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The Cave by Mumford & Sons

Text with allusion notes and video

Joel Agee

on 21 October 2016

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Transcript of The Cave by Mumford & Sons

Imagine that you are
a prisoner in a cave.
You are one of many prisoners
chained in a row.
In front of you is the cave wall.
Behind you is a raging fire.
The light of the fire casts strange shadows.
You see
your shadow.
You see the
shadow of your chains.
You see the
shadows of the prisoners.
And everything that comes
between the fire and your back
also casts
a shadow.
You cannot see
what casts the shadows.
You cannot see
the real prisoners.
You cannot see
the real you.
Everything you can see
is only shadows.
Now imagine that you have always been in the cave.
You have never
seen the fire.
You have never
seen your chains.
You have never
seen the prisoners.
You have never
seen yourself.
The cave and shadows
are all you have ever known.
you've ever talked about
you've ever thought about
was only
a shadow.
Now imagine that somehow
you are freed.
Your chains
are released.
You rise
to your feet.
You are led to
the brightest light you've ever seen
Holding your hands
in front of your face
your eyes
narrow slits
you stumble
to the mouth of the cave
The light burns your eyes!
but slowly they adjust
a world you never imagined
You will learn the things you see
are trees and mountains
rivers, winters, summers and nightfall
blood and toil, music and color
friendship and accomplishment
And you can never be the same.
You will never live content with shadows.
Plato's cave
an allegory
an artwork in which
every part has multiple meanings:
the literal meaning as well as symbolic meanings
Now imagine
this choice:
would you ever go back
to the cave?
Would you live with
your new knowledge
and never
turn back?
Or would you return
to the cave
and tell the prisoners
what you had learned?
Would you tell them that
everything they know is shadows?
Would they
believe you?
Would they even
know how?
Would you know
how to explain it?
Which would you choose?
Or are you still in the cave?
and you begin to see
justice, mercy and joy
giving, losing, holding
You have never
heard of the sun.
Plato, Greek philosopher:
"I don't know how to put this,
but I'm kind of a big deal."
It's empty in the valley of your heart
The sun, it rises slowly as you walk
Away from all the fears
And all the faults you've left behind

The harvest left no food for you to eat
You cannibal, you meat-eater, you see
But I have seen the same
I know the shame in your defeat

But I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again

Cause I have other things to fill my time
You take what is yours and I'll take mine
Now let me at the truth
Which will refresh my broken mind

So tie me to a post and block my ears
I can see widows and orphans through my tears
I know my call despite my faults
And despite my growing fears

The Cave
Mumford and Sons
But I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again

So come out of your cave walking on your hands
And see the world hanging upside down
You can understand dependence
When you know the maker's hand

So make your siren's call
And sing all you want
I will not hear what you have to say

Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it's meant to be

And I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again

Tie me to a post and block my ears
is an allusion to Greek mythology about the power of temptation. The epic hero Odysseus sails past the island of the Sirens, monsters who appear as beautiful women who sing literally irresistible songs to passing sailors, who then swim to their island. Then the Sirens eat them. Odysseus wants to be the only one to hear the song and live to tell the tale, so he puts wax in his sailors' ears and ties himself to the mast so he won't swim out. He hears the song and begs his men to release him.
make your siren's call
is another allusion to the same Greek myth
about Odysseus, who faces temptation, only
overcoming it by not trusting his own will power.
Because, seriously: the Sirens may look pretty
and sound pretty, but this video game image of
them pictures the final consequences correctly.
The title "The Cave"
is probably an allusion to a very old
and very famous allegory the Greek
philosopher Plato first composed to
illustrate the challenge faced by people
who receive life-changing knowledge.
Full transcript