What does Viva La Vida mean?

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Coldplay: Viva La Vida Meaning

Song Released: 2008


Viva La Vida Lyrics

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy's eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing
Now the old king is...

  1. 1TOP RATED

    Meaning
    click a star to vote
    Nov 23rd, 2008 11:15am report


    A lot of people have interpreted the song as a portrait of King Louis XVI, etc. but I feel that the song's purpose is a lot more general than that.

    King Louis XVI was found guilty of treason, and ultimately beheaded. However, the song clearly states a transition from ruling to not ruling. He is still alive, and he is reflecting on his past. (now in the morning I sleep alone, sweep the streets I used to own.)

    So I will try to generally analyze this song as best as I can:

    "I used to rule the world
    Seas would rise when I gave the
    word
    Now in the morning I sleep alone
    Sweep the streets I used to own"

    He was a ruler with immense command. Seas of people would rise at his command.
    This is contrasted with the fact that he has been displaced from ruling. (It's interesting that he sleeps in the morning.) Now he is a servant, or a beggar. "sweeping the streets."
    From riches to rags, from kingship to poverty.

    "I used to roll the dice
    Feel the fear in my enemy's eyes
    Listened as the crowd would sing
    Now the old king is dead long live the king"

    Rolling the dice means that he gambled with his power.
    He took risks. He became close to a tyrant, a crusader, and took over other kingdoms. He would replace other rulers, as a kind of expansionist/imperialist. "now the OLD king is dead, long live THE king."

    "One minute I held the key
    Next the walls were closed on me
    And I discovered that my castles stand
    Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand"

    Everything happened so fast, from one minute to another. When you are in power, you get caught up with your success, and time flies. In one instant he held the key. In fact, he held the key to many castles, many kingdoms, all these countries that he conquered, were under his power and domain.
    And in the next instant he lost EVERYTHING. The castles symbolize his power. Symbolically speaking, his power had a weak foundation, a weak base. What did he base his power upon? Himself. His castles stood upon pillars of SALT and SAND. They stood on weak foundation, just as he stood on a weak foundation.

    "I hear Jerusalem bells a-ringing
    Roman cavalry choirs are singing
    Be my mirror my sword and shield
    Missionaries in a foreign field"

    It seems that he used religion as an excuse for conquest, as can be seen in these words:
    "Jerusalem bells, roman cavalry choirs."
    Be my mirror, sword, and shield: means basically:
    Represent my image, my power, and my strength.
    Missionaries, or crusaders, in the end they are conquering foreign countries.

    "For some reason I can't explain
    Once you'd gone there was never
    Never an honest word
    And that was when I ruled the world"

    Drunk with power, he lied. He never gave an honest word. He manipulated and used people for the sole end of increasing his territory and power.

    "It was a wicked and wild wind
    Blew down the doors to let me in
    Shattered windows and the sound of drums
    People couldn't believe what I'd become"

    He transitions from ruler to tyrant. And the people realize what he has become. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    "Revolutionaries wait
    For my head on a silver plate
    Just a puppet on a lonely string
    Oh who would ever want to be king?"

    In the end he laments being King. Sure he had power, but the truth is, he is at the mercy of the people. There is a price on his head, and he realizes he is a puppet, on a string controlled by others.

    (Repeats Stanza)
    "For some reason I can't explain
    I know St Peter won't call my name"

    He fought in the name of Christianity, but he knows that he will not be able to enter into the promised land. His intentions were deceptive. Remember, never an honest word.

    "Never an honest word
    But that was when I ruled the world"

    Reiterating that he has lost his power.

    Hear Jerusalem bells a-ringing
    Roman cavalry choirs are singing
    Be my mirror my sword and shield
    My missionaries in a foreign field
    For some reason I can’t explain
    I know St Peter won’t call my name
    Never an honest word
    But that was when I ruled the world

    Theme: Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Chris Martin has explained the song lyric "I know Saint Peter won't call my name" in an interview with Q magazine: "It's about ... You're not on the list. I was a naughty boy.
    (Wikipedia)
    When asked about the song, bass guitarist Guy Berryman said, "It’s a story about a king who’s lost his kingdom, and all the album’s artwork is based on the idea of revolutionaries and guerrillas."
    (Wikipedia)
    Viva La Vida, in Spanish translates to "long live life."

    This song has many important implications, and VERY relevant to our times.

    We should always be suspicious of people in power, who seem to fight under the banner of religion, freedom, etc. Because in the end they are just merely people, and are subject to corruption, just like anybody else.
    Ultimately, people in power will become corrupted. It is human nature.

    This is relevant in terms of history. Think about the crusades. The Holy War. The American Revolution. The French Revolution. Spanish Conquistadores. Rulers at first, come with good intentions, but over the course of time, they seek power.
    Right now, the U.S. Is involved in the Middle East. What did we first come for? Weapons of Mass Destruction. We toppled Saddam, but we still haven't found any WMD's.
    What about 9/11? Remember, Al Qaeda in Afghanistan attacked us in 9/11. So why are we now in Iraq, and not Afghanistan??
    We still haven't captured Osama bin Laden, and we are stuck with Iraq, and we are in power, and people are such a BURDEN. We think we are in power, but the truth is that in the end we have to appease the IRaqi people. They were a sovereign nation, and in a way, right now, they are "the white man's burden."

    History is an endless waltz.
    Fated to repeat itself.


    -What do you guys think?



  2. 2TOP RATED

    UpPastMidnight
    click a star to vote
    Jun 16th, 2008 6:28am report


    Yes Cavalry and Calvary sound similar in English, but they are entirely different things. Cavalry is an ancient equine (horses) military force, and the other is a location where Jesus died. I don't think that Cavalry is a typographical error on the artist part.

    I only write this comment, because history is SO interesting and worth investigating, and Jesus more so!

    King Louis XVI and the French revolution...

    1.The album cover is a famous piece of art depicting the French revolution. I believe it's title is The French Revolution.
    Google Images: French Revolution Painting

    2. King Louis XVI was beheaded, by a group of people called the Revolutionaries. (..."Revolutionaries wait for my head on a silver plate"...)
    Google: King Louis XVI Revolutionaries

    3. King LouisXVI called out to God to be his judge and guide in the time of his dethroning and ultimate execution. (..."Be me mirror, my sword and shield"... a biblical reference to God's Word)
    Google: King Louis XVI Last Address or Last Testament

    4. The French revolution is known for it's attack on Christianity and it's attempt at the de-christianization of France, but many missionaries left France to take Christianity to the world. (...'"my missionaries in a foreign field"...) Google: French Revolution Dechristianization
    Google: French Missionaries.

    5. Louis XVI claimed in his final address that he was being killed for unjust, untrue reasons, or at best misunderstood reasons. (..."never an honest word, but that was when I ruled the world"...)
    Google: King Louis XVI Last Address or Last Testament

    6. In the song, the steady heavy drum beat that never changes it's tone or rhythm MIGHT be a brilliant final touch... because as Louis XVI was giving his final word, he was eventually drowned out by the steady heavy drum beat of the executioner, and he was beheaded.
    Google: Louis XVI death drum beat

    But as for Jesus...

    Some of the obvious differences to this song and Jesus
    are:
    1. Jesus has NEVER 'rolled the dice' with His ministry on earth, or Heaven or anywhere else. He was very intentional in His ministry and His goals, He always knew He was going to the Cross. Chance or luck (or lack of luck) had nothing to do with Jesus ministry, death or resurrection.

    2. Jesus' castles NEVER were built on pillars of salt and sand. Jesus Himself said the foolish man built his house on the sand (symbolic of a life on sin, foolishness and pride, which can never be a firm foundation, which is Jesus Himself).

    3. When Jesus rules only honest words are spoken, the song says "never and honest word when I ruled the world" .

    4. Jesus is NEVER kept out of Heaven because St. Peter won't call His name (ludicrous).

    Well, enough history for this song. It is such a great song, easy to listen to many time over!



  3. 3TOP RATED

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jul 24th, 2008 7:38pm report


    The song states the person "sleeps alone/sweeps the streets [he] used to own." this would imply that the perspective character has fallen from power, he's still alive. That would contradict the idea it was an executed king. The interpretation of this as being about Jesus... just doesn't fit. I think this is a song about having power, becoming arrogant, alienated, and ultimately suffering some kind of fall.



  4.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    May 27th, 5:41pm report


    I look at it as the House of Medici, from Giovanni di Bicci to Piero lo Sfortunato.
    Each paragraph!is for a stanza

    In the beginning, everything was so great. They were loved since the 1450s. But around 1490, everything started to go downhill. Eventually, Savonarola gained power and Piero lo Sfortunato was drowned by the French.
    People feared them. Nonetheless, once Piero il Gotosso died, everyone was so happy because Lorenzo il Magnifico was now Lord of the city.
    One minute, you have the key, the next your locked in the sacristy by a poet while your brother is getting stabbed to death by your sisters husband.
    In Florence, rining bells meant either time for church of a crisis. Missionaries = Savonarola
    Florence was known for lies. People often lied to/about the Medici.
    As I mentioned before, Piero lo Sfortunato brought hell upon the city because he left and Savonarola took control.
    I totally should
    Cosimo locked up by Condottieri, Giuliano dead by Pazzi, Lorenzo excommunicated by pope and called heretic by Savonarola, Piero II drowned by French... Who would ever want to be king?
    Reprise of chorus
    St. Peter probably won't call their name because they'll be hanging out with Virgil and Plato all the other smart people in Limbo. Either that or they're too cool for the Gates of Heaven.



  5.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Mar 7th, 3:39pm report


    This sums up the whole song: King, to tyrant, to fugitive peasant (The Revolutionaries want his head on a silver plate or something)

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


  6.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jan 31st, 1:44pm report


    Now most of us have heard the song "Viva La Vida," but what does it mean? I think I have some answers.
    This song is about how you can go from being on top of the world to being a slave to it. The narrator tells his story of how he was deceived by his power, even though his intentions may have been good. One prime example is when he says, "I used to rule the world, seas would rise when I gave the word. Now in the morning I sleep alone, sweep the streets I used to own." In that line, the narrator remembers how powerful he was. When he talks about sleeping alone, he is referencing that no one loved him or paid attention to him. When he says, "I know St. Peter won't call my name," he means that he knows that his power corrupted him, even that he fought in the name of Christ.



  7.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jan 31st, 1:43pm report


    Now most of us have heard the song "Viva La Vida," but what does it mean? I think I have some answers.
    This song is about how you can go from being on top of the world to being a slave to it. The narrator tells his story of how he was deceived by his power, even though his intentions may have been good. One prime example is when he says, "I used to rule the world, seas would rise when I gave the word. Now in the morning I sleep alone, sweep the streets I used to own." In that line, the narrator remembers how powerful he was. When he talks about sleeping alone, he is referencing that no one loved him or paid attention to him. When he says, "I know St. Peter won't call my name," he means that he knows that his power corrupted him, even that he fought in the name of Christ.



  8.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jun 19th, 2013 6:52am report


    I really belive that this song is about a man who "used to rule the world",but the world he is talking about is a woman he loved/loves,and he thought he had everything,but then he lost her, probably to someone he knows:sweep the "streets" I used to own,that means he now see her maybe everyday with the second guy.



  9.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jun 11th, 2013 6:14am report


    This reminds me of Annikin Skywalker!
    Hehe
    Because he had Padmè, he felt like he could rule the world. He didn't need anything else.
    Then he mucked up and lost Padmè, all his limbs (XD) and his Jedi mentor.
    So even though he's Darth Vader and rules the galaxy (pretty much) he's still nothing because he hasn't got Padmè.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


  10.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Dec 28th, 2012 12:10am report


    It's about a plumber who tries to rescue damsels from fire breathing dinosaurs, but along the way becomes a villain in the court of public opinion. He then becomes disillusioned from the whole circus and instead decides to chuck the whole thing.



  11.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Dec 19th, 2012 12:59pm report


    This song in my opinion relates to the days of early Christians and the Roman Empire. The two biggest clues are the two lines:

    Roman Cavalry choirs singing.

    I hear Jerusalem Bells Ringing.

    My guess is that it's focused around some revolutionary when the Romans were trying to round up and kill the Christians. The revolutionary thirsted for power, and the Romans offered him kingship if he was to turn. That's where now the OLD king is dead (Jesus or God), long live the king (him).

    "Revolutionaries swarmed for my head on a silver plate." This means that the Christians are against him.

    "Just a puppet on a lonely string." He is none less than a tool for the Romans.

    "I know Saint Peter won't call my name." A little bit of remorse, because of the biblical reference, but he knows what he did was bad.

    Then, "I USED to rule the world." I bet he felt all important, but the Romans made him a slave once his purpose was done.

    Make sense?



  12.  

    xXInsane_SmileXx
    click a star to vote
    Nov 30th, 2012 11:46am report


    this song is actually way more general than just kings. it can relate to anyone's life. they can all just be metaphors...but that is just my opinion.


    "I used to rule the world
    Seas would rise when I gave the word
    Now in the morning I sleep alone
    Sweep the streets I used to own
    I used to roll the dice
    Feel the fear in my enemy's eyes
    Listen as the crowd would sing
    Now the old king is dead!
    Long live the king!"
    -this point shows how at first he was successful in life and things used to go his own way, but did one wrong turn and ended up losing everything.

    "One minute I held the key
    Next the walls were closed on me
    And I discovered that my castles stand
    Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand"
    -there's a saying that everything happens for a reason. the narrator is saying that he realized why this may have all happened which is because he was so caught up in his "fame and popularity", he didn't see what was really around him so when everything was gone, he learned his lesson.

    "I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing
    Roman Cavalry choirs are singing"
    -he feels regret and remorse
    "Be my mirror, my sword and shield"
    -he's begging for someone to help him and believe in him again
    "My missionaries in a foreign field"
    -the people who he thought were his friends left him for the popular ones

    "For some reason I can't explain
    Once you go there was never
    Never an honest word
    And that was when I ruled the world"
    -he realizes his mistakes

    "It was the wicked and wild wind
    Blew down the doors to let me in
    Shattered windows and the sound of drums
    People couldn't believe what I'd become"
    -everything happened so fast he could not get caught up in what was happening and it ended up being a little too late.

    "Revolutionaries wait
    For my head on a silver plate
    Just a puppet on a lonely string
    Oh who would ever want to be king?"
    -people now hate him and he is wandering around like a lonely soul. he also states that why would anyone want to be on the peak of success because eventually that peak will come crashing down.

    chorus repeats

    thanks for reading my interpretation....i dont know this is just my opinion. Others think it literally is about a king :\



  13.  

    anonymous
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    Oct 22nd, 2012 10:08pm report


    I really have been taken by the song...it simply captures life. I was not the artist that wrote the words and do not feel I am intimate enough with him to interpret it and read the his mind mind concerning the reasoning behind it.

    This is an easy song to place yourself into. There are times in most folks's life when one feels on top of the world and then something sobering occurs to topple us from those uplifting times.

    It doesn't matter who you are, a president...a CEO...a 20 year old who is invulnerable and finds out it isn't true...a loving mother who looses a child and becomes bitter...one who has benefited from not what you know but who you know...someone who in their own eyes have done much less than they knew they could and/or should. At times like this some may feel that they would not be accepted into heaven because they themselves have doubts. I certainly have felt this way...

    I have felt on top of the world a few times in my life...It is a sweet and powerful aphrodisiac...and dangerous if not understood and controlled. However, time has a way of bringing reality to one's life.

    Songs that invite so much participation and thought such as this are inspiring...and good for us.



  14.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Oct 16th, 2012 10:06pm report


    Id say that this song is about the beast in his final moments as he comes to accept that he only ever reached his position by chance and that he has been overthrown



  15.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Oct 2nd, 2012 10:52pm report


    Originally said by UpPastMidnight "King Louis XVI and the French revolution...

    1.The album cover is a famous piece of art depicting the French revolution. I believe it's title is The French Revolution. Google Images: French Revolution Painting

    2. King Louis XVI was beheaded, by a group of people called the Revolutionaries. (..."Revolutionaries wait for my head on a silver plate"...) Google: King Louis XVI Revolutionaries

    3. King LouisXVI called out to God to be his judge and guide in the time of his dethroning and ultimate execution. (..."Be me mirror, my sword and shield"... a biblical reference to God's Word) Google: King Louis XVI Last Address or Last Testament

    4. The French revolution is known for it's attack on Christianity and it's attempt at the de-christianization of France, but many missionaries left France to take Christianity to the world. (...'"my missionaries in a foreign field"...) Google: French Revolution Dechristianization Google: French Missionaries.

    5. Louis XVI claimed in his final address that he was being killed for unjust, untrue reasons, or at best misunderstood reasons. (..."never an honest word, but that was when I ruled the world"...) Google: King Louis XVI Last Address or Last Testament

    6. In the song, the steady heavy drum beat that never changes it's tone or rhythm MIGHT be a brilliant final touch... because as Louis XVI was giving his final word, he was eventually drowned out by the steady heavy drum beat of the executioner, and he was beheaded. Google: Louis XVI death drum beat."

    Now people keep saying that it couldn't be that because the song is about a king that was alive after his reign. BEFORE Louis XVI was beheaded, he lived in his castle outside of Paris, Versailles, the peasants stormed the castle, and killed the guards, they brought Louis to Paris, and said they would kill him if he tried to leave. He no longer had ANY authority whatsoever, he was replaced by the National Assembly. He had no money (it was stolen at Versailles), and no purpose... So what could the king do..? "Sweep the streets I used to own"



  16.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Sep 15th, 2012 9:52pm report


    He's saying "I used to rule the world" and, "sweeping the streets he used to own." I think that means the character had lost his power, but is still managing to live life.



  17.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Sep 11th, 2012 9:12pm report


    its about ME and its about YOU. How we were collectivelly brainwashed listening to the lies to put on, while we believed them we felt on top of the world.....now we started to wake up, but that means we are the "rejects", the rebels of society and that means we dont have power...but we dont believe the lies ( for some reason I cant explain, I know Saint peter wont call my name)....no more church or otherwise brainwashing of the masses.
    -Never an honest word.-missionaries went around murdering the native people.
    Wake up young people! of today...you dont have to swallow the crap crammed down your throats anymore...Coldplay says its OK...with this song!!! :)



  18.  

    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Aug 28th, 2012 8:52pm report


    The song is about King Louis XVI. He was once a ruler who once owned countries that he conquered, held the key to many castles, and seas of people rising at his command. But, when he was found guilty he was beheaded. However, according to the song, he was still alive and is all alone, regretting his past.



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