And they came to the river
And they came from the road
And he wanted the sun
Just to call his own

And they walked on the dirt
And they walked from the road
'til they came up close
Throw your pain in the river
To be washed away slow

And we walked without words
And we walked with our lives
Two silent birds
Circled by

Like our pain in the river
And we followed the river
And we followed the road
And we walked through this land

And we called it a home
But he wanted the sun
And I wanted the whole
And the white light scatters

And the sun sets low
Like the pain in the river


Lyrics submitted by shut

The River Lyrics as written by Polly Jean Harvey

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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The River song meanings
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6 Comments

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  • +2
    Song Fact

    These are the lyrics to a different song. This is “The River”, not River Anacostia. Lyrics are:

    And they came to the river And they came from the road And he wanted the sun Just to call his own

    And they walked on the dirt And they walked from the road 'Til they came to the river 'Til they came up close

    Throw your pain in the river Throw your pain in the river Leave your pain in the river To be washed away slow

    And we walked without words And we walked with our lives Two silent birds circled by Like a pain in the river And the pain in the river And the white sun scattered Washed away this slow

    And we followed the river And we followed the road And we walked through this land And we called it a home

    But he wanted the sun And I wanted the whole And the white light scatters And the sun sets low

    Like a pain in the river Like a pain in the river Like a white light scatters To be washed away slow

    Like a pain in the river Like a pain in the river Like the way life scattered To be washed away slow

    blackalisson December 29, 2019   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    For me (!) it's just about life. About problems which happen to us. First we find our second half. But it doesn't mean that we will live happily ever after. In this song our dreamed life means road, road we have chosen. We try to live happily. But every one must handle with problems. The river means adversities. Coming to the river means period that is quite difficult for us. We cross river we leave there our problems (wash dirt) and go ahead. Its how life goes. Problems -> happienes -> problems -> ... till sun sets low (we die). It's quite optimistic song. Because crossing river is almost always possible and doesnt take a lot of time. It's my opinion I can have it.

    kuskaon October 04, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    i think the river represents the loss of innocence as a result of a poor relationship. the two members of the relationship want contridicting things - the man the sun and the woman the whole. The has his sights set on that one specific source of life that will take his pain away but the lady wants the whole, a sense of completion. I think the road means the path of happiness and they walked through the dirt to the river (loss of hapiness). I picture the 'two silent' birds as vultures who show death and are wanted to devour the loss of innocence. this song uses symbols to tell the story of the couple.

    from the cityon December 08, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    I don't agree as the birds actually being the vultures. That would make the two phrases an inversion and typically experienced song writers and poets stay away from inversions. Also, two birds who are silent suggests pain...silent birds, two innocent things who can't sing anymore. It's sad, not predatory. The circled by suggests they are circled by their own pain, their own loss of innocence. It seems like they followed the path to it's natural conclusion, and they are still following it. I agree that vultures are associated with death and the circling, but I just don't think those are the silent birds. There is the possibility of a double meaning though.

    fuzzyweaponon February 06, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    I feel like there's a reference here I'm forgetting. The symbolism of a river and water is a very strong one. I'm too lazy to go read it all right now, but I want to say I remember there being similar imagery in Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying" or in Knowles' "A Separate Peace." Any takers?

    foreignwordson April 23, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    I read somewhere the song commemorates the tragic death of singer Jeff Buckley, who died drowned in the Wolf River. Can someone confirm?

    voltaire78on March 06, 2012   Link

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