"The Priest" as written by and Joni Mitchell....
The priest sat in the airport bar
He was wearing his father's tie
And his eyes looked into my eyes so far
Whenever the words ran dry
Behind the lash and the circles blue
He looked as only a priest can, through
And his eyes said me and his eyes said you
And my eyes said, let us try

He said, "You wouldn't like it here
No it's no place you should share
The roof is ripped with hurricanes
And the room is always bare
I need the wind and I seek the cold"
He reached post the wine for my hand to hold
And he saw me young and he saw me old
And he saw me sitting there

Then he took his contradictions out
And he splashed them on my brow
So which words was I then to doubt
When choosing what to vow
Should I choose them all-should I make them mine
The sermons, the hymns and the valentines
And he asked for truth and he asked for time
And he asked for only now
Now the trials are trumpet scored
Oh will we pass the test
Or just as one loves more and more
Will one love less and less
Oh come let's run from this ring we're in
Where the Christians clap and the Germans grin
Saying let them lose, crying let them win
Oh make them both confess

Lyrics submitted by sloop

"The Priest" as written by Joni Mitchell

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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The Priest song meanings
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  • +1
    My InterpretationWow, I hear that song much less literally than the other comments here.

    I think she caught the eyes of a priest in an airport. They looked at each other for few seconds, and she felt like his eyes were speaking to her. The song is a description of what his eyes said to her.

    He was sharing the pain in his life, but how that pain nourished him. She was very different from him, but was spiritually drawn to aspects of how he lived his life. She felt seen by him ("he saw me young he saw me old") but didn't know how much of what she saw in him to embrace for herself, spiritually.
    augenbraunjon December 30, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General Commentsomeone comment on this song!! what does it MEAN???
    prettylieson April 29, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWell, it's obviously about religion. Specifically, I think it's about the questions and confusion that can arise when someone is wondering if they should join a faith.

    When she says "he was wearing his father's tie", I think that means the traditional collar of the Catholic priest, being the Heavenly Father's tie rather than that of a biological one.

    It sounds like a story about a conversation with a priest, him advising her on whether she should become Christian or not and her wondering what to chose.

    The lines: "He said, you wouldn't like it here
    It's no place you should share
    The roof is ripped with hurricanes
    And the room is always bare"
    Seem to be the priest explaining that entering into Christianity means also entering into the burden of the centuries of conflict and controversy it has been through, or the "hurricanes." The "room" always being bare is because more and more people are turning away from the faith.

    The "Then he took his contradictions out
    And he splashed them on my brow" part seems to be a reference to Baptism, because priest usually pour water over the Baptized person's head. The "contradictions" in the holy water are probably the controversies surrounding Christianity, and how often times in the Bible one page can say "this is right," and then the next page it can say "no wait forget that, this is right."

    The next lines of that verse are her wondering if she should then accept all of Christianity and become part of it. (BTW a line is missing... after "should I choose them all, should I make them mine" there is "the sermons, the hymns, and the valentines.")
    The Priest's response to all of her questions at the end of this verse is that he wants her to be honest about whatever she decides, and not choose something just for the sake of not disappointing him.

    I'm not entirely sure about the last verse... "Now the trials are trumpet-scored" may reference how Christianity is no longer modest but nowadays needs a big show-and-tell to go along with it.
    "Will we pass the test" is probably asking whether or not she will continue to be fond of Christianity, or if she will love it "less and less." Perhaps the use of "we" in this verse is supposed to embody the hippie generation, just like in the song "Woodstock" which was on the same album. In this verse, I think she's connecting her struggles with religion to the same confusion about beliefs that most hippies were feeling at the time.
    "Oh come let's run from this ring we're in
    Where the christians clap and the germans grin
    Crying let them lose saying let them win
    Oh make them both confess."
    This part probably means that she wants to get away from all the people who make simple things like one's personal religion into an institution somewhat like a dictatorship, which is probably why the "germans" reference is in there. She wants to get back to the simple truths that Christianity used to stand for, like 'Love thy Neighbor', which seem to be lost now to everyone who decides what the Church stands for.
    "Make them both confess" talks about how even the Church and Governments have sinned, and they need to repent and better their lives just like everyone else.

    Anyway, that's my take on it. Could be totally wrong, but whatever. :P
    lastoftherockstarson June 10, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentInteresting take on this song. I always thought it was about a pair of lovers and he is a priest- christian not Catholic so he could be in a relationship- and he has decided to become a missionary abroad somewhere in a really basic poor area with really bad conditions (the line should read the 'roof' not the'root' is ripped with hurracains and the roon is always bare), and he doesn't think she should go with him as it would be a really hard life. But she says 'let us try', She loves him and she wants to be with him so she doesn't care about all those things, she is willing to sacrifice a comfortable life to be with him. The bit about contradicions with the missing line about hyms and valentines to me is her saying he is telling to to listen to him as a priest, so she is saying should she choose his words as a priest or the man she loves. Not suprisingly she says she will choose to be with him as a man rather than take his advice as a religous person.

    The last verse I think is suggesting that she does go with him and she is wondering if they will last as a couple or will time, hardships and the people who are against them being together tear them apart, but in the last bit she seems to think their relationship will work. Kindof screw what everyone else thinks we love each others thats enough, lets not let them get us down.
    just katon October 15, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWhat a load of Hokum.
    This is a song about a love affair.
    The guy is spiritual by nature(in part)
    It's a whimsy about whether a love affair could last.
    I suspect the lover is the same as in Rainy Night House
    guymondeon August 19, 2012   Link

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