What does Timshel mean?

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Mumford & Sons: Timshel Meaning

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Cold is the water
It freezes your already cold mind
Already cold, cold mind
And death is at your doorstep
And it will steal your innocence
But it will not steal your substance

But you are not alone in this
And you are not alone in this
As...

  1. 1TOP RATED

    anonymous
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    Sep 27th, 2012 9:34pm report


    I've never gotten anything about abortion out of this song. I think maybe the reason people connect the song with abortion is because of the "pro choice" slogan and it's broad use in today's society.

    If you're as big of a Steinbeck buff as me (Especially East of Eden-- it's like the bible but better), you connect the word choice with Timshel first, East of Eden second, your life third, and abortion maybe sixteenth or seventeenth.

    This song is beautifully written and is a great description of the power in the word that is it's title. If you love East of Edent it's because "timshel" changed your life. "Timshel" doesn't just mean "thou mayest." It means that you have a choice.

    In the novel, timshel was used specifically as a blessing- a choice given to a son by a father. One could choose to be good or evil. The character of Samuel Hamilton takes the meaning of the word even further. In context with that character, it means that you can choose whether or not you're going to accept things about yourself as good or evil qualities. Ultimately,"timshel" means that you can be what you want to be- good, evil, different, conformist, optomistic, pessimistic, inventive, strict, enthusiastic. Timshel sets you free.

    This song talks about "timshel" in the sense that it was explored in the novel (the foundation for it's extended meaning and importance).

    Here's my breakdown:

    Cold is the water
    it freezes your already cold heart

    (The world is a cold place and it increases your tendency to be cold along with it.)

    And death is at your doorstep
    And it will steal your innocence
    But it will not steal your substance

    (Death is immenent. Humans realize this immenance and lose the innocent part of themselves that indulges in life without fear of death. But, at the same time, death's immenance creates a purpose for your life and provides a motive for personal substance.)

    And you are not alone in this
    And you are not alone in this
    As brothers we will stand and hold your hand
    hold your hand

    (I think that this is an allusion to the brotherly bonds in the book. Both Adam and Charles and Aron and Caleb had odd brotherhoods. They had rivalry so intense the it drove them to opposite ends of a spectrum of good and evil (at least in the eyes of the reader- and not really with Caleb) but they were always a partnership- loyal to one another. Maybe this line is a call to help your brother and not let the rivalry hinder your support for one another on life's journey.)

    This is the part that gets people

    And you are the mother
    the mother of your baby child
    the one to whom you gave life

    (In the book, Kathy/a lot of other names is the mother of the twins Aron and Caleb. She is a symbol for evil. There is absolutely no good in her anywhere. In saying, "you are the mother," M&S is pointing out the inate depravity and evil that lies within all of us.)

    But you have your choices
    And these are what make men great
    His ladder to the stars

    (This is actually an almost direct quote by one of the characters, Lee. I don't know how they got away with that. It is an allusion to the meaning of the word and the song. Right before Lee says this, he says that "timshel" is "possibly the most important word in the world." I think it is. You have your choices. We are inately evil but we don't have to be. We can rise above our evil and be something bigger, in a league with supreme individuals, in the presence of God Himself some day.)

    With repitition of the chorus, we are reminded that we can help each other in acheiving this ultimate goal. But the end...

    I will tell the night
    And whisper, "Lose your sight,"
    but I can't move the mountains for your

    ... is complex, beautiful, and a an aspect of Steinbeck's work that is extremely well thought out.

    (I will tell the night, the darkness, the evil to "lose your sight." This is a call of the brother to the evil in his brother to go unseen. The beautiful part is the allusion to the scripture that says, "faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains." In the last line, they are saying, "I can demand the darkness to stay within you, but only you can make the choice and remove it altogether.")

    That's just my interpretation of the song. Believe it or not- timshel.



  2.  

    anonymous
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    Jun 24th, 6:28am report


    I think it’s all about the choices we make in this cold world, it can kill us but not our substance-soul. Maybe addiction as the mother-to give birth to the problem and it life. Choices and that we are not alone within the struggles of life x



  3.  

    anonymous
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    Jan 4th, 2013 1:11pm report


    The first verse is singing to a man with Alzheimers, who is very afraid that in the process of losing his mind, he will lose who he is, his identity. The song is telling him that it will be rough--but he will still be who he is (e.g. he will not lose his inner substance). The second verse is to a pregnant woman, and the song is telling her to accept her identity (the mother of your baby child) as well. So both verses are about overcoming a deep fear: making the choice to die of senility with courage, and to give birth despite the hardship. It is about the choice of embracing life, despite all fear and suffering, to embrace life from in utero to natural death, because "these are the things that make man great--his ladder to the stars."



  4.  

    anonymous
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    Oct 20th, 2012 10:05pm report


    When it says, "It will not steal your substance", he means your soul.

    In the song Roll Away Your Stone by Mumford and Sons, he says, "You told me that I would find a hole within this fragile substance of my soul."

    I believe that the death that he refers to is sin and its effects. Sin has the power of death, but it can be overcome. With grace, it can be overcome and it won't steal your soul (substance).



  5.  

    anonymous
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    Aug 8th, 2012 8:54am report


    I think this about a mother who for some reason didn't feel like she could raise a child, maybe she was too young,had an addiction or even a mental illness. However, the author of the song has faith in this girl for whatever reason and wants her to see past her own problems and make a life for this new baby. I think that the father was not in the picture to raise this baby and she feels like things cannot get any worse Basically it's a song to let you know that you are not alone no matter how bad the situtation may be or how bad you may feel.



  6.  

    anonymous
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    Jul 12th, 2012 7:03am report


    I wondered if this song was about addiction...they're brother maybe? and the part about the mother is their acknowledgement to how much pain it is causing her to watch her baby child suffering from a drug addiction...?? choices - temptations, addictions, drugs. i don't get abortion from this. "the one to whom you gave life" i think this means the child was born, not killed.



  7.  

    anonymous
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    May 3rd, 2012 5:15pm report


    Q: "What does the phrase "It will not steal your substance" mean?"

    A: The line says that [Death] will steal your innocence, but it will not steal your substance"

    Translation: the event that the subjects are facing is something seemingly incomprehensible to them (whatever they may be). The loss of innocence is due to their exposure to these difficulties - they are no longer sheltered from bad things like children often are (hence innocence). But this doesn't have to make them jaded or lose hope.

    Simply put, bad things happen that are out of our control, but ultimately its you that controls how much it affects you.



  8.  

    anonymous
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    Apr 3rd, 2012 4:46pm report


    Cold is the water
    It freezes your already cold mind
    Already cold, cold mind

    L1-L3=(Life is not easy, tough and cruel.)

    And death is at your doorstep
    And it will steal your innocence
    But it will not steal your substance

    L4-L6=(Death is in the back of your head, it makes you want to survive, this then takes your innocence away, but not your heart EX{you will steal money to survive,but you still have the heart to give it back, it`s your choice if you want to})

    But you are not alone in this
    And you are not alone in this
    As brothers we will stand and we'll hold your hand
    Hold your hand

    L7-L11=(In this tough and cruel life, where the water is so cold, we will be there for you and you are not alone)

    And you are the mother
    The mother of your baby child

    L12-L13=(Baby child refers to something you have to take care of, maybe there is a problem that needs to be sorted out. Mother refers to that you are the owner of this problem, it is your problem, no one elses problem

    The one to whom you gave life

    L14=(You created this "something that needs to be taken care of" for yourself)

    And you have your choices
    And these are what make man great
    His ladder to the stars

    L15-17=(With this problem that needs to be taken care of, you have choices and the choice you make can make you great or make you miserable)

    But you are not alone in this
    And you are not alone in this
    As brothers we will stand and we'll hold your hand
    Hold your hand

    L18-L22=(Luckily there are people for you that can help you and give you guidance with these choices)

    And I will tell the night
    Whisper, "Lose your sight"
    But I can't move the mountains for you

    L23-L25=(Line 23 + 24 says I will help you and in line 25 it says but I can`t do everything for you.)


    This is just my inerpretation and opinion, don`t know wether it is right or wrong, but for me it feels right.
    It is an awesome song just like all other Mumford and Sons songs.



  9.  

    anonymous
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    Apr 3rd, 2012 4:02pm report


    What does the phrase "It will not steal your substance" meaan?



  10.  

    anonymous
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    Mar 12th, 2012 3:19pm report


    When I hear this song I think of disease. A person suffering through it, but in the end that person is not alone because he has a group of people who are going through the same exact thing as him, as well as a group of people who love that person.



  11.  

    anonymous
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    Mar 7th, 2012 3:43pm report


    Marcus Mumford is a huge Steinbeck fan. In Steinbeck's "East of Eden," one of the characters discusses a passage of the bible (The story of Cain and Abel, two brothers) in relation to twin boys who have a similar Cain and Abel relationship. He, a chinese man, takes the verse and is confused by the many translations. One says "do thou" the other says "thou shalt." He takes the phrase to chinese wisemen and they study ancient hebrew, finally finding that the word Timshel means "thou mayest," for if thou mayest, then thou mayest not. Meaning man has a choice, you can choose good or evil.

    Mumford directly quotes the book when he says "These are what make man great, his ladder to the stars."



  12.  

    anonymous
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    Jan 11th, 2012 1:03pm report


    I agree it's about abortion, because when he says "you are the mother of your baby child", and the part about "choices make man great" they both sound like direct references to abortion.



  13.  

    anonymous
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    Apr 11th, 2011 4:11am report


    It's from the bible and east of Eden by John steinbeck. It means 'thou mayest' ...we have the choice to rule over sin.



  14.  

    anonymous
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    Mar 30th, 2011 3:43pm report


    It could be about a single mother deciding to keep her child, and the writer expressing that he will be there for her and she is not alone. I personally believe that it is about a miscarriage. I lost my little angel at 4 months. These lyrics fit perfectly with what I am going through.



  15.  

    anonymous
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    Mar 27th, 2011 3:18pm report


    Call me crazy... but I think this song is actually about abortion. I don't really know how to explain it... but thats just kinda the vibe I get when I hear it. agree with me or not, thats just what I think.




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