Let England Shake by PJ Harvey Lyrics Meaning – Unearthing the Haunting Elegy of Britain


You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for PJ Harvey's Let England Shake at Lyrics.org.
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning

Lyrics

Take me back to Constantinople
No, you can’t go back to Constantinople
Take me back to Constantinople
No, you can’t go back to Constantinople
Take me back to Constantinople
No, you can’t go back to Constantinople
Take me back to Constantinople
No, you can’t go back to Constantinople

The West’s asleep, let England shake
Weighted down with silent dead
I fear our blood won’t rise again
Oh, rise again

England’s dancing days are done
Another day, Bobby, for you to come home
And tell me indifference has won, won, won

Smile, smile Bobby, with your lovely mouth
Pack up your troubles, let’s head out
To the fountain, fountain of death
And splash about, swim back, back, back, back, back, back, back, back

Until the day is ending
And the birds are silent
And the insects are courting
By the shores
By the shores, heavy stones are falling

Smile, smile Bobby, with your lovely mouth
Pack up your troubles, let’s head out
To the fountain, fountain of death
Splash about, swim back, forth, back, back, back, back, back
Laugh out loud

Take me back to Constantinople
No, you can’t go back to Constantinople
Take me back to Constantinople
No, you can’t go back to Constantinople

Take me back to Constantinople
No, you can’t go back to Constantinople
Take me back to Constantinople
No, you can’t go back to Constantinople
Take me back to Constantinople
No, you can’t go back to Constantinople

Take me back to Constantinople
No, you can’t go back to Constantinople
Take me

Full Lyrics

Amid the canon of PJ Harvey’s work, ‘Let England Shake’ stands as a seismic wave crashing into the placid waters of popular music. Near the song’s tenth anniversary, its haunting reverberations can still be discerned amidst the cacophony of contemporary tunes.

A reflection etched into the grooves of solitude and melancholy, this song unfolds like an ancient map, revealing a landscape of historical gravity and emotional depth, where Harvey deftly weaves the personal with the geopolitical, penning a requiem for a nation’s soul.

The Tectonic Shift of Memory and Loss

With the chorus’s refrain, ‘Take me back to Constantinople,’ there’s a sense of longing for a return to origins, a place that no longer exists. Constantinople, as a symbol, embodies the profound yearning for what was but can never be again. It invites contemplation on the relentless march of time and the impossibility of turning back the clock.

In this invocation, the listener cannot help but feel the gravity of empires fallen and the fleeting nature of national identity. Harvey touches upon the loss of empire and identity, coaxing us to reflect on England’s historical trajectory with a wistful but unrelenting gaze.

Dancing on the Grave of Empire

‘England’s dancing days are done,’ sings Harvey, highlighting the nation’s faded glory and the somber realization that the grandiose celebrations of the past are over. This sobering admission acts as a mirror to a country grappling with its present by looking into the shadows of its history.

These words carry the weight of a eulogy, mourning the end of an era where dominance and power were the measures of greatness. The brittleness of triumph, now turned to ash, whispers through the melody, forcing England to face the music of its own mortality.

Splashing in the Fountain of Death

The metaphor of ‘the fountain, fountain of death’ is one of the song’s most enigmatic and powerful images. Harvey speaks of wading into the macabre waters — perhaps those of time or of shared historical bloodshed — that reflect and distort like a darkened mirror.

The repeated invitation to ‘splash about, swim back’ suggests an unwillingness to linger on mortality’s inevitability. Instead, Harvey proposes an unsettling celebration within the fathoms of finality, a proposition to own and accept the intertwined dance of creation and destruction.

The Soul’s Whisper in History’s Howl – The Hidden Meaning

Beneath the surface of ‘Let England Shake,’ lies a hidden tapestry, the interplay between silence and noise—’Where the birds are silent and the insects are courting.’ Harvey contrasts the quiet aftermath of devastation with the subtle, persistent rhythms of life that endure.

This juxtaposition renders the song as an introspective quietude among the clamor of a country’s lionized past against its uncertain future. It suggests our small yet essential place in the grand narrative, a sobering reminder of the robust fragility of existence.

Ephemeral Echoes and Timeless Refrains

The repetition of ‘smile, smile Bobby, with your lovely mouth’ and the cyclical pleas to return to Constantinople serve as glue binding the song in a form that mimics historical cycles. These lines resonate as echoes of past joy and pleas for historical clarity or revision, guiding the listener along a spiraling path of reflection.

Harvey’s ability to carve such memorable phrases from the bedrock of her songcraft situates ‘Let England Shake’ as a mnemonic device, a chant that lingers in the mind and provokes the heart with each haunting rendition.

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