Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Church of Mumford: The Meaning of "Sigh No More"

Hello, Blogosphere. I am here, once again, with a Mumford & Sons post (sorry I didn't do it yesterday, I was busy). Here's what's gonna go down:
Some pictures of the band and Country Winston (I think I'm in love with him right now), a video or two, then my interpretation of the meaning of the album. Then I will break down the meaning of every song (in the order in which it would make sense). You can skip over that part because I'm sure it will be long, but I need to release my theory to the world!


Pics and Videos (I'll insert more throughout the post, this is just an overall dump)
 "Sister" (Yes, I've already posted this song, but this person was FRONT ROW!! Plus, I get to see more of Winston, so I think it's a win-win.)


"White Blank Page" (notice how he says "this king" instead of "the king")

"I Gave You All"


"Timshel"
 

Rachel, let me help you play the banjo.


So, I have pretty much gotten everyone close to me hooked on Mumford & Sons. Although no one is nearly as obsessed as I am (I spent a good chunk of my day decoding lyrics yesterday), my mom comes close. We have had countless conversations about what the album means, as a whole. Because, knowing these guys and how smart they are, the whole album is a story. Each song can be looked at individually, but collectively they are one whole story (like chapters in a book). 
Are you ready for it?
Drumroll please....
Meaning of the Album: The Theory
This whole album is about Marcus (assuming he wrote all the songs) in a relationship. He is in a relationship with this girl (I'm calling her Ms. Mum so we understand to whom I'm referring), but he cheats on her with another girl (calling her Lover). This whole album details the affair, his struggle with doing the right thing, and telling his girlfriend, and the inevitable breakup with Ms. Mum.
Quick summary of some of these songs:
"Winter Winds" - the affair
"The Cave" - saying he will change
"I Gave You All" - leading to the break up
"Thistle and Weeds" - aftermath of the breakup, his devastation
"After the Storm" - complete aftermath, when it's time to move on
Holy crapole,  guys. I think mine and my mom's theory just might be right (we are 99.9% sure, but I'm willing to bet a ton of money on this). I know that tons of these songs are based on literature, but those are symbols for the events going on in Marcus' life at the time the album was written.

Okay, now I'm moving on. Again, this next part is optional to read, but if you are a truly obsessed and dedicated member of the Church of Mumford (and you pray to The Mumford, The Sons, and The Holy Banjo), then you just might want to read on.
Meaning of Individual Songs: The Theory
Forewarning, this is going to be long. I am going through every song on the album, and in the order in which they would make sense, were their album a book. Let's get started!
But, if you want it to be shorter, just stop reading about every song when I get to the italicized, lyrics part. Because that's when I start delving deeper into the meaning, but the beginning part is an overall summary of the song.
Good luck on your journey, young Mumford Follower!


Timshel: So, I really have no idea where this one would go if it were a book, but I'm assuming it would be a prologue (I'm just going to run with this book metaphor). In case you didn't know, this song is based off of East of Eden by John Steinbeck (sorry, I can't summarize it for you, it's too complicated to do it quickly). But a main part of the book is about the Hebrew word "timshel" which means "thou mayest." Which pretty much says that humans have a choice between good and evil, and life is part destiny and part the choices you make. So this details Marcus' struggle between "good" and "evil," but he's made his choices.


Winter Winds: This one is about the affair.
"Oh the warmth in your eyes lead me into your arms. Was it LOVE or FEAR of the cold that lead us through the night? For every kiss your beauty trumped my doubt." (See that? This is clearly about an affair he had, and despite his efforts, he couldn't resist.)
"My head told my heart, 'Let love grow.' But my heart told my head, 'This time no, this time no.'" (Usually it would be the other way around, but clearly there is some logical part of him saying it would be good to stay with Lover - maybe monetary reasons? keep that in mind - but his heart is somewhere else, with Ms. Mum.)
"So let the memories be good for those who stay." (He is only thinking in the moment, he doesn't care about the repercussions at the time.)
"You'll be happy and wholesome again, when the city clears and sun ascends." (He is talking to himself here, and this relates to another song. He is saying that he'll be fine when the sun ascends, meaning spring, when things are reborn.)


Sigh No More: This one is a good one. As I'm sure you know, this is based on the play "Much Ado About Nothing" by Shakespeare. And so many of the lines are from the play, but before I get to those...this song is an explanation to Ms. Mum as to why he had an affair with Lover. Onto lyric interpretations!
"Serve God, love me and mend." (Have faith, love me, and you will get better - kind of an apology)
 "Sigh no more, no more." (This is from a song in the play, and it means "accept infidelity as man's nature")
"One foot in sea and one on shore." (This is talking about man's indecisiveness, also from the song in the play)
"But man is a giddy thing." (This means that men are impulsive)
Okay, there are some Shakespeare interpretations. So he is saying "I had this affair, once, because it is in man's nature to do such a thing." Then at the end, he is saying that love is simple, and it just is, and it is his desire to find that love (which he may or may not have with Ms. Mum).


Roll Away Your Stone: This song is about, according to Mumford & Sons' website: "a man unsuccessfully filling the hole in his soul." This is clearly discussing the motives and reasons why he cheated on Ms. Mum with Lover. If he was unsuccessfully filling the hole in his soul, then there was obviously something missing his relationship with Ms. Mum. This also an attempt at reconciliation, "Roll away your stone I'll roll away mine, together we can see what we will find." (He is saying, I'll take responsibility for my faults, and you do the same.)
"Stars hide your fires." (This is a quote from MacBeth. It is saying that he doesn't want the stars to shine so that he would be blind to his own dark desires.)
"It's not the long walks home that will change this heart, but the welcome I receive with the restart." (He is saying that he won't change if Ms. Mum makes him keep trying to make it up to her, but with her acceptance and being forgiving, he will change his ways.)
"You had neither reason nor rhyme, with which to take this soul that is so rightfully mine." (Leading to the break up...)

Picture Break!
Rachel, you're a genius. Join our band.
White Blank Page: Okay, this one is his conflicting feelings with Ms. Mum, and it's pretty much the break up song. The first verse is where Marcus is asking HIMSELF (not anyone else, I just want to make that clear because most of his songs are personal conversations, and he shifts point of view a lot) if he can be with his girlfriend and admit what he did wrong, and confess to still loving her.
In the above acoustic version of this song, Marcus sings:
"And can you kneel before THIS king, and say I'm clean, I'm clean?" (Some people have interpreted this part as something about God, but Mumford & Sons are not a Christian band [when they, collectively, are god, how could they be?], but I think he's talking about his conscience. If he can be okay with himself for what he did, despite the fact that it's in his nature.)
"You did not think when you sent me to the brink, the brink. You desired my attention, but denied my affections, my affections." (Saying to his girlfriend that he wanted love from her, but he did not receive it, so, foolishly, he searched for it elsewhere.)
"Lead me to the truth and I will follow you with my whole life." (This is his attempt at reconciliation, saying "If you lead me to true love, I will stay with you. Please don't end this relationship.")


I Gave You All: This is my favourite Mumford & Sons song at the moment, it's so moving. This is pretty much a continuation of the break up song, where he is saying to Ms. Mum that he gave her all of his heart, and just because of one mistake she is throwing it all away. There are tons of things to interpret in this song.
"Rip the earth in two with your mind, seal the urge which ensues with brass wires." (So it's saying that her world is falling apart, all because of a connection Marcus had with Lover. But that's all it was, a connection.)
"Force from the world a patient smile." (This is my favorite line from this song. He just wants some time to explain and heal.)
"How can you say that your truth is better than ours?" (This is hard to explain, but pretty much it's saying that how can you say that what you think happened is better than the love we shared?)
"The blind man sleeps in the doorway, his home." (Marcus, in the affair, was blind to what he had with Ms. Mum.)
"If only I had an enemy bigger than my apathy I could have won." (This relates back to Winter Winds, when he is saying to make the most of the time they have.)
"But you rip it from my hands and you swear it's all gone. And you rip out all I had just to say that you've won." (Ms. Mum wants to feel like she had control of the relationship by ending it and breaking Marcus' heart.)
So now it's over.


Little Lion Man: First, let's see what Marcus Mumford himself had to say about this awesome song:
"It’s a very personal story, so I won’t elaborate upon too much. Suffice to say, it was a situation in my life I wasn’t very happy with or proud of…"
Come on, that's a dead give away! (At least it is to me.) So this song follows the break up, and how he wasn't proud of the affair he had and breaking Ms. Mum's heart and ruining the relationship.
This song is, without a doubt, a conversation Marcus is having with himself.
"But it was not your fault but mine, and it was your heart on the line. I really f***ed it up this time, didn't I my dear?" (He is so upset with himself for what he did, because he ruined the relationship that he and Ms. Mum had.)
"Wasted on fixing all the problems that you made in your own head." (Just an assumption, but he's probably pissed at himself for making up problems between him and Ms. Mum to, in a way, justify his affair.)


Thistle and Weeds: Aftermath of the break up, Part I. He's really upset about what all happened, and it's devastating him.
"Spare me your judgements and spare your dreams, 'cause recently mine have been tearing my seems." (He doesn't want anymore hatred from Ms. Mum because he knows what he did was wrong.)
"I sit alone in this winter, clarity which clouds my mind. Alone in the wind and the rain you left me." (So the symbol of winter is apparent in this album, because it's time of death and endings. And Ms. Mum left Marcus alone. The clarity which clouds my mind is so strong, because he knows why she left, but it still haunts him.)
"Corrupted by the simple sniff of riches blown, I know you have felt much more love than you've show." (Here he is talking to himself. Remember in Winter Winds when I talked about the head over heart thing? Well, this explains that - she was good for him for monetary reasons. And he knows that he can be much more loving than he was.)
"The sky above us shoots to kill." (I just love this song. It leads up to After the Storm, because this is referring to lightening, and he sings "rain down on me." The storm is the whole aftermath of the breakup.)
"I begged you to hear me, there's more than flesh and bones." (Here he is saying that there is more than just sex, and he loved Ms. Mum, Lover was just an accident, if you will.)


Awake My Soul: I think that this song is kind of an epiphany for Marcus, when he realizes that he didn't find his soul mate and that he needs to change (or, at least, that's what I think he means). This song is so beautiful, but the meaning to it still trips me up, so I'll do my best. I'm also not completely sure where this one fits as a chapter, but I'm just going to leave it here (mostly because the end of Thistle and Weeds leads seamlessly into the beginning of this one).
"How fickle my heart and woozy my eyes." (Fickle = not constant or loyal, likely to change; Woozy = stupidly confused. This relates to Sigh No More, because he is easily changeable.)
"Lend me your hand and we'll conquer them all, but lend me your heart and I'll just let you fall. Lend me your eyes I can change what you see, but your soul you must keep totally free." (This is where Marcus is doubting himself and his ability to love. He feels that he will just ruin a relationship.)
"Awake my soul." (This is him wanting to change and be better, but it's hard for him to just yet.)


Another picture break!
Dust Bowl Dance: This song is based off of John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. Using SparkNotes, I looked up the themes, and here is one I found: "Refusal to be broken by the circumstances that conspire against them." I think this is a really important part of this song, because Marcus is coming to realize that he can't be broken by what happened. Let's interpret!
"I placed all my trust at the foot of this hill, and now I am sure my heart could never be still." (Marcus often uses the words "land" and "hill" in his songs, and I'm pretty sure they are symbolic of relationships. So he placed all of his love with Ms. Mum, and now his heart is broken.)
"Align my heart, my body, my mind, to face what I've done and do my time." (This is him admitting to what he did wrong, and realizing that he must accept the consequences of his actions.)
"Well yes sir, yes sir, yes it was me, I know what I've done 'cause I know what I've seen. I went out back and I got my gun." (In short, he's also admitting his faults. The gun part I just like, but I think it relates back to that theme I mentioned before.)


After the Storm: This is easily the most beautiful song on the whole "Sigh No More" album. It's heart wrenching, and is apologetic to Ms. Mum.
"And I took you by the hand, and we stood tall. And remembered our own land, what we lived for." (This is him and Ms. Mum looking back on their "land", otherwise known as their relationship.)
"But there will come a time, you'll see, with no more tears and love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears." (This is the apologetic part. I feel like Marcus is apologizing to both himself and Ms. Mum for what happened, but to know that love like it is supposed to be will be good when it comes.)
"Well I'm scared of what's behind, and what's before." (This is hesitation for what will happen next in his life. This is also how, on the website, this song is explained. Marcus is scared of what happened and what will happen. Yet, it's after the storm, so he has to move on.)

The Cave: This is a biggie. First, it draws from The Odyssey and Plato's Allegory of the Cave. I think this is the last chapter/song in their album/book because it is the most optimistic song they have. Marcus made a change and is ready to move on. Also, at pretty much every concert they play, this is the last song or the encore. Let's get started!
"It's empty in the valley of your heart, the sun it rises slowly as you walk away from all the fears and all the faults you've left behind." (Marcus is moving on from his troubled relationship with Ms. Mum and all of the bad things he did. Also, remember in Winter Winds when he says "You'll be happy and wholesome again, when the city clears and sun ascends"? That's important, because the sun is rising here!)
"But I will hold on hope." (This is huge. The "I will hold" is repeated in so many of his songs, and he is saying that he won't let this defeat him.)
"And I'll find strength in pain, and I will change my ways." (Marcus will be stronger from this relationship, and he will change his cheating ways.)
"So make your siren's calls and sing all you want, I will not hear what you have to say." (He won't cheat anymore, despite the temptations.)
"Because I need freedom now, and I need to know to live my life as it's meant to be." (He is ready to move on from the Ms. Mum relationship and see life in a positive way.)


So there you have it, folks! Those are my interpretations of the songs and the album as a whole. Understanding the meaning behind each song has made me fall in love with Mumford & Sons even more. Try listening to the songs in that order, and see if it makes sense to you.
And, if you made it this far, I will leave you with a few more pictures (as a reward). Toodle-oo! And thanks for reading!


Gosh I love these guys...my dear, darling Country Winston Marshall, Marcus Mumford, Ben Lovett, and Ted Dwane. Gotta love Mumford & His Sons!

Also, I have to thank my Mother for our conjoined efforts in the interpretation of this majestic album. And my Father for discussing these ideas with me, as well. Also my friend Laura Mora for listening to these ideas for almost 2 hours last night. Thanks for this Mummy! (I'm preparing for the Mummy Award, meaning greatness in all things Mumford, I'm sure the band will award me...)

9 comments:

  1. LOOOOOVE IT!!!!

    i think what's so great about them is you don't even need to know the actual reason, because you can relate it to your own life. :)

    love them! they really are super talented and by far one of my fav albums ever.

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  2. oh and one more thing. im like 96% sure that Winnie wrote Winter Winds.. your boy is good!!

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  3. Thanks Rocco!! :) this post took me forever to write, so I'm glad you like it.

    That's also why I love their album! Even though I think I figured it out, I love how everyone can relate to them. This my favorite album ever (until their next one comes out, haha)!!

    Did Winston write Winter Winds? That is so cool!! I'm so in love with him, Paul is old news. Haha

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  4. If this is theoretically true, then why aren't they in that order on the album?

    Also, in an interview:

    Q- When did you start writing the songs that are on Sigh no More?

    A- Marcus: I think that was the first one, “White Blank Page.” That and “Awake My Soul” we did at the same time. Same couple of days. And then we had three or four other songs that didn’t make it on to the record, but that we were just playing. One of which we sometimes still play live. It’s called “Feel the Tide”. And then the rest of them really came on the road. They came when we started touring.

    So it wasn't made in the order that you stated. ;D

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  5. Oh just to clarify, I don't think that's the order in which they were written, but just how I'd put them as chapters.
    Although, it actually could make sense if "White Blank Page" and "Awake My Soul" were written first. The exact order of the songs I'll probably always get wrong, I just sorted it that way to get my theory out there in an easy way. Thanks for sharing that! :)

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  6. I love love love Mumford and Sons and I had always thought this whole album sounded like the story of an affair. I wish I could get more people around me to fall in love with them too!

    I was thinking about going through and breaking down the songs, line by line, and writing about the music and key changes, but I just get too caught up in the art to do that! So I just end up listening to the album again and again :D I love this post :)

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  7. bravo to you on digging that deeply into the songs like you and your mom have. i cant say that i agree with you 100% on everything though. the first issue being that the band has made it known that the album was a collaborative effort by all members. obviously you've heard that your boy, winston primarily wrote winter winds (props to him) which you've used several times to come back and make reference to in hopes of tying your theory together. i just find that hard to follow because its been made a fact that winter winds primarily came from winston. thats the first reason, but also the religious background that Marcus has grown up with in his life is another factor that you make no mention of in any of your theory, which i think is leaving out a huge factor - especially regarding Marcus's songwriting efforts. all the same, i think its great that you were able to piece together an interesting hypothesis in the way you ordered the songs and i will take the time to revisit them in this order and open my mind up to your assumptions. all the same, we share mutual love of mumf+sons and irregardless of our own personal interpretation behind each song - i believe we can take many things away from them and find useful aspects in the lyrics that we can use in our daily lives. mumf+sons have stated that they mean to make music that matters and i truly believe they are on the right track. but at the same time - making music that matters to people usually is more than just telling ones own personal story, beginning to end, like you're stating. they want their listeners to make their own conclusions about these songs, which you obviously have done, but i think these songs are more than just revolving around 'eros' love. i see many instances where they lyrically speak of 'agape' love and they really delve deeply into screw ups that have happened in their own spiritual lifes as well. i just cant to grips and say that currently i believe the whole album is a story of 1 members personal love/break up life alone as you have done.

    i guess that just goes to my own values and where i place my thoughts when i listen to their music. perhaps that is the point. people finding their own meanings and value to each individual song.

    again, i commend your and your moms efforts in this album. ill share your concept with some others as see their thoughts on the subject.

    all the best,


    Shawn

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