Joy was her name
A life un-wed
Thirty years old
Never danced a step

She would have left these red hills far behind if not for her condition
'Would have left these red hills long ago if not for my condition'

Pitiful Joy
She looked away
Into a hollow sky
Came face to face

With her own innocence surrounding her until it never was a question
Innocence so suffocating, now she cannot move, no question

No hope for Joy
No hope or faith
She wanted to go blind
Wanted hope to stay

'I've been believing in nothing since I was born, it never was a question.'


Lyrics submitted by shut

Joy Lyrics as written by Polly Harvey

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Joy song meanings
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  • +1
    General Comment

    This is based on a short story by Flannery O'Connor called "Good Country People," about a woman named Joy (or Hulga) who has a wooden leg and who lives a miserable stifled life. The quotes in the lyrics are taken directly from the story.

    Uraniumon August 16, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    I think this song may be about a woman who's born with a disability or sickness of some kind and she can't leave her house. She's not alowed to leave and see the world and the people. When she says "I've been believing in nothing since I was born, it never was a question" it suggests that she hasn't changed much since she was born which supports my theory.

    arcia500on February 25, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    I agree, this is loosely based on Flannery O'connor's work it seems, even though Pj is using it to represent themes within her own experiences and reflection on society as well. Flannery O'connor also inspired "a good man is hard to find" by sufjan stevens. I really admire her work and the way she can portray tragic themes of the human spirit so cleverly, this is one of the same reasons i admire pj harvey. In this song in particular there is also somewhat of a play on words such as "hope, joy, and faith" all which can be used as female names, so perhaps there is a suggestion of joy's personality being "personified" into these three different words. I perceive the "wanted to go blind, wanted hope to stay" as indicating that if she didnt see the possibilities of the world that she knows she'll never be able to have, then she could be blissfully be ignorant to them. This would in turn allow her to retain some kind of false "hope" that might come had her condition been in fact worse (where she couldnt even physically see that which she is missing), because at least she wouldnt have to face what she cant have as obviously as she does now. It may be depressing, but it's the awful truth, and it haunts you whether you like it or not. Pjs guitar notes and shrilling voice make one's mood more tolerable and at ease when you find yourself being haunted by an awful truth and trying any form of escape.

    Jenettamoonon November 03, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    I hear it in the 3rd movement of Shostakovich's 1st Violin Concerto, in Brahms' 4th symphony, in Bach Cantatas, read it in Michel Faber's Under the Skin, see it in A Serious Man ... every artist worthy of the name knows it.

    PJ knows it.

    Love - a profound empathy for all living creatures - is our only hope.

    diogenesagogoon July 07, 2013   Link

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