"The Plains/Bitter Dancer" as written by and Robin Pecknold....
Just as the sand made everything round
Just as the tar seeps up from the ground
Bitter dancer, ever turning
So was the day that you came to town

You took a room and you settled in
Washed off the chalk from your weathered skin
Daylight sleeper
Bloody reaper
You took a room and you settled in

I should have known one day you would come
All of us walk so blind in the sun
Midnight feeder, beggar pleader
I should have known one day you would come

Tell me again my only son
Tell me again what have you done?

At arm's length
I will hold you there

At arm's length
I will hold you there

Lyrics submitted by rockisgroovy

"The Plains/Bitter Dancer" as written by Robin Noel Pecknold

Lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

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The Plains/Bitter Dancer song meanings
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  • +5
    General CommentDefinitely agreeing with sleepstereo here.

    "Just as the sand made everything round
    Just as the tar seeps up from the ground
    Bitter dancer, ever turning
    So was the day that you came to town."

    The main character is addressing and personifying death. Death is natural, like the ecosystem. It is just like the earth, the "bitter dancer," that is eternally revolving. Every human's fate is to die and now fate has come to him.

    "You took a room and you settled in
    Washed off the chalk from your weathered skin
    Daylight sleeper, bloody reaper
    You took a room and you settled in."

    He's still talking about death, obviously. Death has broken into his home, picked him out, "settled in." Maybe this guy is recounting when he was struck with the fatal disease that's killing him. Or maybe not, maybe it's a sudden death, whatever.

    "I should have known one day you would come
    All of us walk so blind in the sun
    Midnight feeder, beggar, pleader
    I should had known one day you would come."

    Like the first verse, he's talking about fate and how everyone ends up dead, dust to dust and whatnot. He should have known. But nobody expects the unexpected, nobody prepares for death, "all of us walk so blind in the sun." "Midnight feeder" is self-explanatory: time of death is midnight. "Beggar, pleader" is describing himself. In the face of death, before he has accepted it, he tries bargaining with God for a second chance. But eventually he resigns once again to the refrain of "I should have known."

    This verse is also workable in the terminal disease perspective. My grandmother passed away from lung cancer, and while every one knew the day would come, that it was inevitable...it was still devastating. We "walked blindly in the sun" by avoiding the subject and proceeding with life like we didn't know she was going to die in two months.

    "Tell me again my only son
    Tell me again what have you done?"

    Now we're in the voice of Death itself. It's time for judgement. Of course this could also be in the voice of God or Satan, either one. In any case he's sizing up this person's past deeds and deciding where to send him in the afterlife.

    "At arm's lengths
    I will hold you there."

    Back in the voice of the dying man. The grim reaper (or whatever) is looming, but he's using every bit of his will to hold it off. His last resort is to hang on to life in an effort to push death away. It's kind of ominous that the song ends here, without knowing if he survived or succumbed.

    Another perfect song interpretation from yours truly bitches!!! *ahem* sorry.
    Thank you Fleet Foxes <3
    Aquarius121on June 13, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIt's about a vampire son.

    chalottronon December 18, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentPsssh, it's totally about a cowboy vampire. What could possibly be cooler than a cowboy vampire?
    RosebudReverieon June 27, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis sounds like a story of how a father is remembering his son, and what a good person he used to be, but his son is in some kind of large trouble now, and has become a kind of bad person. The second half of the song is the father still loving his son, and holding him and helping him, despite what he may be. Holding him at arms length, so as to show he cares, but not to get poisoned himself.
    clearwaterlabon March 28, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis is quickly becoming one of my favorite songs on this album. it almost seems like he's singing about death, particularly in the first few lines. He sings "Just as the sand made everything round, Just as the tar seeps up from the ground," which sounds like an allusion to the natural process of erosion and decay that changes the earth. The next line, "bitter dancer, ever turning" also speaks to that idea of a natural process that we don't have any control over (i.e. the cycle of life and death). Even the song's name is a reflection of the focus on the ecosystem around us - the plains.
    sleepstereoon April 22, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song might be a reflection on the prodigal son story from the bible.
    nelsthomon May 04, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe song does seem to be about Death......but I still have my doubts, mostly because it wouldn't fit into the general theme of the album.....and also because I'm unsure of who the speakers are here (clearly there are two....the first three stanzas and the last three)

    Is it the protagonist and death? but then why does Death refer to the person as "son" and really not give any sort of judgement or reason for keeping him "at arms length".

    Father and son? Nah, the latter speaker is described to supernaturally.

    It could be a recreation of a Biblical tale though....there are Biblical references throughout the album.
    Cyberghoston August 23, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Comment The first verse seems like it's describing the beginning of life on earth to me. Erosion shaping continents, tar pits rising. The bitter dancer is the earth, constantly spinning in its orbit. To the singer, the day this person came into their life is as monumental as the day the earth began.

    Several lines, daylight sleeper, midnight feeder, remind me of a vampire, though I obviously don't think that's the literal meaning. But whatever or whoever it is who has settled into his life, possibly against his will, is a leechlike creature, draining away his life.

    I think the suggestions that it might be a personification of Death are likely considering the third verse. He should have known it would come, because it's a natural part of life, but it's a part that people don't consider. They walk around 'blind in the sun' pretending it isn't there. But though Death makes sense there, I don't quite like how it fits with the rest of the song, especially the end. But then again, FF is known for adressing their songs to more than one person. Perhaps the singer knows he's dying, so he's holding the people he cares about at arms length to keep them and himself from getting hurt?

    That still leaves the bit about his son kind of ambiguous though...
    Asylum_Sweetieon November 05, 2011   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationNatural process… change/ Uncontrollable/ Ever changing, restless, wanderlust/ A person coming into town who is a wanderer, a gypsy, who is inspired by a natural and uncontrollable urge. Changing and restless.//

    The person settles into the place./ Unwinding from travel, and experiencing the world.
    /Daylight sleeper: “person of the night” of creativity and genius./ Bloody reaper: death, dark, powerful spirit.//

    Spirit came to take him/her…. It is inevitable that death will come for all of us/ We are all so niave, not knowing the meaning of life, while always getting closer to death./ Taking us while we’re asleep or unprepared/. Beggin and pleading (a push and pull, hills and valleys, ups and downs in life, luck, chance) as well as begging and pleading with yourself, spirit, or God./ Death will come to us all one day//

    Tell me again my only son: last words, confessions./ Regrets, what have you done in life, confessions.//

    At arms lengths: I think this is detachment from how important life is, the deep meaning of life, and wondering about it, and also about detachment from people, the importance of them in our life. Putting the pondering of all of this on a shelf, and continuing to live, change and grow.
    ChicagoCaton November 20, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt sounds like he/she is haunting her dad by not moving forward away from his life. The prodigal son is at arm's length, within reach and he will hold him there to take care of him/her. This prodigal daughter/son needs help.
    GrungyBeatleon April 28, 2012   Link

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