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The Viva La Vida (song) meaning thread!


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Why would you not be able to explain non-admission to Heaven, after not speaking an honest word?

 

sorry in advance for the lengthy response...

 

i read someone's interpretation somewhere on this forum that i think explains this issue.. something about dictators always believing that "history will prove them right". i agree with it. the persona in the song doesn't appear to me to be very remorseful for his sins. see the way he says "never honest work, but that was when i ruled the world" - suggests to me that he's justifying what he's done based on the socially accepted practices of the times. and he seems to not be able to get over the fact that he used to rule the world - that he doesn't anymore is of greater concern to him than any wrongdoing he did. when he says "the walls closed on me" and "my head on a silver plate", its full of self-pity, and he almost says "feel the fear in my enemies' eyes" with pride.

 

I agree it's probably about an ancient Roman leader falling from his throne.. while there is clearly a religious dimension to this persona, i doubt very much that it's about Jesus, for various reasons, but mainly due to the reference to "my enemies' eyes"... even those who crucified Him would never be referred to as "Jesus' enemies"... Christianity just doesn't work that way.

 

plus, i've noticed some people (not so much here, but elsewhere) surprised by CP's religious references in the new material... GPASUYF clearly indicates faith of some sort, so i don't know why...

 

feel free to disagree (not that you needed my permission...)

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sorry in advance for the lengthy response...

 

i read someone's interpretation somewhere on this forum that i think explains this issue.. something about dictators always believing that "history will prove them right". i agree with it. the persona in the song doesn't appear to me to be very remorseful for his sins. see the way he says "never honest work, but that was when i ruled the world" - suggests to me that he's justifying what he's done based on the socially accepted practices of the times. and he seems to not be able to get over the fact that he used to rule the world - that he doesn't anymore is of greater concern to him than any wrongdoing he did. when he says "the walls closed on me" and "my head on a silver plate", its full of self-pity, and he almost says "feel the fear in my enemies' eyes" with pride.

 

I agree it's probably about an ancient Roman leader falling from his throne.. while there is clearly a religious dimension to this persona, i doubt very much that it's about Jesus, for various reasons, but mainly due to the reference to "my enemies' eyes"... even those who crucified Him would never be referred to as "Jesus' enemies"... Christianity just doesn't work that way.

 

plus, i've noticed some people (not so much here, but elsewhere) surprised by CP's religious references in the new material... GPASUYF clearly indicates faith of some sort, so i don't know why...

 

feel free to disagree (not that you needed my permission...)

You are right, I don't think anymore about Jesus because of those 2 lines: Feel the fear...- and- revolutionaries.... maybe about power or yeah a dictator

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I'll tell you the first thing that came to my mind when I heard this song: Napoleon Bonaparte. The lyrics seem to describe a ruler that gained power militarily and then fell from power. That's what happened with Napoleon. The words "I used to roll the dice/feel the fear in my enemies eyes" immediately bring up battle to my mind. The part about him not thinking St. Peter would call his name could work because Napoleon was (I think, correct me if I'm wrong) atheistic and only believed religion was good for structuring a society. And other stuff like that.

 

I realize there are problems with this interpretation. I just found out it's "Jerusalem bells a-ringin'", and Napoleon was never close to conquering Jerusalem. Egypt, but not Jerusalem. And the line "who would want to be king?" definitely doesn't sound like Napoleon, because he did and never gave up his desire. I'm still kinda sticking to the thought process that the song is about some European monarch, especially French giving the July Revolution cover art.

 

I am intrigued by the Jesus interpretation, being rather religious myself, but, as mentioned before here, I do think there are problems with it.

 

And question: is it "Roman Calvary choirs" or "Roman cavalry choirs"? I heard "cavalry" but the words sound a lot alike.

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Hmm, just another take on this...everyone seems to be operating under the assumption that the story is told about a single person from that person's point of view. If it's told from multiple perspectives, though...

 

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

 

Could be Moses, as was mentioned earlier (Chris seems to like Moses...both his child and another CP song share that name). The last two lines probably indicate his downfall in that he was allowed to see, but not enter, the promised land. Could also be Jesus, as escapist's analysis would indicate, and it fits especially well with my interpretation of the next part.

 

I used to roll the dice

Feel the fear in my enemy's 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, pillars of sand

 

Note how this section was separated by the first section by music, possibly indicating a shift in perspective. The first line of this section immediately made me think about the Roman centurions who cast lots for Jesus' clothing at the crucifixion. The next line also fits: Roman centurions would definitely feel the fear in their enemy's eyes! The next two lines would fit, too. Above Jesus' head on the cross were the words "King of the Jews," and the Bible talks about people mocking him, so that could be the crowd mocking Jesus by saying "now the old king is dead, long live the king!" The final four lines seem to speak of some sort of realization that everything he (the centurion) used to believe was wrong, which would fit in with one of the centurions at the crucifixion saying, "Truly this man was the Son of God." (All of this portion would come from Mark 15).

 

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't explain

Once you know there was never, never an honest word

That was when I ruled the world

 

The chorus could be Jesus again. The first two lines are pretty self-explanatory. The next line...a prayer to God? The following line...a word to His disciples/followers? The last couple lines are tricky, and I think escapist came up with as good of an explanation as any for them.

 

It was the 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 wanna be king?

 

Again, I like escapist's explanation. The mention of revolutionaries doesn't really fit, though...

 

And then the chorus again, with the one bit changed to "I know Saint Peter will/won't call my name." I think this portion was explained adequately earlier in this thread as well (either speaking of redemption or of Peter denying Jesus 3 times).

 

I'm probably reading waaaaay too much into this, but hey! You never know...

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I'll tell you the first thing that came to my mind when I heard this song: Napoleon Bonaparte. The lyrics seem to describe a ruler that gained power militarily and then fell from power. That's what happened with Napoleon. The words "I used to roll the dice/feel the fear in my enemies eyes" immediately bring up battle to my mind. The part about him not thinking St. Peter would call his name could work because Napoleon was (I think, correct me if I'm wrong) atheistic and only believed religion was good for structuring a society. And other stuff like that.

 

I realize there are problems with this interpretation. I just found out it's "Jerusalem bells a-ringin'", and Napoleon was never close to conquering Jerusalem. Egypt, but not Jerusalem. And the line "who would want to be king?" definitely doesn't sound like Napoleon, because he did and never gave up his desire. I'm still kinda sticking to the thought process that the song is about some European monarch, especially French giving the July Revolution cover art.

 

I am intrigued by the Jesus interpretation, being rather religious myself, but, as mentioned before here, I do think there are problems with it.

 

And question: is it "Roman Calvary choirs" or "Roman cavalry choirs"? I heard "cavalry" but the words sound a lot alike.

Nice first post. I agree, though Ive still only heard 30 secs of the song!

Youre pretty darn convincing!:laugh3:

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Well thank ya very much! Just my humble first impression, that's all it is.

 

I suppose (and I think someone said earlier that Chris said this) that you can interpret the song in any way you want. No matter how you look at it, it's still a brilliant work of art.

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Here are my 2 cents ...

 

I used to rule the world

Seas would rise when I gave the word

Now in the morning I sweep alone

Sweep the streets I used to own

 

Basically the lament of someone who used to be on top of the world, with all kinds of power (plus an inflated sense of self-importance and worth) who had been reduced to the kind of people he despised.

 

I used to roll the dice

Feel the fear in my enemy's eyes

Listen as the crowd would sing:

"Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!"

 

By rolling the dice he took chances, great risks that had a huge chance of failure. Makes me think of Napoleon Bonaparte, as another member said earlier in the thread. His enemies did fear him enormously. As for the crowd singing, makes me think of France and the revolution.

 

One minute I held the key

Next the walls were closed on me

And I discovered that my castles stand

Upon pillars of sand, pillars of sand

 

His downfall was far too quick for him to even blink in the space of time it took for his domination to crumble. He discovered that his rule had always been unstable because he never troubled to take care of the materials he was using to make it - sand instead of stone, greed instead of goodness, and the like.

 

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't explain

Once you'd gone there was never,

never an honest word

and that was when I ruled the world

 

This chorus could refer to any ruler, dictator, basically anyone who has ever held a large amount of power. The first line brings to mind the era of the Crusades, the second line Arthurian legends, and the third and fourth bring up both. He lost control somehow, he turned to dishonest and unhealthy practises, and that was what his rule was like.

 

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

 

He came to power through violent, unlawful means. Perhaps he used to be a good person who was corrupted by jealousy? hurt? lust for revenge?

 

Revolutionaries wait

For my head on a silver plate

Just a puppet on a lonely string

Oh who would ever want to be king?

 

Definitely puts me in mind of Louis XVI, the last king of France. Every phrase of this verse. He was such a useless king and he didn't really want to be king anyway. He couldn't realise why anyone would want to have such responsibility.

 

For some reason I can't explain

I know Saint Peter will call my name

 

He doesn't know exactly what he's done wrong but he knows there's no place for him in Heaven, where he wants to go and be in peace.

 

So there you go. In my opinion, this song is really just about anyone who has ever held power and used it irresponsibly, whether willingly or not. It's about the destruction of kingdoms, bloody revolutions, begging for mercy, despair and utter lack of hope. Yet the music is strong, powerful, sweeping, and almost gives you a sense of hope, as though things could get better in the future ...

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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.

exactly my man i never figured coldplay to be religious but he does make alot of references to ancient times

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Just wanted to bring this to everyones attention...I know someone before brought up the question as to whether the word is Roman Cavalry or Roman Calvary.

 

The difference, besides spelling, could mean very different things for this line of the song. Cavalry is mounted infantry soldiers, while Calvary is the place just outside the walls of Jerusalem where Jesus Christ was crucified. I don't know what this means for everyones meaning of the song, but perhaps it could help better suggest the time frame for the song.

 

I'm leaning more towards a french revolution style theme, but this has alot to do with the cover of the album that showed up in iTunes when I first downloaded Violet Hill. The picture looks like something out of the french revolution, so thats probably biased my opinion. Trying to put that aside, I'd have to agree with whoever made the suggestion of the crusades.

 

Lastly, I imagine the line is ' I know Saint Peter won't call my name ' given that this is a man who gambled, saw fear in his enimies eyes, never an honest word etc...he seems to me like he may have been a rutheless leader of some sort.

 

Anyways, looking forward to hearing what else people come up with! If anyone can reference this right back to some specific historic event, with solid proof, I'd be really happy!

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Possible Meanings...

 

While I think that there are some very religious phrases and undertones to this song, I don't think they are meant religiously at all. Given the broader scope of the song and the fact that there are several phrases that just don't fit in with the religious interpretations, I think that it is more likely a morality tale about power.

 

It's about absolute power corrupting absolutely. Taking power violently and by force ends with it being taken from you violently and by force. Abuse of power and desire for more end in revolution and violence. Childoftheunderworld I think said it beautifully. There are elements in here that refer to a host of historical figures that held great power and sway and all of them were swept aside in their turn.

 

It is interested when taken in light of world events at this time. Gordon Brown coming replacing Tony Blair as Prime Minister of England. The elections here in the United States where Bush will be replaced by someone and the general unhappiness of the public at how he ran things. Political turmoils surrounding the removal of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. There are many places right now where the "old king is dead" and "long live the [new] king" is being played out.

 

Throughout it there is the feeling of the fickleness of the masses and how quickly they can turn on you. The care that is needed as a ruler, especially if you got your power through violent means.

 

There also seems to be the idea of sorrow at ones past actions and forgiveness. The 2 final repetitions of the chorus are identical except that in the first one he knows that St. Peter WON'T call his name. Then in the 2nd repetition he says that St. Peter WILL call his name. It seems that this person has come to understand that the things they have done were wrong in some way and they feel sorry for that. This could go back to Napoleon and several kings mentioned who were exiled or imprisoned after their defeat and had plenty of time to think about things. This person became penitant. It's almost as if they are approaching their death and they are realizing that their life may not have been this great thing and they are asking forgiveness for it. Could this be a final prayer, recounting their life and trying to change their heart?

 

The music is incredible and no matter the true meaning of the lyrics, this is indeed a very powerful song.

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While I think that there are some very religious phrases and undertones to this song, I don't think they are meant religiously at all. Given the broader scope of the song and the fact that there are several phrases that just don't fit in with the religious interpretations, I think that it is more likely a morality tale about power.

 

It's about absolute power corrupting absolutely. Taking power violently and by force ends with it being taken from you violently and by force. Abuse of power and desire for more end in revolution and violence. Childoftheunderworld I think said it beautifully. There are elements in here that refer to a host of historical figures that held great power and sway and all of them were swept aside in their turn.

 

It is interested when taken in light of world events at this time. Gordon Brown coming replacing Tony Blair as Prime Minister of England. The elections here in the United States where Bush will be replaced by someone and the general unhappiness of the public at how he ran things. Political turmoils surrounding the removal of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. There are many places right now where the "old king is dead" and "long live the [new] king" is being played out.

 

Throughout it there is the feeling of the fickleness of the masses and how quickly they can turn on you. The care that is needed as a ruler, especially if you got your power through violent means.

 

There also seems to be the idea of sorrow at ones past actions and forgiveness. The 2 final repetitions of the chorus are identical except that in the first one he knows that St. Peter WON'T call his name. Then in the 2nd repetition he says that St. Peter WILL call his name. It seems that this person has come to understand that the things they have done were wrong in some way and they feel sorry for that. This could go back to Napoleon and several kings mentioned who were exiled or imprisoned after their defeat and had plenty of time to think about things. This person became penitant. It's almost as if they are approaching their death and they are realizing that their life may not have been this great thing and they are asking forgiveness for it. Could this be a final prayer, recounting their life and trying to change their heart?

 

The music is incredible and no matter the true meaning of the lyrics, this is indeed a very powerful song.

 

What you said is absolutely perfect.

 

I am religious myself and do interpret the song to have particular connotations, but in order to incorporate/connect all the words together, it's more sensible that there is a much broader meaning at hand. There's so much social context within this that every time I hear it I am reminded of something different in current and historical times...I almost believe that it was the band's original purpose in writing the song in this fashion.

 

But for me, the point after all these thoughts is that humanity has thrived onward time and again, even when rulers and nations rose and fell...thus -- Viva La Vida!

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I'm still adamant he says "will call my name".

 

Why would you not be able to explain non-admission to Heaven, after not speaking an honest word?

 

It's wont. And you explained it to yourself, if you don't speak an honest word why would you get into heaven?

 

The song is more about power in general, the thoughts behind it and everything it causes (corruption, revolution, etc.), religion plays into that, but its not the main focus of the song

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Precisely, so why would it be preceded by "FOR SOME REASON I CAN'T EXPLAIN?'

 

Despite your obvious lack of basic comprehension, you're actually right, as the lyrics on the Extras Album Art on coldplay.com indicate the lyrics are 'won't' for at least one of the choruses. That doesn't stop you being daft though ^^

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Where are you hearing him say will?

 

I could be wrong but I really don't think he ever says will, and even if he does it doesn't matter in what you're arguing . And I don't think you're understanding the lyrics, or me, you're the one not making any sense.

 

When he first says for some reason I can't explain I think it is in relation to losing his power after losing his love.. "Once you'd gone there was/ Never an honest word/ And that was when I ruled the world". He can't explain it but as soon as the person he loved left he stopped ruling well, and went from "owning the streets, to sweeping them"... from "King to pawn". "People couldn’t believe what I’d become"

 

He says it again in relation to St. Peter and heaven, still says won't, but he can't explain because he doesn't feel as if everything was entirely his fault. He knows he made mistakes, but he thinks he should still get in and forgiven. But, he knows he won't be for some reason he can't put his finger on. It's too late and he won't be

 

Even if he says will (I'm assuming you're hearing it in the last chorus) then it's the same reasoning, he'll get in because it wasn't all his fault and he'll just be forgiven.

 

Won't makes more sense, he can't explain because he feels he should get in, and he can't understand why he wouldn't be forgiven. If he says will then for some reason he can't understand he'll get in? Doesn't make sense to me, either way I don't know what you're talking about when you say I can't comprehend

 

Think whatever you want, but don't call me daft when you can't even comprehend what I'm saying. You didn't have to be such a douche bag

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I've listened to it closely, and I really don't think he does. It doesn't matter in what he was trying to say anyway. I was trying to explain that even he says won't/will he still might not understand why, so both could work, whether he is forgiven or not doesn't matter in that way

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to be completely honest you guys are getting way to religious about this its, simply about a powerful king who was at the top, got betrayed and now he's at the bottom, and he thinks saint peter won't call his name because the things he's done "blew down the doors to let me in" and what he was when he got power, "people couldn't believe what i'd become". and on the chorus h talks about the good things that happened when he ruled the world (was the king).it was also in the roman times

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to be completely honest you guys are getting way to religious about this its, simply about a powerful king who was at the top, got betrayed and now he's at the bottom, and he thinks saint peter won't call his name because the things he's done "blew down the doors to let me in" and what he was when he got power, "people couldn't believe what i'd become". and on the chorus h talks about the good things that happened when he ruled the world (was the king).it was also in the roman times

but he was betrayed because how much he had changed and how he was a cruel person now that he's the king "blew down the doors to let me in".

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not to mension the fact that he says saint peter will call his name at the end becuase he realizes what was is in the past, "never an honest word, but that WAS when i ruled the world."

showing that he knows he can still change and be a good person

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