The monkey sat on a pile of stones
And stared at the broken bone in his hand
And the strains of a Viennese quartet
Rang out across the land
The monkey looked up at the stars
And thought to himself
Memory is a stranger
History is for fools
And he cleaned his hands
In a pool of holy writing
Turned his back on the garden
And set out for the nearest town
Hold on hold on soldier
When you add it all up
The tears and the marrowbone
There's an ounce of gold
And an ounce of pride in each ledger
And the Germans killed the Jews
And the Jews killed the Arabs
And the Arabs killed the hostages
And that is the news
And is it any wonder
That the monkey's confused
He said Mama Mama
The President's a fool
Why do I have to keep reading
These technical manuals
And the joint chiefs of staff
And the brokers on Wall Street said
Don't make us laugh
You're a smart kid
Time is linear
Memory is a stranger
History is for fools
Man is a tool in the hands
Of the great God Almighty
And they gave him command
Of a nuclear submarine
And sent him back in search of
The Garden of Eden

Lyrics submitted by H-bomb

Perfect Sense, Part I song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentThere are two very powerful metaphors in this song. First is the monkey on the pile of stones. Monkey indicates man and the scene of this song is definitely drawn from Arthur C Clarke's 2001. The Viennese Quartet is the orchestra that plays The Blue Danube from the movie.

    What many people have missed however is the similarity of the black monolith of the book to the black slab of the TV that influences the monkey's (man's) development.

    What is interesting is the line "memory is a stranger". a recurring theme throughout ATD. In the novel 2001, the ape's mind became "switched on" from the influence of the monolith. Everything up until that point - memory, self-awareness, etc. was alien to the monkey. Therefore, history and past deeds perhaps is for fools because it is irrelevant.

    This idea is extended in the line "and he cleaned his hands in the pool of holy writing". This line, I think, is derived from Lady Macbeth, who after helping kill the king felt an unimaginable quilt; a guilt that could not be washed away. The blood on her hands was permanent and could not be removed.

    Here however, the monkey (man) can absolve himself simply by washing his blood-stained hands in the words of religious dogma, the pool of Holy Writing. This idea of absolution though is confused because of the various interpretations of God. Each religion's God tells his followers to do different things, to kill the infidels: those that do not share the same ideas. Ultimately, the monkey is confused because isn't there only one God? One Creator?

    Amused to Death is perhaps one of the most intelligent, most insightful works I have ever heard and confirms my opinion that Roger Waters' is one of the greatest lyricists that ever lived and this song for pure imagery is perhaps one of my favourites. I'd be interested to hear anyone else's take on this?
    Ghostlighton December 27, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentPowerful Song...
    pinkubus_floydon June 05, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Comment...indeed.
    H-bombon July 05, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe monkey with the bone in his hand reminds me of the opening scenes to "2001: A Space Odyssey". I read somewhere that Waters wanted to use some sound bytes from the film but Stanley Kubrick refused or something, and the backwards message @ the beginning is an unflattering message to the director. I think the song is about a monkey seeing how f***ed up the world is or something, like the aliens that appear in the 'Amused to Death' track. I'm not sure really. All I know is that I went for six months listening to this song about 50 times a day. I was hypnotised. A similar thing happened with 'Comfortably Numb'!
    FelixCloudon July 23, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commentyeah, and the aliens in amused to death AND the monkey were both mentioned in what god wants part one
    pinkubus_floydon July 27, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI saw this song live on video yesterday for the first time and it blew me away!
    Ygramulon September 12, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe monkey is humans evolving. The bone is awareness, quartet is evolving through 1600’s, stars refers to time of astrologers. History is for fools refers to the French revolution where the kings and nobles across Europe were overrun by peasants. Then the song says they humans turn to god then to industrial revolution. Then tells the story of modern day conflicts in the middle east. The song ends by explaining the U.S. Military dominance.
    FearTecon March 30, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentExcept "Turned his back on the garden
    And set out for the nearest town" must mean the time when Man went left the Garden of Eden. This is further witnessed by the fact that the end of the song is about the military and economic leaders ("joint chiefs of staff and the brokers on wall street") patronizingly sending some poor kid to his death ("in search of the Garden of Eden").
    MaroonedHopeson May 25, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWhat Roger Waters says in the begining of the song in reverse speed.
    "We have record a backword message.....Stanley - for you and the other Buck butlers!" - (and the LOUD SCREAMING)
    andrew-123on May 30, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think the nuclear sub in search of the garden of eden means that within a nuclear submarine, there contains the power to destroy modern civilization, and thus bring us back to the primitive days of the garden of eden. Going in search of the garden of eden in this case means to search for the end of civilization. It reminds me of an einstein quote, something about how he doesn't know what weapons world war 3 will be fought with, but world war 4 will be fought with sticks and stones.
    live2daygone2morrowon October 13, 2005   Link

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