What does Viva La Vida mean?

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Coldplay: Viva La Vida Meaning

Song Released: 2008

Covered By: Taylor Swift

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Viva La Vida Lyrics

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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...


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    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
    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.
    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."
    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?


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    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
    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!


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    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.


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    Jan 3rd, 1:33pm report

    I think the meaning given is closer to actual history than most people would like to think, only because we never bothered to look.

    Watch this video and see if you agree.



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    Jul 20th, 2017 7:53pm report

    This is a brilliant song about Napoleon and his fall from power.


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    Apr 7th, 2017 4:23pm report

    Meaning: Nice job. Very good interp. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    I was going to type out something similar... but, you did it so much better, now I need not break my nails ( j/k ) very nice
    ( and thorough ) work!


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    Feb 25th, 2016 2:30am report

    Absolutely loved this song.. but then, as we are all proving here, personal interpretation is everything!!.. My own interpretation of this song's lyrics are thus.. initially, yes, the words (of the verses) can be taken at face value.. that of someone whom has fallen from a lofty position.. and also that the [the person] had recognised, maybe all along, the precariousness of the position and also all the pressure that such power brings.. '.. pillars of salt, and pillars of sand... Just a puppet on a lonely string.. (oh who would ever want to be king?).. held the key, next the walls were closed on me etc'.. (powerful stuff as even my dad said!!).. but, for me, more tellingly, the chorus tells us of a higher calling, of possible redemption, and even of someone (or maybe purely of new-found faith!) to help him see his new 'way' through.. 'I hear [Jeruslaem Bells..].. I hear [Roman cavalry choirs..].. Be my mirror, my sword and shield.. my missionaries in a foreign field..'.. This, even though, he realises he simply isn't likely to get a call from Saint Peter!! (and, earlier, first chorus, that once his partner, or faith, had left him, there really was 'Never an honest word'.. but that, of course, 'was when I [he] ruled the world'!!!.. like I say, my interpretation, and an amazingly heartfelt song, which despite the lack of orchestral accompaniment, I now cannot stop playing and singing on my ukulele!!!


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    Nov 9th, 2015 11:13pm report

    So in my mind the interpretations I see are all wrong. For some reason everyone is interpretating it literally. Most artist write songs that tell their story or something that has happened to them or someone they know. There is usually deeply powerful sentiments written into the song. I feel like it is really talking about a rise to fame in music or Hollywood and then a loss of that fame. All the imagery used is representative of other things. Try interpretating it in that light.


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    Sep 27th, 2015 9:18pm report

    Yay to blife that you should be glad your alive another day

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


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    Jun 10th, 2015 6:37pm report

    Love this song! Funny but great energy for such a subject. These interpretations are brilliant and I am hesitating to put my own on here. Here goes- Lucifer. think that some of the lyrics reference religion and an almost unearthly power. "Seas would rise when I gave the word". Did he mean literally? Only a person with supernatural ability to control the elements could do that. Also he sleeps alone because he is atoning now for his sins, sweeping the streets, no power.

    Jerusalem bells are ringing because in the land where Jesus lived, there is celebration at his atonement and loss of power. Also Roman choirs are singing, because the seat of the Catholic church in Rome is happy at this. Does that make sense?

    Also "never an honest word, BUT that was when I ruled the world" sounds like okay he was never honest but that was then. Now he is different.


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    Feb 13th, 2015 2:06am report

    King David for sure.


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    Dec 1st, 2014 12:44pm report

    Guys. I'm pretty sure the song isn't really for a king or Napoleon.. I think it is how maybe he had people loving him, he was a "perfect" normal person. Then he did something like drugs, or something, and now he has lost that certain power, love that people have given him. He feels that lost that happened because of the decision he made.


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    Nov 14th, 2014 11:23pm report

    This song is about King Louis XVI during the French Revolution. It talks about he used "to rule the world" but know he sweeps the streets he used to own or other words his kingdom. The French people did not like King Louis XVI and the King is saying how unstable France is and how Enlightment created this revolution. "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"
    It even talks about his execution when it says "Revolutionaries wait
    For my head on a silver plate
    Just a puppet on a lonely string
    Oh who would ever want to be king?"
    King Louis was a puppet cause the third estate and some of the second (French government branches) controlled everything he did in a constitutional monarchy.


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    Oct 2nd, 2014 10:37pm report

    All this King Louis stuff is really interesting, and could be a totally valid interpretation of this song. I just wondered, especially because of the particular line of wanting his head on a silver platter... And playing with the religious themes... Maybe something to do with John the Baptist?


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    Jul 24th, 2014 7:38pm report

    Napoleon - I always felt it told Napoleon's story much better than Louis XVI.
    In the early stages of the revolution, the revolutionaries would not have relished an emperor, nor were they happy about the amount of power and support Napoleon garnered with his military might. Napoleon's ultimate goal, until forced to give it up was always the empire of Alexander. He invaded Egypt and thanks to him we found the Rosetta Stone, but was not able to hold his victory so far from home and was forced to come back. The wicked and wild winds are the revolution itself, which allowed him to rise to power, the drums are the cannon that he fired upon citizens in the street. A king is just a lonely puppet - Napoleon was aiming much higher than that, and at one point he ruled almost half of Europe before becoming an exile on a tiny island.
    It is, of course, a treatise on nostalgia, lost dreams, power, strength and arrogance of youth. But, I've always assumed it used Napoleon as it's basis. I could just be biased as a History major and a huge Napoleon fan....


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    May 27th, 2014 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.


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    Mar 7th, 2014 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


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    Jan 31st, 2014 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.

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