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Dry The River – History Book lyrics

Like faithful oxen through the chalk,
With dragging tails of history walk.
Soon confuse the compass and the cross.
Carefully and cursively we fill our travelling diaries with loss.

Beneath an angry Bible flood,
Did you and I first learn to love.
In my father's car we came to know.
And shivered in our painted clothes and paired like every animal below.

As heavy as a history book can be,
I will carry it with me, oh Lord.
And maybe when the bitterness has gone,
There'll be sweetness on our tongues once more.

Barefoot in a rowing boat,
You lose your shoes and freeze your toes.
And say I wear my sorrow like a crown.
And throw your arms around my head, and see it there in gold and red and brown.

As heavy as a history book can be,
I will carry it with me, oh Lord.
And maybe when the bitterness has gone,
There'll be sweetness on our tongues once more.

We'll soon forget our parents' names,
Like dogs will drive the wolves away.
And weep with fingertips opposed,
Like a church where nobody congregates.

But sweetness sings in the pasture,
We throw ourselves on the mercy of the earth.
If sand and salt have the answer,
Then the act itself will be louder than the word.

And I'll be on your side.

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  • bpdjean
    I think that while this could be about a past relationship, the "bitterness" could refer to hardships unrelated to the relationship. My interp is that it's about people navigating hard times together (possibly leaving something behind? I get that from the history book thing, like a history book is full of the past and things that are gone now?) and looking back at things they left behind before whatever hard times hit them came along. Not necessarily saying that their relationship is over, considering the "i'll be on your side" bit could mean they're still together and with each other through this stuff.

    My takeaway is that the verses that seem to be telling the story of the people's past and being in love is like them talking about when their lives were better or simpler and then the singer saying that even though things are hard now and it hurts to look back they'll push on and not let go of or forget what they left behind. It's really more of a "i'm gonna stay with you because one day we'll be okay" sort of song more than a "i intend to be back together with you even though we broke up" song to me.

    And like, the implications of "history book" seem like something bigger than a bumpy relationship. Like history book makes me think of massive, important things and having a huge weight on you that you've carried for a long time ("heavy as a history book can be"). And the "like dogs we'll drive the wolves away" part makes me think the singer and the person they're singing about are in this together, fighting side by side against something bigger than both of them, and then imagining what it will be like when they've finally won and the relief they'll feel.

    But yeah that's what i get from it, that it's more about people who love each other leaving something behind and fighting something big and the singer promising not to forget the times before things got so hard even though it hurts to remember, and that they'll be on this other person's side in the fight and that one day maybe they'll be happy again.
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  • u
    I think the song is about a past relationship in which the two participants became disillusioned with the path they were taking (compass and the cross) and realised that rather than heading for there same destination they were merely headed for the same direction but with different goals. The biblical references are intended to show what they were doing was dissaproved of by the community they lived in quite a constricting way and that they felt so much guilt they eventually had to give into the "history book" and go their separate ways. Contrasting, after the second chorus is a celebration of them coming back together and cast off all their old worries and the oppression of their community. The last verse refers to a greener pasture on the other side and how they were prepared to cast away all earthly influences so that they could do as they wanted and be together. The refrain at the end refers to how everybody else is against them, he is on the side that she is on, the new pasture and has moved away from the old.
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  • u
    I think it's about a previous relationship but with regret so he can't get it out of his mind. He will take it with him in a 'heavy history book' which shows he will never forget what happened. And he's reminiscing the past times he had. It may be about forgiveness too, because of 'i'll be on your side' I love this song as it is very heartfelt and meaningful.
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