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The Viva La Vida (song) meaning thread!

Rosadius93

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Wow!

This song i feel can be directed at any king, obviously Coldplay was influenced by real kings....

"Now the old king is dead, long live the king!" - the king singing the song is describing how when he took power he obviously killed the last king and everyone rejoiced at him becoming king.

"And I discovered that my castle stand, upon pillars of salt, pillars of sand" - the king realized how his support was only because he held power.

~Favorite Line~ "Just a puppet on a lonely string, oh who would ever want to be king?" - referring to how his power was not real and he was only a figure head. He now realizes that the "king" was a false title and he had no power.
 

ThirdTerrene

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Hey, I'm sorry if there was an interpretation like this posted, but I haven't read through the entire thread yet (it's long!).

Note: It would be helpful in understanding this if you think of any biblical references as being simple allusions, the same as if they were to make allusion to Greco-Roman mythology.

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own


Pretty basic here. He used to be important and powerful, but now he's on the bottom rung of society.

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemies eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing:
"Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!"
One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt, and pillars of sand


The first two lines expand upon the previous section: he was able to crush his enemies. I think that the crowd's singing is the people rejoicing after any number of revolutions. This is my favorite line because of the irony inherent in it. "Now the old king is dead! Long live the king" seems to me to indicate that after a bloody revolution, things are different, yet the same (Note: I hadn't realized this was a biblical allusion! This may be wrong, but I still love it.) The further lines indicate the the one who revolted was revolted upon. Also, I'm not sure why none of the posts I read mentioned this, but the "pillar of salt" is Lot's wife! I'm not sure what it means, though... >.<

I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can not explain
Once you know there was never, never an honest word
That was when I ruled the world


The first several lines sound so Christian that even I'm not sure of what it means now. (-_- <---staunch atheist) I think I'll come back to this once the line-by-line is done. Th final lines are, for some reason easier. I read them as this: I don't know why, but as soon I came to power, I lost my integrity, honesty and morals. This will tie into my main theory.

It was the wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in.
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People could not believe what I'd become
Revolutionaries Wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?


The first three lines describe the revolution that brought him to power. Blown-down doors and shattered windows create an image of a ravaged town, as does the sound of drums. The fourth line is like the final three lines of the chorus: I lost my integrity when I became powerful. Lines five and six describe the time before the revolution that ousted him. The final lines are just him being disillusioned.


I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can not explain
I know Saint Peter won't call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world


Again with the being unsure about lines 1-4. The last four are easier for me than for other people for some reason: Because I was so horrible when I was in power, I won't go to heaven, or this could just be an allusion to illustrate the point that the narrator won't receive any more "blessings." I think that the BUT is the most distinctive word in this entire song: I was dishonest when I "ruled the world," but now that I'm a lowly peasant, I have my integrity back.


Right, now it's time for my theories about this song. I think that it's a commentary about most systems of government. Downtrodden serfs see a vision of a paradise where everyone is an equal, they revolt, oust the current monarch, and replace him. ("'Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!'" However, the new system stagnates and the new monarch becomes corrupted, causing other serfs to become unhappy. ( "People could not believe what I'd become" "never an honest word; That was when I ruled the world" "Revolutionaries wait, for my head on a silver plate" ) An example of this, in real life, would be the many dynasties of China. An old society would be overrun by invaders, who, over time, would become another bloated, old society, which would be invaded by more people, etc.

Expanding on the "Systems of Government" theory, this song is about how the narrator was corrupted by the power he hand held, despite his previous convictions. However, once he was removed from power, he found that he had returned to his former honesty. The message of this would be, of course, "Power Corrupts."

If you want to read into it even more (read into messages that aren't there :laugh3:), then this song could be supporting anarchy. In my interpretation, it comments on the uselessness and corruption inherent in all systems of government, no matter how pure the initial motives of those in power are. This could also explain the title: Viva la Vida. This could be an allusion to the famous line "Viva la revolucion!" which means "Live the revolution!" This song is about being disillusioned with both governments and revolutions telling people to simply "Live the life," without any rulers, instead of trying to make a system work.

P.S. Death and All His Friends is a reference to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Death, War, Pestilence, Famine, Victory, whatever they are.

I just realized that I have no explanation for the first part of the chorus.

HOLY **** THIS IS A LONG POST!
 

mia1970

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Power-ful song

Obviously this song really resonates with people, which is why it is so popular and why so many people want to delve into the meaning. It may be based on some real king, but the circumstances of rise and fall, corruption and abuse of power, being manipulated by others, regret for past wrongdoing, are all within the scope of anyone who's been in a position of power. We can relate to it, because even though we may have never really "ruled the world", most of us have had times when we felt like we did, even if only for a moment.

I hear a lot of disagreement about the line "I know St. Peter won't/will call my name. " I thougt it was "will" until I read lyrics on Coldplay's site. Now I listen, and yeah, I hear "won't". Does it change to "will" at the end? hard to tell. I thought about how it would change the meaning of the song. I don't think it really does, because the point of this line is just that the king is thinking of his death. Whether or not he believes he should be forgiven, he feels uncertain about how he should be judged, "for some reason I can't explain". That's something we can personally relate to, and why I think people hear what they want in that line of the song.
 

mia1970

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Just another thought, regarding the lines referring to Jerusalem bells and missionaries--I think this refers the the "noble cause" that the person in power used to inspire people to follow him. He uses this cause to justify his actions, but in the end, he is doubtful that St. Peter will buy that excuse.

Again, a situation that is not specific to any one king, or person in power.
 

ThirdTerrene

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@ mia1970
Your idea about the noble cause is a really good one. The words are inspirational, and I can imagine someone using something like that in a speech.

And, as I said, I think that the entire point of the song is that it could apply to any number of rulers.

Also, I did research into the circumstances around the album, and there are a lot of references to Latin America and the Mexican (I think?) revolution. The album cover is Liberty Leading the People, and I think that Viva la Revolucion comes from the Mexican Revolution.
 

grapemist

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Viva La Vida

When I listen to the lyrics, I think of either King Louis XVI or Napoleon. Im leaning more toward King Louis XVI. His story is so tragic. He never had a fair shake from childhood and throughout his adulthood. He and his siblings were orphaned when both of his parents died from TB, Got married to Marie Antoinette at 15, became king at 20 and died at 37. He was very young and misunderstood in my opinion. His marriage was under a microscope from day one. How does a 15 year old kid know how to be husband? Then having to assume position as King and rule a country. He was inexperienced. He made a lot of bad decisions then tried to flee his country but was caught and imprisoned and later beheadded. He was a king who never pulled the strings. Chris' lyrics seem to fit his story perfectly.
 

livethelife16

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When I first heard the song I thought that it was referring to some king(Hence the line, "I used to rule the world") and that it corresponded to the album cover. Then as I listened to it more I thought that they might referring to Jesus or something like that. It just seems like that with the reference to Saint Peter and how you need to be "My mirror, my sword my shield, my missionaries in a foreign field" that they are reffering to some form of Christ.
IDK thats what i got.... :D
 

grapemist

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When I first heard the song I thought that it was referring to some king(Hence the line, "I used to rule the world") and that it corresponded to the album cover. Then as I listened to it more I thought that they might referring to Jesus or something like that. It just seems like that with the reference to Saint Peter and how you need to be "My mirror, my sword my shield, my missionaries in a foreign field" that they are reffering to some form of Christ.
IDK thats what i got.... :D
When I saw the album cover of Eugene Delacroix's painting, entitled "Liberty Leading The People" It's a depiction of the French Revolution of sorts. I instantly made the connection with song and King Louis XVI. The lyrics link up with the story of his life. Then again it links up with many kings. A king who never pulled the strings.
 

grues0me

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This song is clearly about Louis-Philippe of France.

In the french revolution, 1789–1793, Phillipe as a liberal supported the reformation of the french society. The royal court/family became very upset with him. People loved him, but his power was weak. He left to englandfor some time and returned in 1790 to france. He was called a "puppet" for the revolution by several people, amongst them Honoré Gabriel Riqueti.

He also was Colonel of the 14th Regiment of Dragoons (Cavalry) where he became something like a "peoples hero" and rose to the rank of Lieutenant-General because of many victories.

He was exiled because of his role in an act of treason against the republic.

In the exile he became a "homeless tramp" and felt very lonely, especially after his father was beheaded in the revolution because of letters he himself wrote to him. He traveled all over the world in that time.

After the abdication of Napoleon, and the restoration of the monarchy under his cousin King Louis XVIII, Louis-Philippe returned to France.

In 1830, the July Revolution overthrew Charles X. The the Chamber of Deputies denied his son his birthright, the crown and gave it instead to Louis-Philippe because of his Republican policies and his popularity with the masses.

"It was the wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in." - The revolution "let him in", made him king.

He was a loved king, a king for the "simple people".

Sadly power corrupted him and his rule became more and more monarchistic again, supporting the royal families and rich people. An economic crisis in 1847 led to the citizens of France revolting against him the following year. he gave power to his grandson and fled secretly to england. His grandson was dethroned and power was given to Louis Napoleon Bonaparte.

Louis-Philippe was the last king to rule France.

In the background of the music video the painting "La Liberté guidant le peuple" is visible, it shows the July Revolution 1830 that had just brought Louis-Philippe to the French throne.

PS: Louis-Philippe isnt Louis XVI; actually the story of Louis XVI doesnt resemble the lyrics at all.
 

soldat

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Heres my take on the lyrics... I dont think ive nailed all of it yet, but still.

Btw, originally I really thought given the references to Jerusalem, and Roman choirs, that it had something to do with the Romans invading Jerusalem {Ancient Israel} but that is really unsupported by a lot of other things.

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

*MEANING: Simply, He was a king, Now hes not. Moreover, because of the last line, he is now living a lowly life.

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemies' eyes
Listened as the crowd would sing
Now the old king is dead, long live the king
One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

*MEANING: Pretty obvious, he was very powerful, then he found himself trapped and his reign ended quickly.

I hear Jerusalem bells were ringing
Roman cavalry choirs were singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can't explain
Once you'd gone there was never
Never an honest word
And that was when I ruled the world

*MEANING: Key word here is were. Since you cant actually hear something now that happened in the past [were indicates a past event], you have to assume he is being TOLD that the bells and choirs were ringing and people singing. So hes being told , this to me indicates that either he is in hiding or he has been ousted from power, jailed or most likely, he is dead.

"Once you'd gone there was never" -- this line indicates to me either that he has been ousted from his position of king-- or he is dead. However the word "you'd" throws a wrench into this... you'd can refer to yourself-- but is usually not used as such except in a weird construction... "youd do the same thing" or something. Therefore this could be referring to someone actually leaving his life.

Im not sure about the rest of this verse.. the honest word part has thrown me, I think maybe he feels he was used as a puppet and once he is ousted {or dead} he realizes it doesn't matter and/or he was being lied to.

Oh i just got it. He hears that jerusalem bells were ringing etc-- as in the people love him, thats what he was being TOLD. but then he realized that none of that was true and there was never an honest word of the people who told him that but that was when he ruled the world (when he was king)

I think im very close to cracking the meaning on a lyric basis... still not sure about what event it is.


It was a wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People couldn't believe what I'd become
Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh, who would ever want to be king?

*MEANING: He was jailed {or in hiding or dead}, and he is being brought into a courthouse, public meeting area or more likely to an execution to have his head cut off] (hence the deathmarch drums) {or he crashes in a public meeting area if he wasnt jailed and was just in hiding}. If hes dead, perhaps his ghost or spirit?

and people "couldnt believe" what the old king had become (lowly beaten poor weak broken etc).

Revolutionaries want to kill him-- (think Louis the XVII --or was it XVI?).

The puppet thing may refer to how kings became figureheads into the renaissance... being used by their advisors etc... and now hes a puppet without supporters (hence lonely). And of course, wanted dead by revolutionaries and being a puppet-- "who would ever want to be king".

For some reason I can't explain
I know St Peter won't call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world\

*MEANING: This leads me to believe he is being marched out to be executed {or already dead}, as he is about to see St Peter and he doesnt believe hes on the list to make it to heaven (St Peters job) {because he was a bad king-- as his advisor's led him wrong?}

So in summary, I think it from the POV of a former king who has fallen to a lowly place in the world, and has been overthrown by a revolutionary government that is about to kill him {or has killed him}. At first i thought it might have to do with like the french revolution/democratic revolutions etc/power of the people. but then think of this line (not used in my verse by verse): "Now the old king is dead! love live the king!" If he is being told about the bells and choirs as Ive established, then this line is after he has been ousted as well, which means after him, is a new king. So no democractic etc... here. I think my analysis is a little incomplete.
 

josesbotelho

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"Revolutionaries want to kill him-- (think Louis the XVII --or was it XVI?). " luis the xvi-----
----------------------------------------------------

look to the background painting on the video....
"La Liberté guidant le peuple"
revolution in france...

grues0me, i like you're point on the meaning i think it might be the closest one...
i have my own understandment on the background message (if really there is one) but it might be too system of a down inspired on, to be what it really means...

anyways, great song great rythm
 

lbhoffman1

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I believe both ......the revolution and religion theories are well thought, but the song could go either way. The only way to find out ...is to ask the writer or ask the Oracle. We may never really know.
 

lbhoffman1

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There are religious ....references in songs of the past as well ..............Kingdom Come, God put a smile .....Just a thought ... Chris's son is named Moses ...These things would make me lean toward the Religious side of the song.
 

GinoMan2440

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Biblical References do not equal being deluded/religious (synonymous).

They are populist ways of getting across a point.

In 'Viva La Vida' the point is that power and control corrupts.
There's obviously two different worldviews presented here... the one who says "flatland is all we have" and the other that says "there's more".... Religion sucks... agreed... but that doesn't mean there isn't more... that doesn't mean that God isn't a reality, and not just "a" reality, but the ultimate reality. Just because you can support the view that "flatland" is all we have with logic and "science" it doesn't make it the right opinion.

Your interpretation bears out this fact. I must say that it seems quite shallow... if you did ascribe to some sort of religion then this song is a gold mine of exegesis but instead you delude that depth of meaning and richness of reality to the song with your bias and godless non-reasoning.

For this... you are in error. you cannot merely disregard spirituality as "deluded". You are a human being, a fusion between both a spiritual and a physical world. you occupy a space in both of those realms. you may claim to not be into spiritual things, but the fact of your humanity testifies that you are, unavoidably and irrevocably, a spiritual being.

that being said..............

Here's my exegesis:

"I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own..."

I think there's some credence to the idea that the song describes life from Jesus' perspective. even the title "viva la vida" which means "live the life" is an allusion to the Bible. Jesus claims that the way he's teaching is the best possible way to live your life. the title almost sounds like a command "Live the life!" just as Jesus said "I have come that you may have life and have it to the fullest!". The Second line seems consistent with this interpretation because it describes God's sovereign control over the seas. Jesus would have slept alone instead of being surrounded by angels who adored him and cared for his every need... in fact, he wouldn't have slept in heaven, but now he not only has to experience this thing called "sleep" but experience in loneliness. Reformed christians would say that Jesus went to hell during his death and that this lonely sleep is an allusion to the three days he was dead. If the song indeed references Jesus, then the last line could be an allusion to his servanthood. Both Matthew and Mark record Jesus as saying: "The Son of Man (a phrase describing the messiah (g: christos)) did not come to serve, but to be served as a ransom of many"

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemies eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing:
"Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!"

The Jesus interpretation is a little trickier to catch in this stanza because the dice is kinda a strange reference given the interpretation. and the last line is a bit tricky to decode as far as who the people are referring to. In ancient times, they believed that because God is ultimately sovereign, that "random" didn't exist. Instead, the believed that God controlled every event that happened and that every event that happened happened for a reason. so if you rolled the dice to make a decision, God was ultimately in sovereign control of the results of those dice. He had sovereignly decreed before the foundation of the earth that the dice would land that way that the decision that was made from those dice was God's sovereign decree.... assuming God's sovereign control as reformed christians do to this day, this makes sense. God's sovereignty would mean also that he triumphed over his enemies at all times. If you're a lowly angel and you're up against the sovereign God of the universe, you're screwed! So his enemy is rightly fearful. The last line is a very interesting way of looking at things... it could refer to a lot of things, Abraham becoming a jew based on God's revelation. specifically that instead of many gods, there is one God. so the old king (the gods) is dead, long live the (new) king (God (h: Elohim)). it could also refer to Pharaoh (the old king) and God (long live the king). this seems like a better interpretation since he seems to be referring to a past time when the old king ruled and he deposed him in the past. another possible interpretation is that Jesus is referring to the laws of sin and the law of grace. so the old king is the law of sin that rules over us and now him, the new king, can rule over our hearts and free us from the laws of sin and death. the only weakness in this interpretation is that when Jesus sings the song, he is on earth after giving up his royal, Godly power to live among us. The bible says that Jesus didn't consider equality with God something to be grasped. so when Jesus came to earth, he gave up his God power to be like us. if so, then it seems kinda strange that Jesus is talking about how he no longer has that power at a time when he would have gotten it back (after his resurrection). it's for this reason that I favor the second interpretation that he's referring to pharaoh and himself.

One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt, and pillars of sand

Jesus gives the keys to the kingdom to his church. This phrase "give the keys to the kingdom" is actually an ancient hebrew expression. what it meant to a hebrew person was that the person that held the keys, had the authority to bind and loose doctrine. you see... rabbis each had interpretations of the torah, and so this interpretation they called their "yoke". so when Jesus says "My yoke is easy and my burden is light" he's referring to his interpretation of scripture, or specifically the things that he allowed and forbid (loosed and bound respectively they called them). Any rule in a rabbi's yoke that forbid you from doing something was called "binding" and any rule that opened you up to doing things and allowed you to do them, was called "loosing". and a person who had quite a lot of bindings in his yoke, was said to have a heavy yoke. Jesus interestingly says that his yoke is "light" so one moment Jesus holds the keys to the kingdom, and the next "the walls were closed on me". this is actually quite a difficult part considering that you'd expect doors to be closed on Jesus, not walls. this could possibly be a neo-idiomatic expression used for an old context. in that case, Jesus would be saying first everything's great and I have the power to bind and loose, next the walls are closing in and I'm about to die. Next we see an interesting phrase: "And I discovered that my castles stand, upon pillers of salt and pillers of sand". The piller of salt could be a reference to the old testament and the pillers of sand could be a reference to the new testament. if so, the pillers of salt are a reference to the story of sodom and gommorha when Lot's wife turns back and turns into a piller of salt, and the piller of sand a reference to Jesus' sermon on the mound. If so, it's difficult to decipher what this phrase is saying exactly... and it begs the question "well, what were Jesus' castles? It could also reference the disciples who scattered when Jesus was killed. This scattering would be the disciples running away because their lives are not founded on Jesus Christ, but instead on pillers of salt and sand, the old testament lust for sin and the new testament lack of a firm foundation on which to stand in one's life. thus they crumbled and scattered as if a million pieces.

I hear Jerusalem bells a-ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can not explain
Once you know there was never, never an honest word
That was when I ruled the world

I think the first two lines are Jesus' enumeration of the two groups that wanted him dead: the jews (jerusalem bells a-ringing) and the gentiles/romans (Roman Cavalry choirs are singing)... Jesus appeals then to his followers. In Genesis when it talks about the creation of the world in Genesis 2, it says that the Collective of persons of the elohim (who is a single being) decide to make humans in their own image... a three in one-ness entity. if you think about how a human works, they are a body, and a spirit, and a soul which consists of a mind, a will, and a heart. in this way, we are modeled after this same primary three persons in one being. Later, in the New Testament, it talks about how God is conforming us to the image of Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul makes a reference to the mirror in describing how we see poorly our old life and are now being seen clearly in love (Jesus Christ). The N/T also refers to us as the army of God, his defenders who war against not flesh and blood but powers and principalities of the air in this dark age. He also charges us to preach the good news that God, through his son is gonna put everything back together, he's gonna repair the whole universe and set everything ultimately right again and that we get to be part of this awesome communal-putting-everything-back-together work of creation. The next part is hard to make sense of. it seems that Jesus is expressing that somehow, once you know there was an honest word, that was when I ruled the world... I removed the "never, never" because it seems it might be a double negative of emphasis. This could be a reference to when Jesus says "you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free". One thing to notice is that when Jesus ruled the world was before he was incarnated. keeping this in mind, "once you know there was never, never an honest word, but that was when I ruled the world" seems to make a bit more sense, when Jesus ruled the world, the world practiced deceit because of it's sin. Since sin which is the most elemental form of dishonesty pervaded, then never an honest world when Jesus ruled the world makes sense... this is highlighting what Jesus has now come to fix.

It was the wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in.
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People could not believe what I'd become
Revolutionaries Wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?

the first two lines almost scream satan if you can see it... angels are spirits.. in the ancient languages the Bible was written in (hebrew and greek) the word for spirit was "ruah" and "pneuma" respectively. When someone has fluid in the lungs where they breathe, we call it "pneumonia" which is a derivative of the latter greek term. pneuma/ruah means "spirit, breath, wind, movement of air" it is sometimes translated "breath of life" and it's etymology is based on the simple observation that humans have this fundamental in and out cadence, this rhythm to their bodies that if that beat stops, that the person ceases to live and that if the person has this cadance then that person is alive. the ancients simply associated this cadance to the essence of who the person was and thus the concept of spirit was born. anywhere you see "wind" or "breath" or "spirit", the words are interchangable. so for this wicked and wild spirit, to blow down the doors (This event was called "the fall" and it's at this point where God now has to bail us out of our sin prisons that we've made for ourselves. Jesus now must be let in so that we are no longer in a place where Jesus/God is absent from our lives. Shattered glass doesn't seem to have a biblical analogue and thus seems out of place but given the whole phrase "shattered windows and the sound of drums" we realize that the shattered windows is referring to the broken people who are in the world marching to the beat of an evil drum (sin). People couldn't believe what I'd become seems to be a reference to when Jesus returned to Nazareth to minister and the people said "isn't this mary and joseph's son, who was born illegitimately? and he's claiming to be the messiah?". The Revolutionaries who wait for Jesus Head on a silver plate could be a reference to the agents of heaven who wanted to depose of God in heaven and still do to this day (they are no longer angels but demons and the enemy himself: satan). it could also be a sarcastic reference to the pharisees who wanted him dead. they were far from revolutionary but they tried to put themselves out there as though they were. Jesus doesn't seem like he'd be a puppet but if you think about how he was under the orders of God the Father to die for the sins of the whole world, and that he had to partake of this cup alone, perhaps "puppet on a lonely string" is quite appropriate. and then he says "Oh who would ever want to be king?" given the circumstances the king had to go through to keep his subjects and fix everything they broke, who WOULD ever want to be king?

I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can not explain
I know Saint Peter won't call my name
Never an honest word
And that was when I ruled the world
(Ohhhhh Ohhh Ohhh)

Hear Jerusalem bells are ringings
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can not explain
I know Saint Peter will call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world
Oooooh Oooooh Oooooh

These chori are the same, but it's sung twice. the only change in these chori is that it now says "I know saint peter won't call my name" now, catholics believe that peter is the first magisterium of the Church. and that he had a line of successors and that he really does stand at the gates of heaven guarding it and that whoever's name he calls from the book of life will get to enter. Still It should also be noted that Jesus has just been resurrected but is still on earth and thus in no posession of his heavenly power. The only event that really corresponds to this phrase in scripture is the specific incident where Peter denied Christ three times... it's a lot easier to then see where "never an honest word" come from... but that was when Christ ruled the world suddenly becomes difficult, unless the intent here is that even in death he ruled the world, he'd never really lost his control over everything. as it says at the end of Matthew: "All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me, therefore....." Given this data, I have to chose the latter interpretation based on peter's denial of the Christ.

In conclusion, the interpretation that the song is Christ talking casually about how things used to be when he ruled the world and the changes he's made through his death and resurrection seems to stand up quite well given a further analysis. It takes this kind of examination to find the meaning of any text, whether the scripture or a song by Coldplay. Things used to be really bad because of sin.... but that's when Christ ruled the world.
 

DarkCore

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Sep 16, 2008
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There are too many references to jesus christ, he's the man of the song.
But someone's right saying that this is not a song about him.
It talks about having power and losing it.
To be on top, and fall behind.

Feel the fear of being nobody.

He used to rule the world (in cristianity) before incarnating a human body.
He just needed a word to have the sea rise up, like when he divided the sea to have moses pass through it escaping from egyptians.
Now he's alone (in the morning) because avoided from everyone, disliked from many.
He has to sweep some roads. Roads that belong to him if definitely he's God.
Rolling the dice means controlling the fate. Fate is the random machine that makes things happen, it's a metaphore to say that he controlled destiny.
He felt the fear in the enemy's eyes, because you know Christ and God are the same thing. And God of the Old Testament was a strong and cruel one.
People feared his unlimited power.
Of course the crowd would sing "Long live the king" to Pilate after crucifying Christ that would be King Of The Jews...they wanted to rather free Barabba.
One minute Christ was high in the skies, he held the key of the world, but now on earth the walls are closing on him, that means that his time is running out, nobody likes him, they want him to leave or die.
His castle? Won't last if its built on sand and salt as in the testament.
It has no solid bases.
Jerusalem, there he is.
The Cavalry is singing.
Then just an invocation to god and next to his disciples.
To God: be my mirror, sword, and shield.
To disciples and all christians: be my missionaries in a foreign field.
And for some reason he cannot explain once you go there, on earth, as a human being, you won't find honesty so easily.
Who could impersonate the wind if not God?
That's a reference to his straordinary powers.
People could not believe what he would have become, they were frightened.
Kings have fear of the power Christ had as a human and not a God, to make large part of people follow him. Don't you know that was amazing? It was awesome, you know hundreds of people beleiving in you. An emperor would have never stood this.
So there had to be a revolution in how things were going.
They had to have his head on a silver plate.
But they didn't know he was just a puppet...
And after all he had just a single string......held by....God, you know he just needs one.
He was moved by God's hands, but as a human being he didn't want to be king of the earth, he was already king of kings in heaven.
Who would ever want to be king? Not him. You were wrong Romans!
And he knows that Peter would have denied him 3 times before the sun had rosen up.


That's my interpretation, it seems so easy to me.
I apologize if my english's not perfect, but i'm not a mothertongue.
:D
Michele
 

DarkCore

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Sep 16, 2008
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ah! by the way, "viva la vida" means "we like the life" "hooray for life" or simply "like the life!" "love the life"


i'm sure of it.
you know?
 

Sarmadical

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ok, i signed up to the forums JUST to post to this

IMO, i seriously believe that the song is a cross between relegion and history. It combines the 2 in a deep way, and this is what i found, i believe this is probably the BEST explanation for the lyrics, as it explains the historical aspect (the revolutions) and the biblical aspect (Jesus Christ, St.Peter etc)
(btw this is not my post it is something i found)

Im pretty sure you guys will like this explanation, cause i sure agree with it



I'll re-post an answer I gave to the same question elsewhere.

Okay, so I am seeing tons of crap out there about what this particular song means. And, most of them (in my opinion) are way, WAY off the mark.

There is a very long-winded explanation trying to compare the song to Napoleon. That is wrong for any number of reasons which a basic history book would reveal. Napoleon never went to Jerusalem, so far as I recall (and I have studied his reign quite a bit - but if anyone else knows he did, please correct me). Also, "Roman cavalry choirs" are anachronistic to the Napoleonic era. And, it would be odd to pen such an overtly religious song in reference to Napoleon, a ruler who was at worst irreligious, or at best agnostic to organized religion.

Also, there are references to the doomed Bourbon king, Louis XVI. Again, I believe that is flat-out wrong too, for most of the above reasons. I think these folks feel this way, mainly for the reference to the "head on a silver plate" and the overall remarks about lost power. France was a Catholic nation, so the references to Jerusalem and Saint Peter might fit. But, again, it would be anachronistic for Louis XVI to reference a Roman Cavalry choir.

However, if you want my best guess, I think the song is about 1 of 2 potential people: the Roman Emperor Tiberius (heir to Augustus), or else Pontius Pilate.

For Pontius Pilate, I think there are a couple of pieces of compelling evidence. First, there is are the References to "Roman Cavalry choir" and "Jerusalem." Pontius Pilate was the governor of Jerusalem during the period of Christ, and (as everyone knows the tale) condemned Christ to crucifixion (on the mount known as Calvary). For his deed, Pilate was condemned to walk the Earth for eternity.

I think this could be revealed in the title, "Viva la Vida." There are several ways to interpret and translate the phrase. But, a common one would be "the life lives," or maybe something like "long live the life." However, apparently in Mexico (see the source) where the phrase originated, it can be interpreted as "Long Live Life." So, that could really speak well to Pilate's punishment to live forever and walk the Earth in despair, wringing his hands.

I think you can draw some other pretty clear parallels. As Roman Governor, he was the representative of the Emperor in Rome. So, the song could be the reflection of a man who was once so powerful, but now finds himself cast down from power. Think about it: the Roman Empire is long gone, and Pilate (walking the Earth today) would be led to reflect how he used to be so powerful, but that power is now all gone, perhaps reminiscent of the inscription from Shelley's "Ozymandias."

And, of course, there is the reflection of what philosophers have called the "slave philosophy" of Christianity. That is, the notion that the Christian religion, in preaching humility, forgiveness, and that "the meek shall inherit the Earth," would be capable of overcoming the greatest empire the world has ever seen (the Romans). This could be a good interpretation for the references to missionaries, etc. And of course, there is the point about Saint Peter not allowing the speaker into Heaven. As Pontius Pilate was doomed to forever walk the Earth, I think that is pretty clear.

Now, if you want *MY* personal opinion, I think there is actually a stronger case for Tiberius, the second Roman Emperor. He reigned during the life of Christ and Peter, which would explain the references to goings-on in Jerusalem. The Roman Emperor was viewed as a living god, virtually omnipotent, which would explain the references to controlling the sun. Tiberius was also a ruthless and successful Roman general, which would explain the comments about "roll the dice" (as in, in battle) and seeing the "fear in my enemy's eyes."

I believe the "old king" could easily be interpreted as Augustus (the first emperor), upon whose death in AD 14 Tiberius was declared the new king.

But, what I find most intriguing is the following passage:

Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?

In 31 AD, the Praetorian Prefect Lucius Aelius Sejanus attempted to organize a coup to overthrow Tiberius and install himself as the new emperor. In the end, the plot was discovered and the conspirators were tried for treason (and punished ... severely). The trial also paved the way for a reign of terror of sorts, where Tiberius purged a number of potential threats to his power, leading to many deaths (including many of the Senatorial ranks).

However, the trials and the fear aroused by the conspiracy had an exhausting effect on Tiberius. Eventually, and in an almost unheard of step, he voluntarily went into exile on the island of Capri, leaving the administration of Rome to his bureaucrats. The conventional historical wisdom is Tiberius grew paranoid of the plots and came to loathe the position of ruler; essentially, becoming an unwilling ruler. Now, I think the whole episode of Sejanus is reflected in that telling passage:

Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?

And finally, we have the reference of Saint Peter I think is also telling. Tiberius was the emperor during the life and crucifixion of Jesus Christ; in fact, his representative (the Governor, Pontius Pilate) actually condemned Jesus Christ to that fate. As such, it would not be implausible for Tiberius, in exile, having seeing the rise of Christianity, to fear he would not be allowed into Heaven (by Saint Peter, the gatekeeper of Heaven) for what he had allowed to happen.

Now, there is one issue with the above interpretation. Scholars tend to believe Peter only died (by crucifixion) around 64 AD, whereas Tiberius died in 37 AD. So, how would Tiberius know to call him "Saint Peter" as that process of beatification and sainthood must have occurred after Tiberius was already deceased? I would argue that it is simply poetic license on the part of Chris Martin. If he had simply said "I know Peter won't call my name," beyond noticeably missing the extra syllable, no one would easily be able to understand who "Peter" was, and the religious impact would be lost.

Just my 2 pence, but I think it fits rather nicely myself :) Cheers.
3 months ago
Source(s):
Pontius Pilate:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontius_pil...
http://www.coldplaying.com/index.php?nam...

Tiberius:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiberius

- Tammy Ami Oh


I found this on yahoo answers, somebody posted this, so you can check there, but seriously that is one heck of a nice explanation that ties the relegious and historical aspect together. AND IT GIVES SOURCES :O LOL!
 

celeste_lowe

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Sep 20, 2008
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Ok, can we please just get something straight? Viva la Vida is NOT a reference to Jesus, Pontius Pilot or the bible.

This is VERY obvious if one takes the time to listen to the song (and look at the album cover!!). The song is clearly referencing King Louis-Philippe of France and the French Revolution.

Some very obvious reasons why it is NOT about Jesus.

1. Jesus never ruled the world. In all accounts, Jesus was a passive man and not someone who would be referred to as “feel the fear in my enemies eyes” when he was alive. Didn’t Jesus have any enemies? Isn’t that what Christianity is SUPPOSED to be about????

2. Jesus was never killed by Revolutionaries. He was the revolutionary introducing the idea of Christianity (although it took MANY years after Jesus’ death for Christianity to be bastardised into what we know it to be today).

For all those Christians out their fixated on Jesus and reading him into everything, why not get out your history books and read up on another historical figure King Louis Philippe of France, the last French King. If you are too lazy or don’t have time between church and bible studies, grues0me”s explanation below is very accurate and interesting. There is more out there than the bible and Jesus as I am sure the members of Coldplay were aware when writing this fantastic song!
Revolution!!!!! Viva la Vida !!!!!!
 

Sarmadical

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Sep 20, 2008
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dude, did you not read that, it never said it was DIRECTLY about jesus, it clearly said that it was about Tiberius, NOT jesus, it just has biblical reference.

But ya, the whole point of figuring out whole point of the meaning behind a song is what it means to YOU!, so for all we know, it could have NOTHING to do with ANY of the topics we mentioned.

But we can generally see from the lyrics its talkin about a king of some sort and his downfall. Also as you said to look at the album cover and see that its a about French revolution, if you go back a couple of pages, someone posted something where one of the band members explains that the album cover has nothing to do with the song, and it just reflects the general album which is about revolionary ideas etc.

So it does NOT have to be something about the French Revolution
 

celeste_lowe

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Sep 20, 2008
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I actually wasn't referring to your interpretation, but to the many references to the song being about Jesus by other contributors to this link.

I applaud you for offering another interpretation that does not infer that the song is about Jesus or God or some other biblical character.

However, I still believe that the song is referring to King Louis Philippe of France. If you get the time, scroll back to the first page of this link and read gruesome”s explanation.
 
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