Tell you a thing that you ought to know
Two minutes of your time, then on you go
Tell tale of the men all dressed in black
That most of them, not coming back
Sent off to war to play little games
And on their return, can't name no names
Some strange yellow gas has played with their minds
Has reddened their eyes, removed all the lies
And strange as it sounds, death knows no bounds
How many get well?
Only time will tell
Only time will tell

You lie in your death bed now
But what did you bring to the table?
Brought us only holy sin
Utter trust is a deadly thing
To the prayer of holy peace
We didn't know what was lying underneath
So how could we be such fools?
And to think that we thought you the answer

I can't begin to understand in all the lies
But on your death bed, I can see it in your eyes
Just as clear as all the sweat upon your brow
It really makes sense, I can see it clearly now

Tangled up in a web of lies
Could have been a way to prophesize
Unaware of the consequence
Not aware of the secrets that you kept
Nothing that we could believe
To reveal the facade of faceless men
Not a thing that we could foresee
Now a sign that would tell us the outcome

You had us all strung out with promises of peace
But all along, your cover plan was to deceive
Can it put to rights now?
Only time will tell
Your prophecies will send us all to Hell as well

Left to all our golden sons
All to pick up on the peace
You could have given all of them
A little chance, at least
Take the world to better place
Given them all just a little hope
Just think what a legacy you now will leave

We seemed destined to live in fear
And some that would say Armageddon is near
But where there's a life, while there's hope
That man won't self-destruct
Why can't we treat our fellow men
With more respect and a shake of their hands?
But anger and loathing is rife
The death on all sides is becoming a way of life
We live in an uncertain world
Fear, understanding and ignorance is leading to death
Only the corpses are left
For vultures that prey on their bones

But some are just not wanting peace
Their whole life is death and misery
The only thing that they know
"Fight fire with fire, life is cheap"
But if they do stop to think
That man is teetering right on the brink
But do you think that they care?
They benefit from death and pain and despair


Lyrics submitted by P30

"The Legacy" as written by Stephen Percy Harris Janick Gers

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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The Legacy song meanings
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27 Comments

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  • +2
    General CommentI can't believe more people haven't commented on this song by now. This is one of the best tracks on "A Matter of Life and Death".

    I see this song as a polemic against religious-inspired war, and nihilism .

    "Tell tale of the men
    All dressed in black
    That most of them
    Not coming back

    Sent off to the war
    To play little games
    And on their return
    Can't name no names

    Some strange yellow gas
    Has played with their minds
    Has reddened their eyes
    Removed all the lies

    And strange as it sounds
    Death knows no bounds
    How many get well
    Only time will tell
    Only time will tell"

    The man dressed in Black is a priest, and "most of them not coming back" are soldiers. They were sent off to war to "play little games" on the behalf of the Church. The "strange yellow gas" is mustard gas, which can cause psychosis and blindness--hence, "has played with their minds and reddened their eyes". Through their injuries and the general carnage of war, the soldiers realize how pointless and ghastly war is, thus the mustard gas has "removed all the lies".

    "You lie in your death bed now
    But what did you bring to the table
    Brought us only holy sin
    Utter trust is a deadly thing

    To the prayer of holy peace
    We didn't know what was lying underneath
    So how could we be such fools
    And to think that we thought you the answer"

    So now the priest is lying on his death bed, but the narrator points out that despite his outward appearance of piety, the priest actually did nothing to improve the lives of those who placed sacred trust in him. The narrator then reflects that he and his fellow countrymen/parishoners (soldiers?) were fools to place so much blind trust in the clergy, to believe so fervently that their religious war was justified.

    "I can't begin to understand in all the lies
    But on your death bed I can see it in you eyes
    Just as clear as all the sweat upon your brow
    It really makes sense I can see it clearly now

    Nothing that we could believe
    To reveal the façade of faceless men
    Not a thing that we could foresee
    Now a sign that would tell us the outcome
    "

    He sees the priest as he's dying; he's sweating and there is fear in his eyes, signifying that the priest knew he had lied and used religion to manipulate those who trusted him, now he is terrified of facing the consequences when he dies. In life he likely justified all of his lies and manipulation with the rationale that it was in the end all for the greater good of God, but now that he is close to facing God, he must pay for the suffering that was conducted in God's name. But the narrator doesn't stop at just the priest; the whole religious institution is corrupt, led by "faceless men" who'se outward demeanor of wisdom and religioisty are an empty display, a facade--inside, they are all powerhungry and self-serving.

    "You had us all strung out with
    promises of peace
    But all along you cover plan was to deceive
    Can it put to rights now only time will tell
    Your prophecies will send us all to hell as well"

    The "promises of peace" were the rhetoric the clergy used to persuade the people to commit attrocities and violence. Soldiers were led to wage war, and people were willing to let it happen, because they were brainwashed into thinking of those acts of violence as "neccessary evils" that would eventally bring about peace. However, the true motive behind the war was soley for the clergy's/religious instution's personal gain. Perhaps it was to acquire more wealth, land, and power. This wasn't uncommon in the past, esp. in Catholocism and Islam (though I doubt Iron Maiden had any particular religion in mind, rather than just religious fundamentalism and blind trust in general). The religious men who instigated such horrors are bound for damnation, but the people who were duped into following their orders suffer damnation as well, albeit of a differnt kind (the damnation of having both endured and committed horrible acts in the name of war, as opposed to divine punishment).

    "Left to all our golden sons
    All to pick up on the peace
    You could have given all of them
    A little chance... at least

    Take the world to a better place
    Given them all just a little hope
    Just think what a legacy
    You know... will leave"

    Whilst the clergy pontificated about the need for the war and how it was divinely ordained, it was the young men themselves who had to fight it. The burden of so-called peace was placed upon their shoulders. However, the war was totally futile and unneccessary--the soldiers had "no chance". The clergy occupied this position of immense authority and trust; they could have used their power of authority to make the world a better place. Instead, the left a legacy of pain, suffering, and lies.

    The second part of the song transitions from the clergy to the people themselves. They are the ones who allow such corrupt men to exist, because they themselves are angry and nihilistic. There could be peace if we but tried to understand one another and treated each other with respect. Instead, Mankind embraces destruction. Just imagine what a legacy we'd leave to future generations if we could let go of our hateful and war-mongering setiments.

    OK, so that's my analysis. feel free to disagree, but please be respectful about it, eh?
    Swift Go Lightlyon December 09, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song rules,i LOVE the intro,very nice vocal experimentation by bruce

    UP THE IRONS!
    mrifai91on September 03, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAlmost creepy intro. but damn bad ass!
    Metalmaidenon September 08, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentpossibly the best maiden track ever
    skalra63on September 10, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthe songs actually about the film 'jacob's ladder'
    PennilessLlamaon February 01, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is one word:
    AMAZING (AND BEYOND).
    Ddaduttaon February 11, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis part is just so fucking epic, heroic and triumphantly glorious:

    Left to all our golden sons
    All to pick up on the peace
    You could have given all of them
    A little chance... at least

    Take the world to a better place
    Given them all just a little hope
    Just think what a legacy
    You know... will leave
    Ddaduttaon February 11, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentPlease, PenilessLlama, what gives you that conclusion?
    FellowRangeron March 01, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentDude this album is so deep with meanings about war and religion! It makes you think about the good and bad of religion. This song is like what the greater good of god is about. People that use religion as a reason for war are for thier own gain. Anyways I hope Maiden's next album is as good as this!
    LordOfLighton March 20, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think the whole song is a sum up of world war 2 with topics of the effects of the war - hitler's deceitful controlling of germany in order to do what he felt necesary - an album conclusion about why we should stop war beacause its always for stupid reasons
    ramsay356on August 17, 2007   Link

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