Thick cloud, steam rising, hissing stone on sweat lodge fire
Around me, buffalo roam, sage in bundle, rub on skin
Outside, cold air, stand, wait for rising sun
Red paint, eagle feathers, coyote calling, it has begun
Something moving in, I taste it in my mouth and in my heart
It feels like dying, slow, letting go of life

Medicine man lead me up through town, Indian ground, so far down
Cut up land, each house, a pool, kids wearing water wings, drink in cool
Follow dry river bed, watch Scout and Guides make pow-wow signs
Past Geronimo's disco, Sit 'n' Bull steakhouse, white men dream
A rattle in the old man's sack, look at mountain top, keep climbing up
Way above us the desert snow, white wind blow

I hold the line, the line of strength that pulls me through the fear
San Jacinto, I hold the line
San Jacinto, the poison bite and darkness take my sight, I hold the line
And the tears roll down my swollen cheek, think I'm losing it, getting weaker
I hold the line, I hold the line
San Jacinto, yellow eagle flies down from the sun, from the sun

We will walk, on the land
We will breathe, of the air
We will drink, from the stream
We will live, hold the line
Hold the line
Hold the line

We will live, hold the line
Hold the line
Hold the line

Lyrics submitted by kevver

San Jacinto Lyrics as written by Peter Gabriel

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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San Jacinto song meanings
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  • +4
    General CommentThere's a San Jacinto Peak near Los Angeles, California. It's quite a spectacular view from the bottom or the top:…. Maybe Peter Gabriel is referring to this mountain. I was one of those Scouts who climbed it. He seems to be describing the genocide of Native Americans. We should remember what one civilization can do to another when people think of themselves as belonging to "us" vs. "them" rather than as humans. Genocide is still happening all over the world; we humans still haven't learned to generalize and act on this simple lesson from history. Maybe we need to teach this explicitly in schools since songs like this, moving though they are, don't seem to get through all our thick skulls.
    lwbaumon December 12, 2011   Link
  • +3
    Song MeaningThe song is about how the native american culture has been watered down, and all but completely eradicated by the white man when they came to the country. It's about their lands being tuned into simply tourist traps for white folks.. how it's all commercialized and exploited now. "Geronimo's Disco", "Sit 'n Bull Steakhouse", etc.

    Peter Gabriel himself has talked about the song and it's meaning a number of times.
    miker00lzon May 26, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentForgot to mention, it also intertwines the story of a young indian man's rite of passage as an example of their rich heritage.
    miker00lzon May 26, 2011   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningThis song is actually about shamanic initiation (a spiritual one).

    Native american tribes were spiritualists, so they all had their spiritual beliefs, rites and initiations. To be a spiritual leader (let's say a shaman) one had to prove he had all that is needed, that he is prepared, that he control himself, a master of himself.

    All initations involve some kind of "near death" experience (like baptism in ancient Christianity in which disciples were almost drowned to death, but in the exactly moment they were dying and having a complete different vision experience they were brought back to "life" by being pushed back from the water, so they had a confirmation what is on "the other side" by what they saw)
    In some shamanic tribes, candidates were bitten by a snake in the middle of the desert and had to make all their way back to the tribe. If he could make it, he was initiated [So the lyrics "The poison bite and darkness take my sight" make perfect sense]
    You can also imagine the extreme inner will and strength to pass through it.You have to HOLD THE LINE! [ "I hold the line of strenght that pulls me through the fear"]
    The line is a metaphor for the "connection" between Earth (the material world) and the spiritual world. We need to hold tight to this line, even the white men lost in his dreams and steakhouses

    Finally, the one that could make it was a initiated, a master that "died" do this material world and now receives and realizes the energy from the above world ["Yellow eagle flies down from the sun"]
    IamTheIamon June 10, 2015   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI envision a young Peter climbing a mountain "Holding the line..." in his hand watching the world from the distance. But I could be wrong. Even if so, a truly incredible work of art this song is!
    PolesApart76on June 30, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentHmm, IC him beaten down by life as it happens so frequently to all of us. Although he offers hope in his lyrics, I wonder if it's just an effort to prolong the inevitable.
    NobodyHereon July 10, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSuch picturesque lyrics and a big sound/music really matches the lyric. Native American struggles and culture of course. Big name artists get involved politically quite a bit and Gabriel is no exception here.
    drds63on March 30, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOkey guys, upon PG's comments from DVD’s and moonclub dailies, this song is about young Indian boy trying pass warrior's ritual. Medicine man takes him up to the mountain, where rattle snake bits young boy in to the arm. If he survives for one week, he will be big man, otherwise he will be dead.
    So, I think this song is about barrier which we have to pass each day in our lives, while everybody watching as, unfortunately nobody will help as. " Scout and Guides make pow-wow signs...". PG's suggest how we can fight with this frontiers, even it is cliché "...I hold the line - the line of strength that pulls me through the fear...". It is very important that it has no precise happy end, which emphasize that some problems could not be solved and they can beat as.
    MooXon July 15, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentMooX, you've got it! :)
    "San Jacinto" reflects on the fear and pain experienced by a Native American man who sees his culture overwhelmed by modern white society. that's what i've read somewhere.
    carrotkinson June 05, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentYeah, I have always heard it as a mix of observations from a young native man, and an old one. They try to hold on to their old ways - "hold the line" - but they are flooded more and more by white culture and it gets harder every day to remain true to the old ways. The literal story is a young man going through a coming of age ritual of some kind - climbing a mountain, going through an ordeal, possibly being bitten by a rattlesnake or drinking its venom.
    DexXon January 09, 2008   Link

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