"The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" as written by Johnny Marr and Steven Patrick Morrissey....
Please don't cry
For the ghost and the storm outside
Will not invade this sacred shrine
Nor infiltrate your mind
My life down I shall lie
If the bogey-man should try
To play tricks on your sacred mind
To tease, torment, and tantalize
Wavering shadows loom
A piano plays in an empty room
There'll be blood on the cleaver tonight
And when darkness lifts and the room is bright
I'll still be by your side
For you are all that matters
And I'll love you to till the day I die
There never need be longing in your eyes
As long as the hand that rocks the cradle is mine
Ceiling shadows shimmy by
And when the wardrobe towers like a beast of prey
There's sadness in your beautiful eyes
Oh, your untouched, unsoiled, wondrous eyes
My life down I shall lie
Should restless spirits try
To play tricks on your sacred mind
I once had a child, and it saved my life
And I never even asked his name
I just looked into his wondrous eyes
And said : "never never never again"
And all too soon I did return
Just like a moth to a flame
So rattle my bones all over the stones
I'm only a beggar-man whom nobody owns
Oh, see how words as old as sin
Fit me like a glove
I'm here and here I'll stay
Together we lie, together we pray
There never need be longing in your eyes
As long as the hand that rocks the cradle is mine
As long as the hand that rocks the cradle is mine
Climb up on my knee, sonny boy
Although you're only three, sonny boy
You're - you're mine
And your mother she just never knew
Oh, your mother...
As long...as long...as long
I did my best for her
I did my best for her
As long...as long...as long as...as long
I did my best for her
I did my best for her

Lyrics submitted by weezerific:cutlery, edited by Mellow_Harsher

"The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" as written by Johnny Marr Steven Morrissey

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

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The Hand That Rocks the Cradle song meanings
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  • +5
    General CommentI really don't think this is about child abuse. First take what Morrissey said in an early interview:

    Where did a song like 'Hand That Rocks The Cradle' come from?
    "Well, that comes from a relationship I had that didn't really involve romance. So if we're talking about romance, well, I don't really know that much about it. But in other things, I'm quite capable of making an observation."
    - Morrissey, Melody Maker, March 16, 1985

    When I first heard it I was stuck by the beauty, of the lyrics (Ceiling shadows shimmy by/And when the wardrobe towers like a beast of prey/There's sadness in your beautiful eyes), his delivery and Marr's arrangement. It first struck me as a song of fierce parental love, but I think it typifies passionate love in general (you can think about it many ways).

    The child abuse angle is old hat, and so many fans/critics think that they're so clever seeing these allusions in Morrissey's writing that can obliquely be about child abuse. I give him more credit as a lyrical genius than that. He obviously would've realised that it was a possible interpretation people would make, but I think there are more layers and emotion and depth than that. It's at once stunningly beautiful, passionate and slightly ominous, as ever...

    'Climb onto my knee, sonny-boy/Although you're only three, sonny-boy' are from Al Jolson anyway, but I don't see anyone rushing to claim he wrote about child abuse!

    Apart from 'Suffer Little Children' which was by default related to real child abuse I just don't see it in his writing though, in this song or 'Reel Around the Fountain' (which he explained as being about your first sexual experience). Sorry folks, dig deeper I say. To accuse Morrissey of singing about child abuse does a disservice to his depth of talent.
    rattlemyboneson September 26, 2011   Link
  • +3
    My InterpretationThis is about a father who has ran away from his child and mother because he isnt ready for the responsibility of a child but he felt he had to return, something was drawing him back. He "never even asked his name" means that he didnt care for the child hence "never never never again", but as I said something has drawn him back "all too soon i did return just like a moth to a flame". He regrets leaving the child, ("see how words as old as sin,Fit me like a glove") because he loves him now ("Although you're only three, sonny boy You're - you're mine") and would do anything to protect it. Maybe the mother has died, that would explain "your mother she just never knew", he felt he had to return but obviously she wasnt there to see him love the child. "I did my best for her" suggests that he couldnt stay when the child was born, he tried his best but couldnt. This is my interpretation anyway, I may be wrong but I certainly don't think its about child molestation.
    pukkapieon April 02, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentWell it seemed to me as a song about parental love...great, obsessive, (over)protective love for a child, which sounds more and more ominous as the song progresses. "There never need be longing in your eyes
    As long as the hand that rocks the cradle is mine" - that might sound sweet, but on the other hand it might sound overbearing and suffocating. It might be about child abuse, but then again it might not be about direct abuse. Still, parental love can be dangerous if the parent is too possessive of a child.
    nightanddayon December 28, 2005   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationThe song is about a father who had a child out of wedlock but is now married - with wife and new child. He sings to the new child about his other child he cannot protect.
    lodulon May 06, 2012   Link
  • +2
    Song ComparisonI think one thing relevant here that no one remarked on was the song "Suffer Little Children" which could have a relation, in terms of Morrisey's emotional outlook, and poetic form, or themes, as you'd have it.
    "Suffer Little Children" is about the "Moors Murders" (you can look it up on Wikepedia) -- a series of child murders said to have affected Morrisey quite a bit. (One of the lines is, "Oh, Manchester, so much to answer for", and that was his general childhood area.
    So my take is that this "Cradle" song ties into that... his emotional desire to protect children. And perhaps kind of "cross-pollinated with themes like those in "Pretty Girls Make Graves", which seems to me to be about, one one hand, his heterosexual experiences, and perhaps desire for that...and then, that that wasn't going to be his thing.
    I don't mean to presume about his sexuality, have never researched it, but have a strong feeling.
    So, again, the concept I have is that he has a natural, gentle paternalism, but won't be a father, but is horrified by children being hurt. And they just kind of blend into a "non-literal" poem about all these issues.
    Maybe this is a presumptive reading, I guess only Morrisey can tell anyone. (I assume he hasn't...again, I don't really do research on this stuff, generally.)
    silvermurpon February 10, 2013   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationFirst of all, this song has nothing to do with child abuse or molestation. What is portrayed is a person who fathered a child (probably out of wedlock) and at the time was not in love with the woman and did not want the baby. Once the child is born he sees it and still refuses to believe that he has any feelings for the child, even refusing to ask for a name or give the child his own name. However, he eventually gives into his instincts and is drawn back like a moth to a flame to take care of the child and even defend it against any and all manner of ill will. He describes such fears that often torment a young child such as ghosts, monsters and even the thought of bad people getting them which is often contained in eerie children's lullubies, that might be called "blood on the cleaver tonight" and played on a piano and sung to children. This reference serves a dual purpose of explaining that there will be bad things that happen at night such as murder, but the father will be there at night to sooth the child from bad thoughts and at dawn continuing to protect the child.

    What the mother would never know is how the father really does not care for her. He did his best to show that he does, but he simply is not in love. There is no romance between them. Nevertheless, as long as his hand rocks the cradle (as long as he is involved with the child) the child will be thoroughly protected.

    Ultimately, despite the possibility of lovelessness between the parents, there remains an absolute and unconditional love for the child and the father sweetly conveys that message.
    Lyrics70on May 10, 2013   Link
  • +1
    My OpinionI don't really want to know what this means, I suppose it's about child abuse but certain line of it are just written so beautifully and sound so lovely that they could be part of a love song. Amazing song
    stickyfingers69on January 13, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe first time I heard this song, I was sure that it was about a child molester. (I was actually rather proud of me figuring that out, but it turns out I wasn't the first xD).

    But then at other times when I've listened to this song, so many other interpretations have come to mind. It could be looked at from so many different perspectives.
    On one hand, you can say that it is about the fear of a child, and about how Morrissey is trying to console him...perhaps just about the innocent fears of children.

    Then it could be looked at like Morrissey is just trying to comfort this child because so he can take advantage of this trust that they have.

    This song could also be about about a father who is left to console his child who has just lost his mother. Simply about a child who is traumatized by the terrors of death. Perhaps his child was much closer with his mother then is father, and the father is reassuring them that they can trust them to keep thwm safe.

    In my opinion, it always boils down to the same things; consoling fears.
    mediocremurphyon October 29, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWell, you guys already said almost everything about the song. As someone said, I don't think there's a exact way the song is meant to be interpreted. I think that Morrissey wrote it aware of it's ambiguous ways of being interpreted... or maybe our mind has been too poluted by society to see it only as a cute paternal love song. Anyway, there's some suggestion of obsession with the child (as you already said) and this lines here:
    "There'll be blood on the cleaver tonight
    And when darkness lifts and the room is bright
    I'll still be by your side"
    I think that he's saying that he'll kill the mother, because of what he says in the end of the song (And your mother she just never knew) so the child can belong to him completely... you can read this part either as the mind of a child abuser or of a possessive father who once abandoned his son...
    jukentinson October 28, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI agree with Silvermurp with regards to the paternal instinct that Morrissey may be feeling while possibly knowing he may never have children of his own owing to his possible sexual preferences.

    I found this idea reinforced upon reading the lyrics on the sleeve of the 1984 'The Smiths' vinyl, which very interestingly states instead of 'I once had a child and it saved my life, but I never even asked his name', as he says on the album, reads 'I once had a child, it saved my life but whom I never even gave a name'. This suggests a completely different scenario and that the song relates to a child who has been born unto him and has been taken from him or that he gave away, rather than the tenuous suggestions that the song is about child abuse and the like.

    This of course is based on my assumption that the lyric sheet is printed with the lyrics that Morrissey provides before recording, and he may have altered lyrics or just said what came naturally when recording his vocals for the track.

    Nevertheless the difference between the written lyrics and what is actually said is very thought provoking, especially on such a poignant line.
    AutumnAlmanacon March 06, 2013   Link

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