Water was running children were running
You were running out of time
Under the mountain, a golden fountain
Were you praying at the Lares shrine?
But oh your city lies in dust, my friend
Oh, oh your city lies in dust, my friend

We found you hiding we found you lying
Choking on the dirt and sand
Your former glories and all the stories
Dragged and washed with eager hands

But, oh oh your city lies in dust, my friend
Oh oh your city lies in dust, my friend
Your city lies in dust

Water was running children were running
We found you hiding we found you lying
Water was running children were running
We found you hiding we found you lying

Your city lies in dust, my friend
Oh oh your city lies in dust, my friend

Hot and burning in your nostrils
Pouring down your gaping mouth
Your molten bodies blanket of cinders
Caught in the throes

Oh oh your city lies in dust, my friend
Oh your city lies in dust, my friend

Oh oh your city lies in dust, my friend
Oh your city lies in dust, my friend

Your city lies in dust, my friend
Oh your city lies in dust, my friend


Lyrics submitted by typo

Cities In Dust Lyrics as written by Peter Clarke, Steven Bailey, Susan Ballion

Lyrics © DOMINO PUBLISHING COMPANY, BMG Rights Management

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Cities In Dust song meanings
Add Your Thoughts

17 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +6
    General Comment

    SIOUXSIE: "This was our first trip to Pompeii, another amazing experience. Seeing a whole civilisation petrified in lava was like putting yourself in the place at the time, and imagining how it must have been to be there when it happened. I find it really easy to do that, to get ghost images of life continuing as it was. I often wonder if that’s what real hauntings are - your imagination and your senses bringing things back to life. That’s why you’d never be able to capture it on film." Source: Melody Maker 17/10/92.

    JJKelsallon December 01, 2012   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    Looking back (while seeming to tell the tale to one who passed on there) at the time before the eruption of Vesuvius and the subsequent rain of ashes covered the denizens of Pompeii.

    traumahoundon October 12, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    I wonder why siouxsie would write a song about Pompeii, which happened so long ago. I suspect it's meant as some sort of allegory to the modern threat of destruction of cities by nuclear weapons.

    Sozlukon December 28, 2004   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    This song was written after the band took a trip to Pompei whiel on tour. Siouxsie said being there felt as if she could feel the agony of the people who had died there and it was haunting for her.

    lokithecaton February 03, 2006   Link
  • +3
    Song Meaning

    This is about the eruption of Vesuvias, and the destruction of Pompei. Siousxie visited an arcaeological site there.

    "We found you hiding we found you lying Choking on the dirt and sand Your former glories and all the stories Dragged and washed with eager hands"

    A body, uncovered by archaeologists, and artifacts excavated and cleaned.

    Who could not be affected by such a sight?

    WingedWolfon September 22, 2010   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    Interesting that a lot of people read a Christian or culturally conservative ethic into this -- I don't see any censure in the song of pagan idolatry or of the moral character of Roman civilization in late first century A.D. (which, actually, was thriving and centuries away from collapse).

    Rather, the focus is on the suddenness of a city's collapse, and how impotent an ordinary person is when faced with annihilation. The people of Pompeii, obviously, could not have stopped Vesuvius no matter how well they behaved. Nor could their gods ("Were you praying at the Lares shrine?"). The song also dwells on the insignificance of human accomplishment in the face of death ("Your former glories and all the stories/ Dragged and washed with eager hands"). Everything can be erased in a second by powers well outside of an ordinary person's control.

    Again, I think it's wrong to read this as a general rebuke of Roman civilization. Rome's collapse was not sudden. It occurred over centuries of deterioration and for a great multitude of reasons, beyond the simple rote Christian reading of bad morals. It took Edward Gibbon thousands of pages to describe, after all.

    I agree with those who draw parallels to nuclear war. The terrifying aspect of this song is that we imagine the bodies at Pompeii, permanently fixed in the positions they died in, and we can readily imagine the same thing happening to us.

    Caecuson May 17, 2013   Link
  • +2
    My Interpretation

    IMO this song is about a person who lives in a total Delusion.

    Its a big peace of art.Using words to describe an event and then using the event to make the point.

    Lets start with this - The City symbolizes all of his Illusions And Lies Bundled together.

    -Water was running, children were running pretty obvious imo,somebody started destroying his world of illusion and pieces are falling down -You were running out of time He was running out of time to make up something new so he could cover the places that were destroyed. -Under the mountain, a golden fountain This shows how well build was his "City" or in other words how much he lied himself and what not -Were you praying at the Lares shrine? as probably the most of you Lares were the "good" gods of ancient Rome to make the long story short.This one is pretty much obvious he got nothing else to do so the only thing he can do is hope. -But, oh, your city lies in dust, my friend Note "my friend" He is probably a close friend of the delusioned guy and just tries to help him There is nothing he can hope for they almost destroyed all the illusion he wrapped himself in.

    -We found you hiding we found you lying He hid cause he didnt know what to do,everything he believed is false and was nothing more then an illusion -Choking on the dirt and sand he couldnt speak,he had no idea what could he say -Your former glories and all the stories He probably thought that he head a good and happy life,that he was invincible or whatever -Dragged and washed with eager hands Note "washed" and "eager hands" Eager hands pretty much mean that his friend wanted to help him Washed is rather simple too more or less - he washed his stories and former glories - he destroyed the illusion around them and made him see them as they truly are.

    -Hot and burning in your nostrils -Pouring down your gaping mouth at first he is angry at his friend for doing that to him -Your molten bodies blanket of cinders Molten bodies and blanket of cinders symbolize the pieces of his illusion that are left but are going to disappear soon -Caught in the throes He realizes that the bodies and blankets are not in pain but he is..

    -And your city lies in dust
    Best line in the song imo.Its done,your city lies in dust.And you are still alive.

    Aerrison May 04, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    This song is not only about the destruction of Pompeii by Vesuvius, but also the deterioration of the Roman society. "Under the mountain, a golden fountain Were you praying at the Lares shrine?"

    It's seen here that Siouxsie is talking about how avaricious and greedy they were as well as how dependent they were on their pagan gods (the Lares is actually the gods of the household who protected the family, property and farms. They also gaurded entire cities. Shrines to the Lares were found in peoples homes and often at crossroads). Due to their self-absorbtion, the empire collapsed and was easily taken down by unkindly enemies.
    Siouxsie was inspired by this song with a visit she had to the remains of Pompeii, and we can see her thoughts on the way the archaeologists treat the site:

                          "Dragged and washed with eager hands" 

    Siouxsie is quite the historian and intelligent woman! =]

    BonjourLaFilleon December 22, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    A song about the sudden destruction of Pompeii. This the song that made me a true fan. The entire album TINDERBOX is acceptionally good. And Budgie is one of the most talented drummers in the business.

    MrLongroveon January 29, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    My friend and I took it as a big symbol. Yes, it is about Pompeii (literally), but it is also about a deceitful person (figuratively). Someone who is a liar usually will eventually feel guilt (even more-so after being caught), and the feeling of guilt is like this burning feeling like lava pouring down your throat.

    btrswtbutterflyon October 11, 2007   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
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
Grand Theft Auto
Insane Ian
The way this song speaks to me🥺🥺when I sing it I feel like I relate
Album art
Light Up The Sky
Van Halen
The song lyrics were written by the band Van Halen, as they were asked to write a song for the 1979 movie "Over the Edge" starring Matt Dillon. The movie (and the lyrics, although more obliquely) are about bored, rebellious youth with nothing better to do than get into trouble. If you see the movie, these lyrics will make more sense. It's a great movie if you grew up in the 70s/80s you'll definitely remember some of these characters from your own life. Fun fact, after writing the song, Van Halen decided not to let the movie use it.
Album art
Standing On The Edge Of Summer
Thursday
In regards to the meaning of this song: Before a live performance on the EP Five Stories Falling, Geoff states “It’s about the last time I went to visit my grandmother in Columbus, and I saw that she was dying and it was the last time I was going to see her. It is about realizing how young you are, but how quickly you can go.” That’s the thing about Geoff and his sublime poetry, you think it’s about one thing, but really it’s about something entirely different. But the lyrics are still universal and omnipresent, ubiquitous, even. So relatable. That’s one thing I love about this band. I also love their live performances, raw energy and Geoff’s beautiful, imperfectly perfect vocals. His voice soothes my aching soul.
Album art
Mental Istid
Ebba Grön
This is one of my favorite songs. https://fnfgo.io