea-growth over the years.. i think this song is a very sad recollection of someone else's memories, someone no-one remembers, entombed by the 'spider of time' and buried centuries ago, now looking at the town they once grew up in. what would they see? what would their thoughts be?..

    as a sidenote, i think that the spider crawling from the jug is the spider of time, sort of a mentally-visual flag changing the bustling seaside town into its seaside grave.
    polynotreon August 25, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentKate was very reluctant to place this on Aerial, she felt it was too personal. The death or her mother had a huge impact upon her, it took her a while to come to terms with the loss and in interviews she stated she was on the verge of breaking down. I really get the sense that she used the song as a way of addressing and accepting her grief. It's a hugely emotional song, both in content and sound.
    ambrielon September 26, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's about how the memory of a departed love one can suddenly come to you from out of nowehere. The city draped in net? A coral reef, dead coral, as "there were hundreds of people living here....." "Speedboats flying above......." - mans intervention. So I imagine she's on holiday, in boat over the coral, her mind is wondering and maybe she puts a hand in the water. And from nowhere this memory of her dead mother materialises. This is how memories of lost loved ones usually appear. For Kate, it was a deeply personal song which dealt with the death of her mother more than a decade after the event. She was in 2 minds whether to put it on the album becuase it's so deeply personal, but to anyone who has suffered a similar loss will immediately connect with this. It's a beautiful song which you feel more than you hear.
    DaVeyP25on November 13, 2011   Link

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