Newsom, Joanna - Kingfisher Lyrics




Whose is the hand that I will hold? Whose is the face I will see?
Whose is the name that I will call when I am called to meet thee?

In this life, who did you love beneath the drifting ashes
Beneath the sheeting banks of air that barrenly bore our rations?

When I could speak, it was too late, didn't you hear me calling?
Didn't you see my heart leap like a pup in the constant barley?

In this life, where did you crouch when the sky had set to boiling?
Burning within, seen from without and your gut was a serpent, coiling

And, for the sake of that pit of snakes for whom did you allay your shyness
And spend all your mercy and madness, and grace in a day, beneath the bending cypress?

It was not on principal show, Pro-heart, that you have got gall
A miracle, I can bear a lot, but not that pall
I can bear a lot, but not that pall, kingfisher, sound the alarm
Say, "Sweet little darlin', now, come to my arms, tell me all about the love you left on the farm"

He was a kind, unhurried man with a heavy lip and a steady hand
But he loved me just like a little child, like a little child loves a little lamb

Thrown to the ground, by something down there, bitten by the bad air while the clouds tick
Trying to read all the signs, preparing for when the bombs hit

Hung from the underbelly of the earth while the stars skid away, below
Gormless and brakeless, gravel-loose, falling silent as gavels in the snow

I lay back and spit my chaw wrapped in the long arm of the law
Who has seen it all, I can bear a lot, but not that pall
I can bear a lot, but not that pall, kingfisher, cast your fly
Oh Lord it happens without even trying when I sling a low look from my shuttering eye

Blows rain upon the one you loved and though you were only sparring
There's blood on the eye unlace the glove, say, "Honey I am not sorry"

Stand here and name the one you loved beneath the drifting ashes
And, in naming, rise above, time as it, flashing, passes

We came by the boatload and were immobilized
Worshipping volcanoes charting the loping skies
The tides of the earth left us bound and calcified
And made as obstinate as obsidian, unmoving, save our eyes

Just mooning and blinking from faces marked with coal
Ash cooling and shrinking cracks loud as thunder rolling
And I swear I know you, you know me, where have we met before?
Tell me true, to whose authority do you consign your soul?

I had a dream you came to me, said, "You shall not do me harm anymore"
And with your knife, you evicted my life from its little lighthouse on the seashore
And I saw that my blood had no bounds, spreading in a circle like an atom bomb
Soaking and felling everything in its path and welling in my heart like a bird bath
It is too short, the day we are born, we commence with our dying
Trying to serve, with the heart of a child, kingfisher, lie with the lion





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Newsom, Joanna Kingfisher Comments
  1. Brian Ebert

    Lord, I so love this song. Other commenters try to unpack the meaning of the lyrics. I don’t know. Lyrically, it seems to me kind of a stream of consciousness, rather than something of structural meaning. Musically, it’s just so gorgeous. What an amazingly produced and arranged piece.

  2. Horse Laut

    The most addictive song in my life, what a wonderful voice and tune <3

  3. Horse Laut

    Definition of masterpiece <3
    Kingfisher, sound the alarm <3

  4. Horse Laut

    Such a perfect song <3 relaxed and emotional at the same time <3

  5. Horse Laut

    The most beautiful song I've ever heard <3

  6. Joshua Beare

    "It was not on principle, show, pro-heart, that you have got gall
    A miracle: I can bear A lot but not that pall
    "
    whatsup with the timing in this section? it like loses 2 beats, its trippin me out, can any rhythm experts explain please?

  7. Persephone

    Joanna is the scribe and her music is the manuscript

  8. Santi

    I always play this track when it is raining, I love her.

  9. MiddleMang

    Awesome stuff.

  10. Luc L'Heureux

    This song is a cosmic masterpiece

  11. blahblah24681357

    and to think — this was a b-side

    D Alexander Berry

    I don't think it was

    Phebe Palmer

    @D Alexander Berry it def wasn't.

  12. Nathan Hodson

    You will be loved...

  13. Luke Galbraith

    The hum at 5:50 makes me feel something everytime

  14. minnesotabirdmites

    seems to have almost an oriental orchestral feel with some 13th century...Korea, and Renaissance: rebirth...prepare for when....https://www.google.com/search?biw=1280&bih=918&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=kingfisher+in+asia&oq=kingfisher+in+asia&gs_l=psy-ab.3...5157.8641.0.9256.18.18.0.0.0.0.103.1111.17j1.18.0....0...1.1.64.psy-ab..0.16.987...0j0i67k1j0i30k1j0i24k1.0.iXCD4fzowho#imgrc=8MwM0zxBp75m4M:

  15. Stephanie Alvarez

    Is this the female Sufjan Stevens?

    Phebe Palmer

    no lol.

  16. Major Niggles

    anyone know if she's referring to kingfisher tower in NY which is also known as kingfisher castle in the verse?

  17. zillajratomicray

    "Hung from the underbelly of the earth,
    while the stars skid away, below,
    gormless and brakeless, gravel-loose,
    falling silent as gavels in the snow"

    Is there a technical term for the way these words flow? They don't exactly rhyme, but they flow pretty well.

    inasez

    alliteration and assonance.

    D Alexander Berry

    Line 2 and 4 rhyme

    Jeffrey Hittepole

    Sylvia Plath was a master of it as well

  18. Ryan Jennings

    Whose is the hand that I will hold? Whose is the face I will see?
    Whose is the name that I will call when I am called to meet thee?

    In this life, who did you love beneath the drifting ashes
    Beneath the sheeting banks of air that barrenly bore our rations?

    When I could speak, it was too late, didn't you hear me calling?
    Didn't you see my heart leap like a pup in the constant barley?

    In this life, where did you crouch when the sky had set to boiling?
    Burning within, seen from without and your gut was a serpent, coiling

    And, for the sake of that pit of snakes for whom did you allay your shyness
    And spend all your mercy and madness, and grace in a day, beneath the bending cypress?

    It was not on principal show, Pro-heart, that you have got gall
    A miracle, I can bear a lot, but not that pall
    I can bear a lot, but not that pall, kingfisher, sound the alarm
    Say, "Sweet little darlin', now, come to my arms, tell me all about the love you left on the farm"

    He was a kind, unhurried man with a heavy lip and a steady hand
    But he loved me just like a little child, like a little child loves a little lamb

    Thrown to the ground, by something down there, bitten by the bad air while the clouds tick
    Trying to read all the signs, preparing for when the bombs hit

    Hung from the underbelly of the earth while the stars skid away, below
    Gormless and brakeless, gravel-loose, falling silent as gavels in the snow

    I lay back and spit my chaw wrapped in the long arm of the law
    Who has seen it all, I can bear a lot, but not that pall
    I can bear a lot, but not that pall, kingfisher, cast your fly
    Oh Lord it happens without even trying when I sling a low look from my shuttering eye

    Blows rain upon the one you loved and though you were only sparring
    There's blood on the eye unlace the glove, say, "Honey I am not sorry"

    Stand here and name the one you loved beneath the drifting ashes
    And, in naming, rise above, time as it, flashing, passes

    We came by the boatload and were immobilized
    Worshipping volcanoes charting the loping skies
    The tides of the earth left us bound and calcified
    And made as obstinate as obsidian, unmoving, save our eyes

    Just mooning and blinking from faces marked with coal
    Ash cooling and shrinking cracks loud as thunder rolling
    And I swear I know you, you know me, where have we met before?
    Tell me true, to whose authority do you consign your soul?

    I had a dream you came to me, said, "You shall not do me harm anymore"
    And with your knife, you evicted my life from its little lighthouse on the seashore
    And I saw that my blood had no bounds, spreading in a circle like an atom bomb
    Soaking and felling everything in its path and welling in my heart like a bird bath
    It is too short, the day we are born, we commence with our dying
    Trying to serve, with the heart of a child, kingfisher, lie with the lion

  19. Mika Huttunen

    Thank you for this great song. I'm currently living in Vietnam and it's not easy to stay in touch with western world. This song was one of the things I graved

  20. Jakub Woźniak

    OMG she looks like Fiona Apple on this photo :o

  21. BeginPanicAttack

    kingfisher of all of her songs is the most striking to me

    ive been listening to her pretty constantly ( and ravenously ) for a while now , unpacking each song , plumbing the lyrics for secrets , but this ones hidden depths still evade me , and the explanations ive seen online dont really satisfy me
    theres something so obscure here that isnt in anything else shes ever made

    it seems to freeze and linger in a state of complete rawness and crisis for almost a full ten minutes before melting in one single phrase at the very end
    totally unlike anything that has ever been or ever will be recorded , i think

    yami richardson

    CorpseTongji I must quote the great Willa Cather (not that I'm well-read by any means). The heart of another is a dark forest, always, no matter how close to one's own." Hope u like it:)

    SparkyCola3

    I get a lot out of it if I imagine she’s looking at the calcified bodies at Pompeii and imagining their lives and last moments

  22. jesse weir

    I saw two at the ocean.

  23. steve streadwick

    I'm in love with Joanna Newsom😁

  24. Victoria Matamoros

    "Stand here and name
    the one you loved,
    beneath the drifting ashes,
    and, in naming, rise above time,
    as it, flashing, passes."

    My heart.

  25. boop zoop

    This is beautiful

  26. Karin Wahlrab

    Jo is one of the True Poets of her generation

    Abongile

    Thee best poet

  27. Anton Alfoldi

    This is a big artist.

  28. David Needham

    This song is about nuclear war, the Lord directed me to this song and artist as a warning of what is to come. I had never herd of her, just love her now. Please repent and prepare. Lord help and keep us.

    Mary Jane Montagnino

    you go ahead, im alright

    David Needham

    +Mary Jane Montagnino  YOU may regret this come the 23 of march, wish you the best

    boop zoop

    23rd of March is passed, so...

  29. nat / asongofthyme

    This simply makes me cry and reminds me so much of Kate Bush.

    James Holmes

    yesyesyes

    Cal 99ers

    Just heard her and that's exactly what I thought

  30. FollyOfArsinoe

    What a beautiful voice.

  31. Michael Bravo

    nice hat

  32. Yon Sire Liege

    I feel fortuned to be listening to this for the first time

  33. Yon Sire Liege

    Her & Fleet Foxes would literally make the one music to rule them all & in the darkness bind them..

    Maya Magination

    Late, but you should check out Robin Pecknold's cover of 'On A Good Day', it's absolutely heavenly

    Shae Summers

    Yes oh my lord that is the best thing I have ever read

    Collin Beal

    God bless will peep

    John Rankin

    Regina Spektor

  34. Aleya

    This sounds like early Kate Bush meets Alt-J...

    FollyOfArsinoe

    +AleyaMusic It sounds like it could have fit right in Bush's Lionheart album.

    D Alexander Berry

    aaaaaahhhhhhh

  35. bilbogaybear

    the way she sings this verse at 2:03 :
    "And for the sake of that pit o' snakes
    For whom did you allay your shyness?
    And spend all your mercy and madness and grace
    In a day beneath the bending cypress?"

    i think it is the most beautiful thing i've ever heard

    Samuel Jones

    Yeah man. I'm with you...

  36. Laura Russell

    possibly my fave song of all time... yes I believe it is

  37. Hanna Cassel

    this would be such an awesome soundtrack!

  38. Bibou Roger

    In my opinion the best song by Joanna Newsom yet ; and maybe the best song ever : perfectly cadenced, perfectly orchestrated, fabulous lyrics, emotional peak at the end, immersing, she is a total genius.

    Before i discovered Joanna Newsom, Björk was by far the best musical genius possible ; but I am so glad that my soul has found another one !!! I am deeply amaze by such a talent and so glad it exists I LOVE YOU JOANNA !!!!

    D Alexander Berry

    @Elin Grimes yeah no harm. it's just that I don't think anyone would make any of those comparisons if they weren't all women - that's really the primary thing they have in common musically. In terms of actual style & songwriting they all bear a lot more in common with other artists, which I suspect people ignore because those artists are not women.

    D Alexander Berry

    @Elin Grimes for instance, to me Joanna has a lot more in common with a Roy Harper or a Richard Dawson even than she does with Tori Amos or Regina Spektor, who to my recollection are more conventional in their songwriting, and far less ambitious

    D Alexander Berry

    @Elin Grimes and really I don't mean to target this at you personally - it's just a thing I've seen a lot and grown to gripe about. Kinda seems insulting to the artists to group them all together in such a way based on their being women despite their incredibly different styles.

    Elin Grimes

    @D Alexander Berry I get what you mean - while I think that a person can be a fan of all Regina and Joanna because they are both unconventional / off mainstream, I agree totally that people who post comments on a Joanna Newsom video that she is "just like Kate Bush / Regina/ etc." are completely nuts. And I agree they only do that because they are women. Having said which, to be honest, I've never heard of Roy Harper or Richard Dawson, and while I can think of a great many female, innovative artists (Joan Armatrading, Kate Bush, Karen Dalton, et al) - I can really only think of one very innovative male artist, David Bowie. I think Joanna has more in common, musically, with Kate Bush than she has with David Bowie. Men seem to favour being in bands rather than being solo artists (e.g. Queen, Madness, etc.)

    The think we broadly agree, my main point is that if you like book A and I recommend to you book B as a book you may also enjoy, I am absolutely not saying that book A = book B or that they are 'the same'. Just that they share at least one characteristic that might have appealed to you in book A. And I stand by my assertion that Joanna and Regina and Joan A, and Kate B share at least one characteristic - and that is NOT that they are women. They are all much more original and innovative musicians than the mainstream set of Taylor Swift and co. I'd say if you like Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, Beyonce and Adele, you are unlikely to like Joanna Newsom - and yet, they are all women too.

    Regina is the whimsical, Ben Folds, Wes Anderston, Neil Gaiman graphic novels of the world
    Joanna is the Shakespeare, tiffany stained glass window tapestry
    Kate is the gothic novel, Freddie Mercury, interpretive dancing, BBC Radio 4 play.

    But they are all flipping awesome.

    John Rankin

    @D Alexander Berry lol first time I've ever heard someone call Regina conventional in her songwriting

  39. Gravelforknees

    There's a style which reminds me of Kate Bush's earlier music. That'll be the folk background I imagine.

  40. Jake MacPherson

    genau. wirklich.

  41. Pencils & Whispers

    She's of the only few singer/musicians that have never lost my interest. Lovely.

  42. Sofía Stupiello

    hipnotizante

  43. KUKULKÁNIKOV

    mierdaaaaaaa shitttttt this is fucking best music the all world i love this is girl

  44. smilincrow

    beautiful and honest self expression,rare in these sheep times,goodbye to baa x

  45. quantumsheep545

    Some bits sound like an erhu to me, but I have no idea what I'm talking about.

  46. niamh

    beautiful well all her songs are and i think thats medieval not chinese

  47. NIMRODakaNIMROD

    PS: Actually, I don't like to compare things just for the sake of it; especially since "more conventional" maybe isn't even a suitable term:
    Thinking about it, this song's arrangement might be somewhat unconventional regarding instrumentation, but actually it's highly conventional in regard to structural aspects, since most of the "orchestrated" parts are basically basso continuo parts.

  48. NIMRODakaNIMROD

    Oh, interesting! I used to think that this was another collaboration with Parks. But yeah, of course you're right – just looked it up in the album's liner notes. Well, that makes it all the more interesting; thinking that those arrangements were made by someone not so well-known (and of course the magnificient Ms. Newsom herself) but neverthless add so much to the album – perhaps even more than Parks' more conventional arrangements did to "Ys".

  49. Simulacreage

    The arrangements on this album were actually done by Joanna's friend and touring bandmate Ryan Francesconi, who also plays the kaval and Bulgarian tambura in this song. They really are great though.

    gimmemoremusic

    Glad to find the information I was expecting in the comments :) My "finely-tuned" Bulgarian ear did catch that kaval, so I scrolled down to make sure. Yay!

    Bertrand Marotte

    Have not hear such mastery of the Bulgarian tambura since Elvis

  50. NIMRODakaNIMROD

    note: I mean: might be referring to volcanic bombs ASIDE from evoking a general trope (anxiety, fear of that which lies ahead, fear of inescapable danger etc.)

  51. NIMRODakaNIMROD

    It's funny, the Renaissance-era instrumentation and Joanna's love for archaisms as well as the thematic overtones in the first verses (at least my first association was that of arranged marriage in nobility) really give the song an "old-worldy" feel (in the most positive sense of the word) in spite of the mention of bombs and even an atom bomb i the second half of the song (although, taken into context, the line "preparing for when the bombs hit" might very well refer to volcanic bombs)

  52. Abraham Rojas

    actually, like the peruavian flute

  53. Pouniverse

    i love her , i love her .. i can't explain how much

  54. Jeff Barrett

    I like it!

  55. Jordan L

    As stated, almost all folk music of every nation is pentatonic. Listen to Dvorak's 9th

  56. DrunkManchurian

    The majority of Chinese music is based on pentatonic scales, hence the confusion. Look up Chinese Musicology on Wikipedia.

  57. Jordan L

    It doesn't sound Chinese at all. It's pentatonic, like almost every kind of folk music, including English

  58. gyarurabaa

    I think this song is meant to represent World War II. There are definitely a lot of Asian elements... but I believe this is meant to be about a Chinese, Vietnamese, or Japanese soldier in love or in a friendship with an American, mixed with a bit of her own personal relationship experiences. But yes, definitely hear the Chinese instrumentals.

  59. ALPIZARNIK

    beautiful song!!!

  60. Calfleb

    Gaaaaaaaay •___•

  61. Mazze LeCzzare

    it's like the last cry of a queen as her land is plummeting to war and holocaust, fire raising up, water rushing in, winds casting out the last good folk to a life of wanderings across the earth and seas

  62. trilobright

    Ya ya i am makings al of the agreements to you.

  63. David Smith

    Is that cos this song is wubbery ?

  64. decorumgun

    If I could vote this up more times, I would, but Once will have to do.

  65. DPleskin

    *in your opinion

    in MY opinion, you have zero taste or ability to define good music

  66. Calvin Bittner

    Indeed. And that is his.

  67. Calvin Bittner

    Chills at the end.

  68. Pewlarn

    So there's this thing called 'opinion'

    Look it up.

  69. Gabriel Cutri

    Wait... why the fuck are you comparing this to Pink Floyd in the first place?

  70. George Prounis

    <--------------<3

  71. MrRollingStone72

    I just found this girl through an interview with david gray. She is unbelievable :)
    So pretty

  72. sQlepytt1

    7:53 damn...shivers!

  73. Le Lo

    And people say she can't sing. She's so magical.

  74. Le Lo

    You talk too much. Joanna's brilliant. Now hush.

  75. kikoriih

    im having an artistic/joanna newsom day :)

  76. Crystal Ed

    What are you talking about? This song is beautiful.

  77. Travynoel

    I like everything she does. And i love her 'old stuff,' her voice is amazing.

  78. Waargasmatron

    i am agree!

  79. freakinrayofsunshine

    Holymoly what is this magic.

  80. Pseudonym10

    Fisher King.

  81. Kcvee777

    and why would it ruin the song?

  82. Spirituse

    I are not agree, that would ruin the song for myself

  83. Kcvee777

    Shes fine haha

  84. Alex Goodman

    I am a very,very big Joanna fan and this is my favorite right next to Emily, Baby Birch, and Sawdust and Diamonds!

  85. Ianthe22

    I think penta scales are used widely in far-eastern music. They had a big variety of string instruments(some harp-like). Penta means 5. The harp is probably tuned after Bach's "well temperament". So it's just to pick those 5 specific tunes out of the 8(12) notes. I normally wouldn't think so much about this. It just reminded me of the 80's music of Kate Bush. So i thought it was asian inspired or maybe some celtic stuff.

  86. DrBob

    Wow, that's good. I think you're right--no semitones that I can discern. I'm not that sharp on music theory. Is the harp a good pentatonic instrument. I can't get this girl's music out of my head!

  87. David Richardson

    there are so many things in this world that bring fire to my veins, and so few that cool them down, thank you for that joanna, you are a true advocate of therapeutic peace through music.

  88. Christopher Tracey

    I'm baffled that I haven't heard of her until the other day...

  89. Tábata Herbívora

    Marry me, Joanna?

  90. Richard Parker

    Simply beautiful poetry... beautiful!!!

  91. tarahumare

    wonderful..

  92. madkaye

    A Medieval dream.

  93. Jenn Shaw

    this is incredible :) does anyone know when shes touring round here? UK? cumbria? xxxxx

  94. Ianthe22

    @koronimus The use of penta scales?

  95. koronimus

    some parts sound a little chinese - are you agree ?