now the bough breaks

the books I read
said you were a fragile kid
just as I imagined it
your story goes:

another nosebleed
roses on the pillowcase
the fever breaks,
and you're back on earth again

you rehearse
in the living room
the nursemaid comes mid-afternoon
to say "you've practiced long enough today"

she takes your bow
it's suppertime
but oh, your only appetite
was fixed on the chaconne you'd hoped to play

so soon you're off
to the academy
the honours
and the accolades

first a darling
then a marvel
when we met
I was still a young girl

but you had changed, already famous
your name was a contagion
you were vain and hard to take
all the same, I was brave

how the tides rise
oh, how the tides rise

I don't suppose you'd tell the truth
so I won't ask you anymore
all the things that we do
to pass the time between the wars

I don't regret a single day
heard your chaconne on every stage
but your love sleeps in a velvet case
so what'd you bring me for?
what'd you bring me for?

yeah, oh

I hear you keep your pretty wife alive
on only brie
they say a dozen years ago
she could have passed for me

she doesn't trust you with the baby
maybe better that way
safe in your study
going grey

you're at your best
when you're alone
above the fray
with your chaconne

now the bells toll

Lyrics submitted by soothingvapors

The Chaconne song meanings
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  • +1
    Song Meaningwatch this and you'll hear it directly from DessaDarling…
    MSPMusicon December 24, 2010   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningThis is a song about hero worship and a love affair, and the way ideals are changed by reality.

    "Now the bough breaks" starts this beautiful song; it is a reference to Brahms' lullaby (when the bough breaks, the cradle will fall), about losing childhood innocence.

    She read about a famous violinist and idolized his talent, longed to meet him in person (the books I read said you were a fragile kid).

    "When we met I was still a young girl" refers to her youthful excitement in finally meeting him face-to-face. But he is different from her romantic expectations of him ("you were vain and hard to take, all the same, I was brave").

    She follows him like a groupie ("heard your chaconne on every stage") and has a love affair with him ("all the things that we do to pass the time between the wars"). But he is obsessed with playing his music and not interested in emotional attachments ("but your love sleeps in a velvet case. So what'd you bring me for?").

    He is willing to take advantage of her admiration and youthful beauty; she resembles his wife ("they say a dozen years ago, she could have passed for me").

    Ultimately, this song is about the disappointment we expetience when our idols fail us and we find they are flawed humans ("you're at your best when you're alone; above the fray with your chaconne).

    "Now the bells toll" is a reference to a John Donne poem and also an Ernest Hemingway novel (For Whom the Bell Tolls) about war and death (bells ring for a funeral): "Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
    amdownson April 04, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI adore this song. It's haunting, which I feel fits with the theme of the song.
    Not going to lie, I think too many people are too quick to assume that songs are about love. This one included. I thought it was about an affair at first, given the congruent theme throughout this album.
    She mentions that it's fictional but this is what I have inferred:
    If you combine the comments by amdowns and shnakepup it sums up everything pretty well (at least in my mind).
    The song is about a famous violinist and someone who idolized this person. When someone idolizes someone else, we try to romanticize them and minimize their faults. This is combined with the illness-stricken childhood this violinist had (roses on the pillow). Either that or it has to do with the kind of illness that almost lead to this young musician's death (and you're back on earth again). His passion for his music and his status is mentioned in the next verse, and his rise to fame after that. Dessa sings from the perspective of a student and perhaps mistress (you were vain and hard to take, all the same I was brave).
    She is jealous that he gives all his time to his violin (your love sleeps in a velvet case, so what'd you bring me for). But she knows his wife feels the same.
    The most interesting part of the song are the thee lines throughout: Now the bough breaks, how the tides rise, and now the bells toll.
    The Brahm's lullaby and John Donne poem reference that amdowns made, I believe, are spot on.
    So the song I believe is a lament for the death of a famous musician, who was not perfect by any means, but who was loved by the narrator of the song (either romantically or just as an idol; I think Dessa wanted to keep that unclear), and this is her coping with his death (now the bells toll).
    This leads me to believe that "how the tides rise" also is a reference to a classical song that can be tied in with a deeper meaning, but I have yet to make that connection.
    starcrossedcunton July 19, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentDessa did a cool interview about the song here:,66166/
    msapocalypseon December 10, 2011   Link
  • 0
    Song Meaningthis song is pretty obvious on its meaning. Its about what you are dealt with and the way others feel when you become famous. very good.
    rimdog379on June 10, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentFirst off, in case anyone’s wondering: A Chaconne is a particular type of musical arrangement. Check Wikipedia. There’s also a particular famous one called “The Chaconne” by Bach, which I guess is the definitive one. I’m pretty sure it’s what the song is referencing. Also, later in the song when Dessa mentions “brie”, that’s a type of French cheese. That makes sense because “Chaconne” is actually the French spelling of “Ciaccona”.

    I think the song is about a family member, possibly her grandfather or someone similar. A relative that she mostly knew by reputation, but wasn’t close with. Maybe a great-uncle? But there’s a line about how she resembles his wife, which would imply that they’re relatives. She’s also much younger.

    Anyway, he was sickly as a child (as evidenced by the lines about nosebleeds and the nursemaid), and practiced with the violin and his "chaconne", since he was unable to do anything else.

    He went to the "academy" (some sort of music school?) and became famous due to his skill on the violin. This was around the time that the narrator was born and was first getting to know this person (the line "first a darling, then a marvel, when we met I was still a young girl”).

    I think the song’s expressing angry and pity at this person. For example, the line about how he was “vain and hard to take”. Also, I’m pretty sure the line “your love sleeps in a velvet case” is meant sardonically; his “love” isn’t a person but his violin. The verse about his wife shows that he didn’t really love her; I think the line about keeping her alive on brie is a metaphor — he neglected her and only paid her enough attention as was minimally required, since he’d rather by working on his chaconne. This seems to be supported by the line about how she won’t trust him “with the baby”, because he wouldn’t pay attention to it. He just sits in his room, focusing on his chaconne, his obsession.
    Shnakepupon July 23, 2010   Link
  • 0
    Lyric CorrectionCorrection, it should be
    "You were vain and hard to take
    All the same, I was brazen"
    pennywhistleon August 19, 2011   Link

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