Damien Rice: Elephant Meaning
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i said this has got to stop
this has got to lie down
with someone else on top
you can keep me pinned
'cause it's easier to tease
but you can't paint an elephant
quite as good as she
and she may cry like a baby
I listened to this song for so long, and now when i tried to sing it with my guitar, i stopped to the lyrics and began to think about it more precisely. (Sorry, my english is second tong, i'm native french speaking.)
I've always thought that it was a song to a child because of the "tone" Damien Rice employed.
Who can say "this as got to die, this has got to stop, this a got to lie down" except a father to his child ? Or maybe two parents talking together about the kid.
Since i'm a parent of two (lovely but sometimes angry) kids, i like more and more this interpretation.
This key is maybe not the only, and it's funny to see how the text offers many differents options of understanding. I see many of us think about a man who has an affair with to girls and the most interesting hypothesis i saw, is a man who said Damien Rice had lived in Africa and meet some ivory hunters and decided to convince a friend to rise up against this mass slaughter.
But if you take the hypothesis of a fater, a mother and their daughter of about 5 of 6 years old in crisis (imagine the moment she doesn't want to go to sleep and the parents are trying to fix it) If you go explore in greater details, you may find a lot of terms who refer to childhood
For example : the point about painting an elephant,(a kid always drows more cute than a adult) cry like a baby, cling to the ground,...
And also terms who make me think about parenthood when raise a child becomes to hard (but yet, i admit, it's really an interpretation and i don't know anything about de singer an his personnal life. He may as well have written this in a different purpose)
When he speaks about the pillow, the fact of being lonely, and sometimes horny, it's seems that the relationship with his wife is no longer so close. Those things happens almost to every man and wife when a baby comes into their lives.
The fact of not being sure of the right thing to do ("when you think you've sinned") is also something i personnaly experienced. If you don't know how to make you kid go to sleep, you try one hundred ways and after a few hours, a few weeks you come to the idea that you may be part of the problem. It is often cause of tensions in the couple. And it "may driiiive me craaaaazy"
The words "So why'd you have to lie?
I take it I'm your crutch" can refer to an old discussion to find out who will take car of the child. (I imagine : they're in bed toghether an the child is calling one more time)
Still, some parts of the lyrics remain hard to understang for me. I'm asking myself if the lyrics are really fairly transcribed in most of the websites i've seen.
For example : Do you still forget the breeze. I was first thinking "Do you still forget to breathe" in connexion with the anxiety of having sinned.
So this is my interpretation... Let me know wat you are thinking about it.
Absolytely amazing song, awesome voice, priceless performance, and text with so many meanings, I've still long long years to listen to it !
Looking forward to reading your review. (and once again, sorry for my french way of saying things)
anonymous Jul 22nd 2018 report
He is in love with two women and caught between, his two different loves. One traditional. One that can not be reciprocated, whom he is feels teased toward, a more spiritual love. She is the one touching the pillow, staying in her picture (the picture that she paints for him- a Radar Love a Psi Love) and she forgot the breeze( she's given her life up to paint the elephant in her Psi mind)she is the death of him because he has a pretty beautiful life with his traditional women and is coming to realize this as he is falling in love with her.
anonymous Sep 13th 2017 report
"This has got to die
This has got to stop"
I think he is tired of all,of waiting, of suffer, of loving. He still loving so deep but its painfull. So he realiced this cannot go on.
"This has got to lie down"
This situation must clam down, relax and leave this hard point,cause its hurting him (both)
"Someone else on top"
Might be refering to "ok, go ahead and find someone else, I wont give motr"; or it might be talking about who rides the elephant.
"You can keep me pinned
Its easier to tease"
Its like "you can keep playing with me while you got me, while you let me go", cause, of course,he has not the will to end the relationship.
"But you cant paint an elephant
Quite as good as she"
Well, I think this "she" is the girl in his mind, is the same girl who cant paint this imaginare elephan, this idealistic elephan; so this real girl who cannot paint it, is the same girl he loves deeply but a "better" and idealistic version in his mind. Both, although have the same body, same face, same voice, are not the same.
"And she may cry like a baby
And she may drives me crazy"
She has a sweet and vulnerable side and she also she has this strog side that "drives me crazy"; again, two girsl in one (of course we also must tale this "drives me crazy" as in a desperate love way).
"Casue I am lately lonely"
We must remember he is still in the relationship, this hasnt end yet, otherwise he wouldnt say: "This has got to die/stop". So, even if she still there, he feels lonely because the girls in his mind is not with him.
"So why'd you have to lie?
I take it I'm your crutch.
The pillow in your pillow case.
Is easier to touch"
He's saying to him self like "there's no need of the idealistic girl in his mind,he could accept the real one, there is no need of ling. He might take everything she gives, no matter what, he can resist it; so he's the crutch, and aslo the idea in his mind (pillow in pillow case), the real one is "easier to touch to feel to be have".
"When you think you've sinned, do you fall upon your knees?"
So when she gets this realistic moments, when she really know she dont love him, she only plays wtih him, does she regret of treat him poorly?
"Or just sit within your picture"
It might be the egilatra moment when she actually feels proud of being bad with him so she looks proudly at her picture.
"You still forget the breeze"
People might feel that this line is related with "Blower's daughter", and may be, but I think the breeze is a commun point in Damien's songs. Like breeze represent everything,that goes and comes, sometimes refresh, sometimes even kills; but forget the breeze, still, is forget what is important in life, maybe, love.
"And she may rise
If I sing you down"
I think the girl might melt down when he sings (as a real singer), this, perhaps,is the only moment she does appreciate him, see he values gold, onl there.
"And she may wisely
Cling to the ground"
This is actually something like manupulation the situation. She know what she's doing and why she is doing it. She has the power, she knows exacly he is in love with these two girls inside one: her!
"'Cause I am lately
So why would she take me horny?"
Well, this is more manupulation of the situation by her side. Isnt it?
And here comes the good part:
"What's the point of this song?
Or even singing?"
What's the point of do or say something, he knows she doesnt love him, she's just playing and using him. So why should he bothers doing a song or ever singing to/for her?
"You've already gone
Why am I clinging?"
The idealistic girl is not longer there, he exacly knows the reallity, so why keep in the same point, but he's masochistic, he needs to stay and he will keep doing it all for her, 'till she stoped him. Thats why...
...he "(i) could throw it out.
And I (he) could live without"
He could perfectly does that, and live his life without her... but
"And I could do it all for you
I could be strong".
He could keep suffering all that shit and could be strong and stand it, or be strong and leave her, but he sincerely has not the will to do it, this is why he say "could" and not "can".
"Tell me, do you want me to lie?"
This is a very literal line. Do you want me to lie? Cause I could lie to you but we both know the truth... and this true is that...
"Because this has got to die
'Cause this has got to stop
This has got to lie down, down
With someone else on top"
Get back to the biggining, "please, leave me, cause I cant leave you, got not the will. Stop this suffering and kill me now, but set me free!".
"You can both keep me pinned
'Cause it's easier to tease"
He's again refering to both girls: the real one and the "her in his mind" (what she should be with him or what he really desired of her) and both tease with him, one for not exist and be in love with, other because does exist but is not in love with him for real.
"but you can't make me happy
Quite as good as me..."
This is the real clue: he can make himself happy imagine her being as he really wants her to be, the idealistic girl living and loving him in his mind... though, once again, his wil fails and... tells...
"Well, you know that's a lie".
This is something that happens to me all the time (and I think to all), we see someone and "fall in love" but we dont really know her/him, and we make up a idealistic image of this person, but, of course, the real person doesnt seems at all to our imaginare person, the we desilution ourselves. But, sometimes we rather stay with this real person to feed the idealistic person, to keep it alive. But we always know that "this has got to die".
anonymous Sep 2nd 2017 report
Who cares??! Most of it doesn´t make any sense, except to the writer perhaps. But who cares. It´s opera. It´s fantastic, dramatic, mindblowingly emotional even if you don´t know what it´s about. That´s opera to me.
anonymous Mar 12th 2017 report
There are no interviews in which he alludes to the possible meaning of they lyrics, but a search come up with good ideas that probably are easy to relate to his rocky and broken relationship with Lisa Hannigan. She was able "paint" the poor relationship but it was still bad. He treated her poorly, which he freely admits, but I suspect his love for her was very, very deep.
So I think I agree with these other opinions:
It means to cover up something big. take on a task that is going to very difficult or impossible to do. Usually it doesn't work because you can paint an elephant but you can't hide it, it is still an elephant just covered with paint. No matter how you paint or represent something it is still just an image, never the real thing.
anonymous Jun 7th 2012 report
This song is also known as the blower's daughter part 2.
Apparently it is a sad ending.
anonymous Oct 7th 2011 report
he can't get over his ex girlfriend, he loves her, his new girlfriend can't compare. "painting an elephant" refers to sex I think.
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