Coldplay: Viva La Vida Meaning
Song Released: 2008
Covered By: Taylor Swift
Viva La Vida Lyrics
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...
BuildGreen Sep 23rd, 2008 9:16pm report
Live you life. Everybody interprets based on their experience. I see it quite simply: Be in charge, have others depend on you, make the important decisions. I do. Sometimes I feel like I just want to sweep the street, no responsibility. I rode that wave. I have the confidence to do it again, just choose not to. Lives are at stake. Until you've had the obligations and burdens you may not understand. The old guy bagging your groceries may have been a VP of a fortune 500 company. We are all moving on.
elviravolta Sep 12th, 2008 9:38pm report
I believe this song is about Taking power for granted using the French revolution as a metaphor more specifically Louie the XVI
Louie lived a very frivolous life style before the Revolution (I used to roll the dice)
He was also a devout catholic (Roman Catholic choirs)
The song talks about shattered windows and the sound of drums this could refer to the people of Paris demanding he and his family leave Versailles and go to Pairs where they could watch him.
After word he was little more than a puppet to the revolutionary government. He had to have felt helpless and something of a liar.
At that time much of the aristocracy had fled Paris leaving Louie to feel as though his supporters had left him (missionaries in a foreign field)
St Peter is said to stand at the gates of heaven (I know St Peter won’t call my name)
As far as my castle stands on pillars of sand Louis thought his power was absolute but it belonged to the people and the people like sand change positions.
Most of the leaders of the Revolution where also latter beheaded.
anonymous Sep 11th, 2008 9:37am report
I haven't fully digested this song yet. It is bugging me. I thought it was about different people. The first being about Moses who made water appear from rocks, sour water sweet, and parted the sea. The second about Christ. Not that Christ rolled the dice but the Roman soliders did cast lots (roll dice) for Christ's cloths not to mention other crucified people's belongings. He did not fully become king until his rise to heaven. (old king is dead, long live the king. The bible says Christ will come back and rule the world. So for now, supposedly he isn't king. Confusing, but it fits with long live the king. Theoretically, he still rules although his rule will start in the future. The third verse I think is about David. He held the Ark of the Covenant, the 10 commandments and the key to the Jews. Of course it wasn't enough for him because he lusted after Bathsheba, had her husband killed and David himself lost his sons. Unless you build your foundation on rock (God), you will find that your castle sits on sand. As for the next verse of wicked and wild wind, I haven't had a logical guess?opinion yet. I think the combined verses are about two people with John the baptist losing his head in the second part of course. The puppet on a lonely string could be about his time alone in prison and others pulling the strings on his fate. Which of course leads to his beheading. And when he says who would ever want to be king, he is a direct cousin of Christ. Some thought that he was Christ. I don't believe he thought he was king but I would think that he knew the weight Christ was carrying. He couldn't see anyone wanting that pain and responsibility. Even in his captivity alone he wrote and prayed.
In the chorus it talks about be my mirror, my sword and shield. That could mean be a reflection of me (mirror) and the sword and shield are terms most often when referring to prayer warriors. Prayer warriors are average christians who pray for anything they can think of including protection (shield) for friends and family and to strike down Satan (disease, famine, poverty, temptation, etc.) These people were all kings in their own right.
These are my opinions. I would love to hear if anyone else sees what I see and if they could add more. This could be about King Louis xvi but the lead singer says that he has read the bible extensively. When I guage his age and life I would say that he is becoming wiser and more mature in his spiritual life and it is reflected in this song.
I have enjoyed the Louis XVI interpretations the most.
Going back to Jesus, he made it clear that his kingdom was not of this world, so it has to be about an earthly ruler, and not about Jesus. And Jesus is recorded as having calmed the seas, rather than giving his word to make them rise, as the song mentions.
This song could very well be about Charles I of England; Coldplay is from England. William Blake forever made the connection between Jerusalem and England. "And did those feet in ancient time...."
"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 could well mean Charles's battles first with Scotland, and then during the Civil War period. Or it could mean his relationship with Parliament. When James I died, Charles's father, Charles would have been proclaimed 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"
This could mean Charles's loss of power over the five year period from when the Civil War began until the Presbyterians gave him over to Parliament. Less than two years later he was beheaded. He had held the key, and then the walls closed in on him. The war did not turn his way. His castles? How about Carisbrooke, Hurst and Windor?
"I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field "
Again, with Jerusalem, Blake writes "till we have built Jerusalem,in England’s green & pleasant land...." The bells of course might not be actual bells, but can symbolize death. The Roman Cavalry is obviously the Cavaliers, the supporters of the Roman Catholic king. Jerusalem is London. As mentioned by a previous poster, the mirror, sword and shield is the Bible. Charles's father was King James. The King James Version of the Bible! The missionaries on a foreign field could possibly mean England joining the race for colonies in the Americas a bit late. Jamestown was established in 1607, shortly after a failed attempt. But other European nations were there and firmly established by then. His missionaries could also be his fellow Roman Catholics in the religious turmoil of England after the break from Rome, particularly those Puritans (Cromwell and Parliament).
"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"
Charles was killed in January of 1649, or with the changing of the calendar, in the winter of 1648. Historians write that there were drums as Charles awaited death. Some also write of a groan among the crowd, in disbelief of what had just happened once the king was beheaded.
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?"
For the last months of Charles's life, he was a puppet, something to bargain with. With the Restoration, you can bet that the son of the beheaded king had to tread lightly at first, and never enjoyed the divine right of kings as his father and grandfather had.
I don't believe it's about Jesus. For starters, he made it clear his kingdom was not of this world. He's also recorded as having calmed the seas, rather than making them rise, as the song says. It's definitely about an earthly ruler.
One ruler who hasn't been mentioned is Charles I. He followed the idea of divine right of kings, like his dad, well known for the Bible with his name on it, James. The band is British too. And Charles I lost his head as well. William Blake can explain the mention of Jerusalem and its connection with England. The cavalry choir can be either the Cavaliers or Roundheads on horseback.
anonymous Sep 7th, 2008 9:49pm report
This inspiring song, despite its historical references, could just be about someone who has fallen to a low point in life. It's an excellent song that really makes you feel each time you hear it. Different people experience it differently, which is truly the beauty of it. The lyrics sort of make me think of Zeus, from Greek mythology. Once Christianity gained popularity, the Olympians were no longer worshipped. Imagine Zeus, the greatest of the gods, left to wander the earth alone. His power and glory gone, just a shell of his former self. He has to deal with this new religion - Jerusalem bells and Saint Peter, not calling his name because he is immortal, and doomed to wander forever in reminiscence.
I think "Viva la Vida" is a satire of unchecked power ("I used to rule the world.../now, in the morning, I sleep alone, sweep the streets I used to own.") I think the constant, repetitive chord progression with the marching beat symbolize the downtrodden trying to assert their rightful power, but they're always overwhelmed by the king in the song (the cymbal before the chorus.) And to those who said "Viva la Vida" is Spanish, you're right, literally translated, it means, "Long live the life!"
THE PAINTING IS TITLED "LIBERTY LEADING THE PEOPLE"
It's not about Jesus. The French Aristocrat, King Louis the random number, basically fucked up as king. VIVA LA VIDA means LIVE THE LIFE. I think that Coldplay is using the French Revolution to say that we should have a revolution against out own lives. we have become so sedentary, so self centered. we need a revolution so we can actually live our lives.
LIVE THE LIFE
anonymous Aug 28th, 2008 8:56am report
Deliliscoius_11 is right. Peter denied Jesus three times, so the theory does work.
anonymous Aug 16th, 2008 8:20am report
I don't really get all technical when I listen to this song. I just enjoy the music, because I think it's great.
The meaning I get out of this, is that we all have peaks in our lifetime. at one point, we come as close to having it all as we possibly can. Then, a long time down the road, we end up in a state of wondering. we start wondering how it's going to end up. we start wondering where all of that time went. we realize that at some point, our life is going to end. but...how could this be ? it feels like we use to 'rule the world'. we had the power in our hands to make any decisions we wanted, and somehow we'll eventually end up on the brink of old age no matter how we roll the dice. It's just a matter of being able to do what you did your whole life-brace yourself for whatever is next to come. what happened, happened. and hopefully it brings you to where you wanted. Hopefully it all makes sense to you.
To set the record straight once and for all "viva la vida" is a Spanish command meaning "live the life" so it is not vive (he/she/it lives), it's viva- a command (telling you to live).
Maybe the song isn't about any one event in particular (jesus, french or spanish revolution), but anyone who has ever been through a hard time in life but through it all was still able to see the good in life, even though they've been knocked down hard. The feeling of being on top of the world one minute and then at your worst the next. I thought about this when I saw this quote from Chris Martin about his influence from the Frida Kahlo painting: “She went through a lot of shit, of course, and then she started a big painting in her house that said 'Viva la Vida',” explained Martin of the choice. “I just loved the boldness of it.” Which means that he was moved by how after all that Frida Kahlo had been through in her life (and yes, she did go through a lot) she was still able to move on with her life and make something good out of it.
and this is kind of out there, but the possible references to great people in the song, (Jesus, kings, etc.). It makes me feel like he's trying to say, by comparing the everyday person to these great or powerful people, that no one persons struggle is any less important than the next. That just how I feel though, the song kind of gives me an empowered feeling.
anonymous 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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