King Crimson: The Night Watch Meaning
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The Night Watch Lyrics
The watch before the city gates depicted in their prime
That golden light all grimy now
Three hundred years have passed
The worthy Captain and his squad of troopers standing fast
The artist knew...
anonymous Feb 16th 2017 report
The subtlety of this song involves the artist's relationships with both the Watch and their wives (they're the "husbands of his lady friends" as well as his "creditors and counselors", "he knew their faces well." Also the Watch's relationships with their community and their wives "the merchant men" who live in "red brick homes" and pay for "guitar lessons for the wife."
The reference to long suffering and at last a respite from "Spanish Wars" and "quiet" that lets them "think about prosperity again" provides historical context. Spain had dominated the Dutch who struggled for independence and were finally able to break free. This song takes place between or after these battles. Still, the Watch is charged with protecting the city gates in case of another attack.
There is a sense of increasing longing in the song. The song begins with an imagining of the "city fathers" gathering for the painting, posing for the artist. The final lines refer to these "little men...good and true...still living through the painter's hand [who] request you all to understand."
This song is a fairly straightforward description of the Dutch artist Rembrandt's most famous paintings.
In 1642, Rembrandt completed a painting entitled "The Shooting Company of Captain Cocq." The painting portrayed a group of middle-class Dutchmen who were part of a militia. The painting was not set at night, but a heavy coat of varnish made it APPEAR to be a night scene- hence, the painting was widely known (erroneously) as "The Night Watch."
The painting shows us a glimpse of the lives of ordinary Dutchmen of the merchant class.
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