Ice
Your only rivers run cold
These city lights
They shine as silver and gold
Dug from the night
Your eyes as black as coal

Walk on by
Walk on through
Walk 'til you run
And don't look back
For here I am

Carnival
The wheels fly and the colors spin
Through alcohol
Red wine that punctures the skin
Face to face
In a dry and water less place

Walk on by
Walk on through
So sad to besiege your love so head on
Stay this time
Stay tonight in a lie
I'm only asking but I
I think you know
Come on take me away
Come on take me away
Come on take me home
Home again

And if the mountain should crumble
Or disappear into the sea
Not a tear, no not I

Stay in this time
Stay tonight in
Ever after, this love in time
And if you save your love
Save it all

Don't push me too far
Don't push me too far
Tonight
Tonight
Tonight


Lyrics submitted by yuri_sucupira

The Unforgettable Fire Lyrics as written by David Evans Adam Clayton

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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The Unforgettable Fire song meanings
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44 Comments

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  • +11
    My Interpretation

    This is my all-time favorite U2 song. I knew it was inspired by the bombing of Hiroshima. For years I've wondered what the lyrics meant in that context. It's only recently I've come up with an idea, but it's vastly different from the other interpretations posted here.

    I think this song is about the judgment of God.

    The Unforgettable Fire was the name given the atomic blast at Hiroshima. Fire from heaven. The lines "Walk on by, walk on through, walk 'til you run and don't look back for here I am" sound like God's command to Lot when he told Lot to leave the city and not look back.

    This song is a conversation between God and the believer about God's judgment of the world. God declares the world wicked: "Ice. Your only rivers run cold. These city lights, they shine in silver and gold dug from the night. Your eyes as black as coal". And later, "Carnival, the wheels fly and the colors spin through alcohol, red wine that punctures the skin". He tells the believer (as he told Lot) "walk on by, walk on through, walk 'til you run and don't look back".

    The believer asks (just as Abraham begged God, for the sake of his nephew Lot) that he spare the city the fire judgment, to "stay" his hand of judgment. But the believer also begs God to "Come on take me away, Come on take me home, home again" because of his weariness of trying to live for God in an ungodly word. And just as Abraham begged God to save the city, the believer in this song asks God, "If you save your love (meaning: the believer), then save it all (all of it)."

    God's response is "Don't push me too far."

    I think there is a lot of passion in the lyrics of this song, and it is the passion and hurt of a scorned lover. But it's not the passion between humans. It's the passion of God for his creation, and the hurt of God having been scorned by his creation and turning their backs on him.

    It's easy to think of a loving God, but no one wants to think of a God who's had enough and is ready to put an end to evil. When will he stop staying his hand of judgment for the sake of the believer? It's haunting.

    QuirkyGirlon October 21, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    Has anyone else noticed that the lyrics And if the mountain should crumble Or disappear into the sea Not a tear, no not I Are pretty much from the song Stand By Me?

    jarokaion December 09, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    wow..... I thought I was the only person on this planet moved by this song. I'm grateful to stumble across such eloquent commentary expressed by kindred spirits.

    I was bowled over by this song the first time I heard it. I was living in Eugene Oregon at the time, and prone to blissful feverish 2am bicycle rides winding along the endless miles of serpentine bicycle trails that snaked their way through parks, along rivers, down deserted alleyways...... my walk-man crazy-glued to my ears, howling full volume along with Bono, not giving a shit about who might be overhearing my feeble attempts to momentarily become the 5th member of U2.

    Funny thing is, for as much emotion as this song invokes in me, I've never understood what it was about. I was aware of the hiroshima reference, but wasn't able to reconcile that concept with the lyrics I was hearing. I promised myself that if I ever got the chance to ask Bono ONE question, it would relate to the meaning behind this song.

    I believe that Bono's lyrics, while possibly inspired by specific events, gravitate towards a larger somewhat universal scope and tend to operate on several levels of consciousness simultaneously. It makes sense to me to take into account the kind of lifestyle Bono and his bandmates experience. Life on the road ends up blurring into a repeating decimal of random fleeting experiences that eventually distill down into broader symbolic beliefs and overviews. So, rather than speaking about one specific experience (a one night stand), my best guess is that he's talking about larger picture issues here, the universal sub-text that underlies the reality of rotating faces on a daily basis, short term hook ups, one night stands, fleeting connections that blur into one another, inspiration, passion, letting go..... etc. For my money, both Seda and EatingPie came the closest to expressing my beliefs regarding these lyrics: temptation, inspiration, desire, passion, immediacy, letting go....... etc..... but I don't believe it's about a specific "someone" as cold as ice...... but rather the redundant reality of connecting with, then leaving behind a rotating turnstyle of people places, experiences, revelations, passions, sexual or otherwise.

    Bono is a brilliant lyricist. It makes sense that he would consider bigger, broader universal concepts when he writes. In his book (Conversations with Bono, a great read if you haven't yet) he mentions that the most important lesson he learned regarding the writing of worthwhile lyrics was that the writer needed to be willing to eviscerate themselves to find the truths buried beneath. And that sounds pretty damn BIG to me.............

    Thanks to T D Phoenix for mentioning that specific spot in the song....... one of my top 3 favorite Bono moments. Melts my sprockets every damn time. Another is in Don't Have to Go it Alone, where he tells his father "You're the reason I sing......" Imagine one of the greatest voices in rock and roll history singing those words to you........

    back of beyondon February 02, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    The band had attended a Hiroshima art exhibit while writing this album (namely giving them inspiration for the title and of possibly the title track). This song is very beautiful, but based on what we know...it is probably about the bombing of Hiroshima. However, it does quite sound like a song about a one night stand or some sort of love affair.

    foreverafternoonon May 13, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    This is definitely about a one night stand. The song starts with a date ("Carnival, wheels fly and colors spin/Through alchohol, red wine that punctures the skin").

    The singer is asking pretty blankly for casual sex ("So sad to besiege your love so head on"). He asks her to "stay tonight", but with the warning that he neither wants anything else ("If the mountain should crumble ... not a tear, no not I"), nor should she start falling for him (" Save your love, save it all/Don't push me too far"). It's an honest, if unromantic, song. I think it captures unobscenely but also unflatteringly the desire for the meaningless hookup that we all have from time to time. The honesty is good.

    ballzofsnoon June 04, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    My favourite U2 song by a mile,just superb

    scotsguy71on March 21, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I heard this song over the weekend...in, of all places, a casino. It SO didn't fit, it grabbed my attention and stuck in my head. Had to come here to look at the meanings, and that has inspired a mini-epiphany.

    Overall, I feel the group has it right. Bono writes "bigger picture" songs - especially at that stage of his career. But the inspiration is often highly personal, which is what makes his songs work so well. I believe that, in general, the song is about loss - or missing what was, and wanting it back, in some form. This could be love, or a sexual relationship, and it could easily be seen in religious light, as well.

    "Ice" is death, or something that is no longer there. "Water" is life, or more generally, the object that is desired. It is something that is "here". "Fire" is passion, or desire. Particularly, the desire for something that is now in an "ice" state.

    All good, but the thing that bugged me about the interpretations was that so many wanted to dismiss, or minimalize the Hiroshima connection. I think it's there, though at the "inspiration" level that got him thinking about bigger, wider topics. I pictured Bono standing at the photo exhibit and feeling the pain and suffering depicted in the pictures. He felt hopeless. He wanted to reach out to the victims. To comfort them. To make their lives continue to mean something - something that was extinguished by acts of men they did not know.

    "Stay tonight in a lie" - his "lie" was that he was looking at the pictures, thinking that he could offer the victims - the entire city, for that matter - comfort. That he could make the pain and suffering go away. But it's a lie. He can't. He's just one more person looking at pictures of what may as well be ancient history.

    There were good times in Hiroshima before the blast - he describes this as their carnival. But now he stands face-to-face with their images, in a "dry and waterless" place - the lifeless exhibit filled with the lifeless photos.

    The only part I have trouble reconciling into this epiphany is the most haunting part of the song, about the mountains crumbling. He's saying he has no regrets for what may come in the future, and yet that just doesn't fit as neatly here. I can only guess that, despite all that happened, his own, personal conscience is still clear. He knows that he did not cause this, and so he cannot regret any of his actions. Funny, though - he describes that with "not a tear" - more water.

    KirkHon March 21, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    My friend reckons this song is about Jesus and his crucifixtion. Can't remeber all the exact reasons for this, but it made perfect sense when she explained it.

    smile!on March 30, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    This is one my favorite U2 albums ever.

    skycaton April 10, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    This song is one of the my favourite U2 songs. I don't care about meaning. But music and lyrics make me think about passion.

    sedaon June 20, 2003   Link

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