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...
anonymous Mar 1st, 2009 3:30pm report
It's about King Louis XVI during the French Revolution and the painting on the cover is about the French Revolution, "Liberty Leading the People" by Eugene Delacroix. King Louis XVI because he once lived a life of extravagence and intimidating respect only to lose it all and be beheaded by the people of France.
anonymous Feb 26th, 2009 2:38pm report
Though it could be easily referred to historical happenings, the song could also be brought into a point of view where a regular person would be the main character. To me, I could see a person that's been left alone by his/her friends because of an action that this person has done. He/she begins to feel regret and at the chorus,
"I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing"
It may be suggesting a chance to redeem him/herself.
By the end of the song with
"For some reason I can't explain
I know Saint Peter won't call my name"
It could be saying that not all people will forgive the happening,
"Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world"
But he/she will continue to persist for forgiveness without going back to his/her original social status.
anonymous Feb 22nd, 2009 2:17pm report
I got this off of Yahoo but this is basically what I think the song's about!
It is a very literal interpretational ballad of Napoleon in the moments before his death in exile. I believe it is on Napoleon because of the Heavy French Classical influence coursing through the song as well as the Album cover, being a French Revolutionary Painting. Who else in France had a shot at ruling the world?
The first three verses are where he recounts his former glory ("Old king is dead, long live the king") when he was going to rule the world, and how he held such power over his enemy. ("I used to rule the world/ Roll the dice") And then he tells of his downfall, when he sees that he cannot rule the world, and how he has become the lowest.("Now in the morning/ sweep the streets I used to own/ the walls were closed on me") Sweeping is a nobody job, so He is saying that he is now a nobody.
The chorus, which varies progressively, is a realization that he sees his own death. (Bells and Choirs would ring and sing, respectively, during a Funeral Procession, in some cases) "Mirror Sword and Shield" could mean that he is awaiting heaven, since the three are very Christian symbols. "Missionaries" is another Christian allusion, but appears to be useless, unless referring to that he is asking that a room in Heaven be prepared for him. "For Some Reason I can't explain, once you go..." appears to be a filler line, since it takes a different meaning later on. "That was when I ruled the world" is just a reprising line that sounds good. It restates that he no longer is glorious, and will die soon.
All the way from "Wicked and Wild wind" to "Oh who would ever want to be king" is a remembrance of his own rise to power and use of it. Also, because the French would Execute using the Guillotine, the "head on a silver plate" line also is an Allusion to Napoleonic France, as well as John the Baptist's death.
The second Chorus is the same, save for the line, "I know saint Peter won't call my name". This is Napoleon saying he won't go to heaven since he was a tyrant. Saint Peter calling a name is symbolic of dying and going to Heaven.
There is an instrumental bridge where I suppose you could say Napoleon realizes death is inevitable, and accepts it, while the music becomes stronger.
The final Chorus has the change of "I know Saint Peter won't call my name" to "I know Saint Peter WILL call my name" Saying that Napoleon accepts his death. You can imagine Napoleon Closing his eyes at the words "When I ruled the world"
The song ends with a choir singing the main chords in harmony, in a sad, thoughtful fadeout, suggesting Napoleon is dead.
It's pretty logical if you think about it.
Thank you WhiteFlame-XIII....I agree very logical!
anonymous Feb 19th, 2009 2:22pm report
Let me share a slightly different opinion of this song, at least what it has meant to me before reading any of these interpretations. I believed the song did have religious overtones but not random ones. All of it could fit the life of the Apostle Paul (who wrote more than half of the New Testament).
Let me explain why...
Paul was once a very powerful man who certainly saw the fears in mens eyes when persecuting Christians relentlessly. He was transformed into a believer through the message and meaning of the life of Christ. The line "I sleep alone , sweep the streets I used to own" could represent his change into a servant in the very streets where he persecuted so many. His castles (figuratively) were build on pillars of salt and pillars of sand, because his life was not built on the Rock that was Jesus Christ.
The line "Be my mirror, my sword and shield, My missionaries in a foreign field" also very biblical in the call to disciples to be the sword and shield of Jesus, to be His missionary on a foreign field - Paul did this as well, in fact in many countries and he traveled spreading the word of Salvation through Jesus Christ.
I'm sure his transformation from who he was into the disciple he became was quite an event that would have figuratively "Shattered windows" and the line "People couldn't believe what I'd become..." would certainly fit Paul without a doubt. Let's face it, he might be the apitamy of God's grace and forgiveness given his past what what Salvation through Jesus Christ meant to him. If Paul could be saved and tranformed into such a great disciple, then God can do the same for any of us!
I think the chorus also speaks of the rise of the Church of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. The line "Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world" again could be of Paul's thoughts before his salvation and transformation into who he became.
Again, lots of wonderful interpretations but this is what the song means to me. I hope it inspires someone else in the same way. Clearly, this is an outstanding song. Even it's musical simplicity and rythmic consistency is captivating. Well done Coldplay!
anonymous Feb 11th, 2009 2:58am report
While, this song is a direct reference to the rule of King Louis XVI, it also conveys the very theme of the song and album. It is a song about humility, as one who could vey well be ruling the world one day and be reduced to sweeping the streets the next (even though Louis was beheaded). Thus the meaning of "viva la Vida" is sent. Directly this is translated as "live the life", however it is a term used more so to mean "long live life". The message is to live your life to its fullest, and live in the moment, because you never know when the world may turn upside down around you.
anonymous Feb 9th, 2009 2:03pm report
It's all about the fall of someone who has experienced great power and wealth, and the exceptance and appreciation of that person to have left it all behind.
It's a very deep song that displays an indepth look into the human condition of always wanting more, and never being satisfied.
I guess each of us can get what we want out of this song and that is what makes it so interesting. I just lost my wife, best friend and soul mate to cancer and to me the the song describes how I felt on top of the world and as powerful as a king until I lost my love ... and "now in the morning I sleep alone".
Until I lost my love I thought "I held the key" to everything and then in a minute I realized that my world was built on a foundation of "salt and sand"
As far as the chorus ... "I know Saint Peter won't call my name ... "but that was when I ruled the world" (or before I lost my love) ... but ... now that I am no longer on top of the world ... Saint Peter will call my name because I need God's help to overcome my loss.
anonymous Feb 7th, 2009 2:12pm report
First of all, remember Louis reignes in an absolute monarchy believing that he was given the power to rule by god, that´s why the song can be associated both with religion and poltics.
Further than retelling historical events, Coldplay has always had an actual intention in their songs, with this I mean that Viva la Vida is an invitation to look around at the world today and see how religion and politics (first ''made'' for man's sake) had been manipulated by humans throughout the history . It also asks us to reconsider how we live our life....(starting by it's title) to take advantage of the beauties of life, to live our life, in spanish it means live your life fully... which should be mans main purpose...if not, then why did Jesus gave his life for us?
BlackNhite Feb 3rd, 2009 2:08pm report
Alright, think of this song as being told from the perspective of a man well past his prime. Get into that mindset before you continue...
Okay, so in the first verse he states, "I used to rule the world." There comes a time in the life of the average man where one truly feels like they're at the top of the world, everything goes their way and it seems even "Seas would rise when I gave the word."
He quickly snaps back to the present and his current situation. "In the morning I sleep alone." is pretty self-explanatory and though implied later, we're never really told exactly how this particular situation came to be or if it had always been and simply wasn't an issue until now. Hold on to that thought for later...
"Sweep the streets I use to own."
Well, if you think of his life as "the world," him "sweeping the streets," could play out to mulling through what he feels amounts to his "final days."
"I used to roll the die, see the fear in my enemy's eyes," is a direct reference to age. As we age, we are prone to taking less and less risk, an obvious contrast to days of youth where one revels in the thrill of chance.
"Listen as the crowd would sing, 'Now the old king is dead, long live the king!',"
This refers to the process of the new replacing the old. Specifically, this is the time when our "speaker" surpassed his elders and rose to his rank of power. A modern day equivilant would be a young hot-shot taking seize of a multi-milion dollar corporation which may be a possible scenario for our speaker.
"One minute I held the key, next the walls were closed on me,
"And I discovered that my castles stand atop pillars of stone and pillars of sand."
Here he briefly relates to his "high of power" and most likely does as such because that is in fact how quickly it passed. Once he'd gotten to his position, the point where "the walls closed in," he suddenly came to understand just how temporary his current life really was; a "castle" ready to topple upon foundations of "salt and sand."
Okay, now for the chorus:
Jerusaleum is the acclaimed "Holy Land" of many, and our speaker hears them because he has already reached his "holy land": this great point in his life. The "Roman cavalry" symbolize the effort he put in to reaching this goal, the "choirs singing" are evidence that the effort has paid off.
I can't go into great depth on the "mirror, sword, and sheild," bit, I'm honestly not that religiously oriented to get their significance, but it could be that he is in fact rallying himself since each item symbolizes an ideal: Drive/Strength(sword), Resolution(sheild), and Pride/Confidence(mirror).
This would relate to the "missionaries in a foreign field," like this: a missionary is one who carries an ideal into unknown lands which is exactly what, let's say, an inspiring business executive would do with his own ideas/beliefs.
"For some reason I can't explain, once you'd gone it was never...
"Never an honest word, and that was when I ruled the world."
The first line is an obvious reference to some kind of loss, perhaps of innocence. Going back to that thought I had you hold earlier, maybe this was when he first began to "sleep alone." The lack of "honest word," ties in here as a nod towards corruption, a reason for this "doomed relationship."
The next verse immediately opens with an act of force, perhaps the speaker showing outrage both because of his "loss" at the time(chorus) or for simply recalling it in his monologue. Without this "other," he has nothing to occupy his time other than his "reign" and thus he devotes himself to it.
"Shattered windows and the sound of drums," is his steadily building thirst for more power, a possible compensation for that which has been lost. With the sudden shift in character, of course "pople couldn't believe what I'd become."
"Revolutionaries wait for my head on a silver plate,
"Just a puppet on a lonely string...
"Oh who would ever want to be king?"
A revolutionary brings about change... This is essentially our speaker seeing things from the other side f the traditional "new over the old" scenario. Those who were once mere subordinates are now seeking to surpass him. It also shows that he has come to a realization that, even in hi seat of power, he was still dictated; whether by others or by his own lusts and greed is left up to the listener. With that sudden bout of knowledge, the question stands, "Who would ever want to be king?"
And finally, the change in the chorus...
"For some reason I can't explain I know Saint Peter will call my name,"
Saint Peter watches the gates of Heaven, the final obstacle a the end of life's journey. Though he can't explain it, he somehow knows that his time is near it's end. Notice how this section replaces the one about his "loss"? Without this missing element of his lfe, he already feels that he is near his end.
Whether he realizes this last point in the time frame of his actual "rule" or as he relates it to the listener is up for grabs.
"Viva la Vida..."
anonymous Nov 11th, 2008 11:54pm report
ok, Viva la vida doesnt mean Live the life, it means something more like a phrase thats saying "praise the life" but the word viva indeed means live as a verb but its not the same to say live the life in english, its quite complicated to find a exact translation.
anonymous Nov 8th, 2008 11:54am report
Is it possible this song is sung in the first person as Jesus sees what the world has become over the last 2000 years?
I used to rule the world. ---Faith used to be strong and in the many.
Seas would rise when I gave the word. ---His will be done… is it being done? Are we listening when he gives the word?
Now in the morning I sleep alone – Do you know the feeling of waking up every morning next to the person who loves you? And the feeling of loss when that person is no longer there? The faith of the world is faltering. The combination of non believers and the little faith of most of His followers have left Jesus feeling lonely and sad.
Sweep the streets that I used to own- Losing ground to evil, passing over the places that once embraced Him.
I used to roll the dice- God did place a wager with Satan. Of course knowing the outcome He allowed Satan to test Job who was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There may not be another like him on Earth today.
See the fear in my enemy’s eyes - It seems pretty obvious that Satan’s presence in this world is growing. And if that is true, what does that say about his fear?
One minute I held the Key- Definition of key: A means or method of entering into or achieving… Think about it.
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand- The Catholic Church was corrupt for a thousand yrs maybe more. Is it possible there is still corruption? What does that say about its foundation?
Be my mirror my sword and shield
Missionaries in a foreign field -Fight the good fight in the name of the Lord. Do it in His image, use His words and protect His children. Spread the word not only to those you know or what is easy for you. Go out of your way to spread the word of God. It is the mission of all of Jesus’ disciples to preach the gospel.
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world- Could possibly refer to when the church was in its most powerful and influential position. For hundreds of years It took advantage of the people. It offered indulgences and solicited money from those who had blind faith. They could not read Latin, therefore could not read the bible. They simply believed what the Church proclaimed to be true. It could also in combination refer to the Crusades and how the first Crusade consisted of thieves and rapist who were told by the Pope that all sins would be forgiven of those who took the Crusade. Basically when the Church ruled the world (or most of it) there was never an honest word.
I hear Jerusalem bells a-ringing
Roman cavalry choirs are singing- Possibly a reference to the Old Testament and New Testament
For some reason I can’t explain
I know St Peter won’t call my name- Jesus said to Peter "Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times."
anonymous Sep 24th, 2008 9:51am report
I'm French, and I'm near sure that if this song refers to an historical event, it can only be the French revolution. first because "la liberté guidant le peuple" is a painting which celebrates the French revolution. Then, all which is said in the song can be linked to Louis XVI. I don't want to repeat the actual "to rated interpretation" but I just want to add that the French King was called in Europe "le roi très chrétien" which means "the very Christian King" so that, he promised to protect the priests and the churches. So, when the revolutionaries began to fired churches and to kill priests, Louis XVI knex he failed to protect them as he promised in front of God. So that Saint Peter couldn't call his name (at least, that's what he thought).
then his "castles stand on pills of sand" because after him, a French king won't have all the powers anymore, and he certainly knew it.
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