Who would be a poor man, a beggar-man, a thief
If he had a rich man in his hand?
And who would steal the candy
From a laughing baby's mouth
If he could take it from the money man
Cross-eyed Mary goes jumping in again
She signs no contract but she always plays the game
She dines in Hampstead village on expense accounted gruel
And the jack-knife barber, drops her off at school

Laughing in the playground, gets no kicks from little boys
Would rather make it with a letching grey
Or maybe her attention is drawn by Aqualung
Who watches through the railings as they play, hey
Cross-eyed Mary finds it hard to get along
She's a poor man's rich girl and she'll do it for a song
She's a rich man stealer but her favor's good and strong
She's the Robin Hood of Highgate, helps the poor man get along, hey

Laughing in the playground, gets no kicks from little boys
Would rather make it with a letching grey
Or maybe her attention is drawn by Aqualung
Who watches through the railings as they play, hey
Cross-eyed Mary goes jumping in again
She signs no contract but she always plays the game
She dines in Hampstead village on expense accounted gruel
And the jack-knife barber, drops her off at school, hey

Cross-eyed Mary
Oh Mary, oh cross-eyed Mary


Lyrics submitted by Motor27

Cross-Eyed Mary Lyrics as written by Ian Anderson

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Cross-Eyed Mary song meanings
Add Your Thoughts

32 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +8
    General Comment

    We don't find out that she's underage until halfway through the song. "and the jack knife barber drops her off at school" Jackknife barbers were common during the American era of Anti-abortion (when abortion was illegal). People would go to abortion barbers to do it illegally. Hense the name. She's already past adolecense because she had to have an abortion. But she's still young enough to go to school and play on a playground. I'll leave it up to you guys who aren't from America to decide what age that is. I doubt a 20-22 year old would "laugh on a playground" tho.

    I love the intro flute part. It makes me visualize a forest setting or some sort of peaceful atmosphere, and then it suddenly drops you into the cynicism.

    IsmAvataron October 23, 2005   Link
  • +7
    General Comment

    "'Cross-Eyed Mary' is a song about another form of low life, but more humorous. It's about a schoolgirl prostitute but not in such coarse terms. She goes with dirty old men because she's doing them a favour, giving people what they want because it makes them happy. It's a fun kind of song."

    • Ian Anderson in Disc and Music Echo, 20th March 1971.
    Digicatson February 06, 2013   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    I agree to the meaning, GAnthony. Agreed that that song writers eat by writing/singing songs. If you think this song is shocking, perhaps it was written for you, to kick you into doing something about a situation that still exists in your home town. Take that silver spoon out of your... mouth and help the Cross-eyed Marry in your neighborhood. To paraphrase an old book, feelings without action are dead. Geez, art isn't just to look at/listen to. It also spurs into action (not a reference to Hunting Girl). By the way, I wasn't shocked into buying the vinyl; I bought the 8-track. ;-)

    markkl001on June 04, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    I agree, this song is definitly more than just the story of a little child. It is about how the modern religions end up being "prostitutes" taking mopney and favors from the rich people. the last paragraph is very revealing. "She's is the poor man rich girl" means she is well loved by the poor and she will help them for a song. Remeber singing is an important part of many religiuos ceremonies. Whe the song says "she's the rich men stealer" it means she takes money from the higher classes for favours.

    Tiraelionon February 13, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    Actually I think by "get along" Anderson is talking more about sex rather than monetary donations.

    Slovakon May 19, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I think Mary is a reference to Virgin Mary, and thus an allegory for the Church. I think he is comparing the organized Church to a 'child prostitute'. The church dines on expensive gruel (fancy priests with gold and expensive wine), takes from the rich (guilts people into giving money, etc), gives hope to the poor. I think the whole song alludes to this theme.

    DMCDon January 24, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    wow thanks RayMan, I never looked at it like that before. I think you really have something there.

    I don't think she's much to do with Aqualung, apart from maybe identifying with him a little bit, as he's another casualty of society broken and unable to function in the manner expected.

    SilentBenon February 23, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I had always figured that the girl is a child prostitute on the literal level, but also a reference to the Virgin Mary & Mary Magdalene of the Bible, who personify the (virgin)madonna/whore view the Church has towards females. Either we're innocent virgins laughing naively (clueless about things like poverty) as we romp on the playground having fun with our male peers, OR we're coldly calculating sexual opportunists that only see the opposite gender in terms of what we can get out of them. There's no middleground in the attitude like in real-life people.

    What drove me to come here, though, was when I read Wikipedia's page on the song... To my complete shock, the explanation given there is that Cross-Eyed Mary is a pious thief stealing money from the rich and giving it to poor homeless beggars like Aqualung. After seeing that interpretation, I decided to come see what others thought about it here and find out whether my belief was the bizarre & unusual one, or if the wacky one is whoever posted that theory to Wikipedia!

    koselaraon December 05, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    This song is talking about a little girl who is the play thing of an old lecherous pedophile. Would you like some candy little girl?

    Motor27on January 24, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    Motor27, is the old man Aqualung. Because he is mentioned in the song. This was what I thought, but some of the things about the expense account wouldn't make sense then.

    glovejaon May 25, 2002   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

More Featured Meanings

Album art
Ave Grave
Thee More Shallows
So this has been.my favorite song of OTEP's since it came out in 2004, and I always thought it was a song about a child's narrative of suffering in an abusive Christian home. But now that I am revisiting the lyrics, I am seeing something totally new. This song could be gospel of John but from the perspective of Jesus. Jesus was NOT having a good time up to and during the crucifixion. Everyone in the known world at the time looked to him with fear, admiration or disgust and he was constantly being asked questions. He spoke in "verses, prophesies and curses". He had made an enemy of the state, and believed the world was increasingly wicked and fallen from grace, or that he was in the "mouth of madness". The spine of atlas is the structure that allows the titan to hold the world up. Jesus challenged the state and in doing so became a celebrated resistance figure. It also made him public enemy #1. All of this happened simply because he was doing his thing, not because of any agenda he had or strategy. And then he gets scourged (storm of thorns) There are some plot holes here but I think it's an interesting interpretation.
Album art
The Spy
Doors, The
Like a lot of the other comments are saying, I think this mainly about voyeurism. If the song was about his girlfriend, then why would he use the word spy. If you are a spy it means you shouldn't be caught, that is kind of the whole point, and if you are a voyeur, the whole point of the pleasure you get from it, is the fact that the other people don't know you are watching them. See a bit of a connection there?
Album art
Step
Ministry
Both as a standalone and as part of the DSOTS album, you can take this lyric as read. As a matter of public record, Jourgensen's drug intake was legendary even in the 1980s. By the late 90s, in his own words, he was grappling with massive addiction issues and had lost almost everything: friends, spouse, money and had nearly died more than once. "Dark Side of the Spoon" is a both funny & sad title for an album made by a musical genius who was losing the plot; and this song is a message to his fans & friends saying he knows it. It's painful to listen to so I'm glad the "Keith Richards of industrial metals" wised up and cleaned up. Well done sir.
Album art
Bron-Y-Aur Stomp
Led Zeppelin
This is about bronies. They communicate by stomping.
Album art
Holiday
Bee Gees
@[Diderik:33655] "Your a holiday!" Was a popular term used in the 50s/60s to compliment someone on their all around. For example, not only are they beautiful, but they are fun and kind too ... just an all around "holiday". I think your first comment is closer to being accurate. The singer/song writers state "Millions of eyes can see, yet why am i so blind!? When the someone else is me, its unkind its unkind". I believe hes referring to the girl toying with him and using him. He wants something deeper with her, thats why he allows himself to be as a puppet (even though for her fun and games) as long as it makes her happy. But he knows deep down that she doesnt really want to be serious with him and thats what makes him.