You thought the leaden winter
Would bring you down forever
But you rode upon a steamer
To the violence of the sun

And the colors of the sea
Blind your eyes with trembling mermaids
And you touch the distant beaches
With tales of brave Ulysses

How his naked ears were tortured
By the sirens sweetly singing
For the sparkling waves are calling you
To touch their white laced lips

And you see a girl?s brown body
Dancing through the turquoise
And her footprints make you follow
Where the sky loves the sea

And when your fingers find her
She drowns you in her body
Carving deep blue ripples
In the tissues of your mind

The tiny purple fishes
Run laughing through your fingers
And you want to take her with you
To the hard land of the winter

Her name is Aphrodite
And she rides a crimson shell
You know you cannot leave her
For you touched the distant sands

With tales of brave Ulysses
How his naked ears were tortured
By the sirens sweetly singing

The tiny purple fishes
Run laughing through your fingers
You want to take her with you
To the hard land of the winter

Lyrics submitted by Hilde

Tales of Brave Ulysses Lyrics as written by Martin Sharp Eric Patrick Clapton

Lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

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Tales Of Brave Ulysses song meanings
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  • +5
    General CommentOne of the themes in stories about Ulysses is that even though he spent years struggling to return home, once he reaches it he is restless and can't be satisfied there, because he has "touched the distant sands" of foreign lands and has learned to live for adventure. (For example, in the poem "Ulysses" by Tennyson...)

    So I think this song can be interpreted kind of that way. It's about someone who travels to a foreign exotic place and falls in love with both the land and a girl (who represents the place in a way). Now that he has met her, he knows that he can never be satisfied without her -- "you know you cannot leave her for you touched the distant sands." He knows he must return home to the "hard land of the winter", and he wants to take her with him, but he also knows this is impossible...and even if he did take her back there, it wouldn't be the same, and eventually the magic would probably be lost. And he probably can't stay at the "distant beaches" for the same reason -- not only does he not quite belong there, but part of its magic for him is probably the temporary nature of his stay. He is destined to move on, but now he is doomed to be dissatisfied wherever he goes. While he is traveling, he misses his homeland where he really belongs, but once he returns, he is restless for adventure and can't forget the girl that he met, who is preserved in memory as perfect, whether she really is or not -- so what he misses may or may not even exist.

    It’s a feeling that everyone who travels can probably relate to at least a little...
    greenbeanon April 15, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General Commentallow me to correct you marcd - the lyrics were not written by Eric Clapton. They were written by Martin Sharp. He was an australian poet Clapton met in a club called The Speakeasy. He told Clapton that he'd written a poem and Clapton told him that he needed a lyric for a song.

    By the way - Sharp also made the famous coverart for Disraeli Gears.
    maltheribeon August 22, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI watched the show Classic Albums on Disraeli Gears and the guy, Martin Sharp, listed in the linear notes was the one who wrote the lyrics. He said,

    "I used to live in the islands of the Med. Sea and when I moved back to London I missed it so I wrote these lyrics about it."

    And Clapton was at a bar and they talked and he gave him the lyrics. Then made the cover work. So that's what the guy said about it.
    Mikemat5150on March 28, 2007   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationI understand this song intuitively because I have lived it!
    I always loved the song for its classical allusions and psychedelic power, but it took on even deeper dimensions of meaning for me later in life, after my tripping days were well behind me:
    I met my wife in Latin America - we had an amazing day at the beach while getting to know each other. I remember the intensity of the colors, the sensations, the sand, the glorious sense of isolation in the shimmering waves, the sun was reflecting off the water on her brown body, I was in love, we were all alone, I knew I had to marry her and bring her back to cold New England.
    I took her (poor tropical maiden) to the "hard land of the winter" and she has adapted magnificently. She has learned English, we have two beautiful children and just had our 10-year anniversary.

    I have made very few good decisions in my life, but marrying my lovely Latina bride was definitely one of them. I owe part of it to this immortal song by Cream. And I owe all of it to God...
    NomadMonadon May 24, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthis is probably one of the best cream songs
    shortman615on October 19, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAlso, the line about "touch the distant beaches" and "where the sky loves the sea" seem to relate to an other world, like Heaven.
    RightWing4Stringon March 12, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Commentobviously based on the book The Odyssey by Homer.
    classicrockgirlon March 29, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentYes, it seems that this song was based on The Odyssey.

    As far as the "where the sky loves the sea" line, I took that as merely referring to the horizon and the call of touching the "distant beaches."

    Then there's the line: "And when your fingers find her, she drowns you in her body, Carving deep blue ripples in the tissues of your mind." I've always heard that for each new piece of information your brain retains, a new wrinkle is formed. I'm not sure how accurate that is, but with that in mind it seemed to me that Aphrodite here "drowns you in her body" or makes love to this man and while doing so it is ultimately becoming a memory that will stay with him forever.

    And of course Aphrodite is the goddess of love, who when she was born rose naked from the sea atop a scallop shell. "and she rides a crimson shell"
    SFamicomon September 15, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Commentkabrams20 said: probably shouldnt try to make sense of this song...

    ...unless your stoned into oblivion
    welshbard482on December 12, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI always thought this referred to the Botticelli painting (the birth of Venus)
    "her name is Aphrodite and she rides a crimson shell"
    So this song is about love and how you can never let it go back and jadda jadda jadda
    poehaon January 29, 2008   Link

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