Tales of Brave Ulysses – Deciphering the Psychedelic Odyssey


You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Cream's Tales of Brave Ulysses at Lyrics.org.
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning
  4. A Voyage through Time and Psyche
  5. Uncovering The Siren’s Seductive Song
  6. Sensual Escapism in a Psychedelic Era
  7. The Timeless Allure of Aphrodite
  8. Decoding the Mindscape’s Deep Blue Ripples

Lyrics

You thought the leaden winter
Would bring you down forever
But you rode upon a steamer
To the violence of the sun

And the colors of the sea
Blind your eyes with trembling mermaids
And you touch the distant beaches
With tales of brave Ulysses

How his naked ears were tortured
By the sirens sweetly singing
For the sparkling waves are calling you
To touch their white laced lips

And you see a girl?s brown body
Dancing through the turquoise
And her footprints make you follow
Where the sky loves the sea

And when your fingers find her
She drowns you in her body
Carving deep blue ripples
In the tissues of your mind

The tiny purple fishes
Run laughing through your fingers
And you want to take her with you
To the hard land of the winter

Her name is Aphrodite
And she rides a crimson shell
You know you cannot leave her
For you touched the distant sands

With tales of brave Ulysses
How his naked ears were tortured
By the sirens sweetly singing
Yeah

The tiny purple fishes
Run laughing through your fingers
You want to take her with you
To the hard land of the winter

Full Lyrics

As the guitar wails and the drums beat a rhythm as erratic as the waves, ‘Tales of Brave Ulysses,’ a song by the 1960s power trio Cream, unravels a tapestry of myth and sensory exploration. The lyrics, a collision of the ancient and the psychedelic, take listeners on a voyage not just across oceans but into the depths of the human experience.

This song, rife with allusion and metaphor, offers more than just a narrative; it provides a window into the soul of an era, a reflection of inner turmoil and the quest for meaning in a time when the very fabric of society seemed as mutable as the sea. Each verse is a current pulling us further from the shore of the literal, inviting interpretation and demanding introspection.

A Voyage through Time and Psyche

At its core, the song is a journey, one that parallels the epic quests of Homer’s Ulysses while echoing the personal odysseys of the 1960s. Lines like ‘You thought the leaden winter / Would bring you down forever’ speak to a common sentiment of that era, a sense of enduring a perpetual cold spell in search of something sunnier, something more vivid.

The ‘violence of the sun’ is a profound contradiction, evoking both destruction and rebirth, paralleling the tumultuous cultural revolutions of the song’s time. It marks an abrupt transition from the inertia of despair to the dynamic, often brutal, pursuit of enlightenment and change.

Uncovering The Siren’s Seductive Song

The invocation of ‘tales of brave Ulysses’ introduces the hero’s struggle, but in this adaptation, it’s the listener’s ‘naked ears’ that are ‘tortured / By the sirens sweetly singing.’ Here, the sirens aren’t just sea creatures luring sailors to their doom; they are metaphors for the alluring and dangerous distractions of life, the beguiling traps of physical pleasures and material desires.

Yet, the ‘sparkling waves calling you’ suggest an irresistible allure to the unknown and a seduction that is as promising as it is perilous. It conjures an image of people seeking enlightenment and transcendence, where the danger lies not in the pursuit itself but in the susceptibility to being consumed by it.

Sensual Escapism in a Psychedelic Era

‘The colors of the sea / Blind your eyes’ with visions so vivid they overwhelm the senses, an experience akin to the psychedelic trips that marked the counterculture movement. The ‘trembling mermaids’ symbolize the otherworldly beings that populate the altered states of consciousness, merging fantasy and reality in a hypnotic dance.

The narrative’s transition to land with ‘And you see a girl’s brown body / Dancing through the turquoise’ brings the escapism back to earth, yet remains tethered to the dreamlike with such visceral, chromatic descriptions, reflecting a world where reality is infused with the surreal.

The Timeless Allure of Aphrodite

By naming the woman ‘Aphrodite’ and giving her a ‘crimson shell,’ the songwriters weave in the symbol of timeless beauty and unattainable love. She is both a deity of ancient myth and a metaphor for the ultimate desire, anchoring the song’s themes of love, lust, and the human yearning for the divine.

This embodiment of love and sensual pleasure anchors the traveler, suggesting that no matter how far one roams in search of wisdom or adventure, the pull of love is a force as mighty as the sea and as enduring as the Gods themselves.

Decoding the Mindscape’s Deep Blue Ripples

In a climax of inner and outer exploration, ‘She drowns you in her body / Carving deep blue ripples / In the tissues of your mind’ speaks to the profound impact of intimate connection, how it can envelop and alter one’s very consciousness, leaving an indelible mark on the psyche.

These ‘deep blue ripples’ are the song’s richest metaphor: the ripples are experiences that reshape us, the blue is both the sadness and the depth of the ocean, and the mind is the canvas on which our life is painted. The song concludes with an acknowledgment of the inescapable effect of these experiences, as both the curse and the beauty of being human.

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