"The Birds of St. Marks" as written by and Jackson Browne....
Oh how sadly sound the songs the queen must sing of dying
A prisoner upon her throne of melancholy sighing
If she could see her mirror now
She would be free of those who bow and
Scrape the ground before her feet

Silently she walks among her dying midnight roses
Watches as each moment goes that never really know us
And so it seems she doesn't care
If she has dreams of no one there
Within the shadows of her room

But all my frozen words agree, and say it's time to
Call back, all the birds I sent to
Fly behind her castle walls, and I'm
Weary of the nights I've seen
Inside these empty halls

Wooden lady turn and turn among my weary secrets
And wave within the hours past and other empty pockets
Maybe we've found what we have lost
When we've unwound so many crossed entangling
Misunderstandings; but

All my frozen words agree and say it's time to
Call back all the birds I sent to
Fly behind her castle walls, and I'm
Weary of the nights I've seen
Inside these empty walls

Lyrics submitted by mushie01

"The Birds of St. Marks" as written by Jackson Browne

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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The Birds of St. Marks song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentThe song arose from Jackson's involvement in the New York musical scene in the late 60's and specifically is about his observations of Nico. As hearingcolor suggests, the poetry (and the melody) stand on their own. A pity it was never recorded on a studio album. In the video Going Home, Jackson reveals the song was originally written on guitar, but was trying it out on piano for the first time. Sure worked!
    detailrichon October 18, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAs far as I can see, this song only shows up on his live acoustic vol. 1 album, and its my favorite track on the whole thing. The key of D flat on this particular recording really conveys the velvety dark nature of this song. As for what it means, I cant really come up with a clear definition, but the poetry used is so good that I dont think it matters.
    hearingcoloron June 25, 2008   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationWow, you know this is such a great poem. Hard to believe he wrote it so young. It's such a wonderful picture of somebody caring for a troubled soul so much and staying with them as long as he can. But the object of his care is beyond hope. And so he is grieving through his decision to leave the "queen" to her fate. Just a terribly sad picture of love that wasn't enough.
    bebop45on November 05, 2014   Link
  • 0
    My OpinionThis song WAS eventually recorded on a studio album. It's the opening track on his 2014 release "Standing in the Breach".

    It's beautiful, but a bit overproduced imo, and lacks the organic feel that I love Browne for. Which seems a bit ironic, considering interpretations of the lyrics in some of these comments.
    kyleknappon August 31, 2017   Link
  • 0
    Song ComparisonOne element of this song that confirms it's from JB's youth is the casting of the main subject as a queen in a castle. At first listen I related that analogy to royalty to his early song The Shadow Dream Song, which he never released on his own recordings but was covered by Tom Rush. It's a love song and the actors in it are identified as the princess and the prince. "I can't remember how I used to think. What was the song she sang before the morning rang between the princess and the prince?" Both songs have appealing melodies; Birds of St. Marks is more intriguing.
    greendreameron February 07, 2019   Link
  • -1
    My InterpretationAfter what I have been studying in recent weeks, when I go back and look at these lyrics, I believe that they are written about someone who has, unfortunately, signed their life away to fame and fortune (or "rain man") As it was stated in an earlier comment, Jackson Browne has said that this song was written about Nico (a multimedia revolutionist woman from the 60's). Listening to this song I hear JB saying as if he can see her heartache and feel her loneliness in which she suffers from due to her life decision to sell her soul. If you research Nico's life you will also find she worked closely with Bob Dylan.

    I think this song can also be used today for several celebrities who are suffering from the same mistake; such as Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Eminem, and many many more. They are crying out to be saved.
    ElectrifyingCTon May 21, 2012   Link

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