The meaning of the song «O Children» by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

The meaning of the song «O Children» by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds songs

Australian rock band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds wrote the song “O Children”. The track is featured on the band’s thirteenth studio album, released in 2004. Fans of the group’s work can hear it in the movie “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”. “O Children” accompanies the dance of the main characters – Harry and Hermione – in a tent after a quarrel between Harry and Ron. David Yateson, the film’s director, chose this track because of its elusive magical power to put the audience in the right mood.

The lyrical hero of the song points to the cycle of generations, describes the existing realities that the modern generation leaves to their descendants. And, unfortunately, this “legacy” should be passed on not with pride, but with guilt. The living conditions of future generations are formed from actions committed in a fit of anger, aggression, frustration, from unfinished business by previous generations, bad words addressed to loved ones. That is why the main message of the song’s text is an apology for the actions already committed and a call to create favorable conditions for posterity, to realize responsibility for one’s deeds and words.

In a six-minute song, the author of the words was able to touch on almost all the problems and vices of mankind, albeit in a generalized version. These are the negative aspects of the mentality of the whole society and each person, and global environmental problems. And the main factor that gives rise to the described problems is the indifference of people. Indifference towards the environment, society, oneself. All elements of the life cycle are closely interconnected with each other, make up a single organism. Indifference to one’s own health provokes vices and ailments in children. Indifference to the people around destroys society and makes it impossible for the socialization of the individual.

Therefore, the main message contained in the song is to call on humanity to live not only for themselves, but to think about the future generation, to help create a better world for their descendants. “Nothing depends on me” – these are the thoughts of a weak person who is not ready to take responsibility for himself. From the contribution of each person, from the degree of his responsibility, first of all to himself, his fate depends. This means that respect for all living things is the key to a bright future, which every person who thinks beyond their needs can have time to get into.

In fact, the composition “O Children” is the appeal of a prisoner to children. He regrets his actions and asks for forgiveness for what he has destined for the children with his deeds. The text mentions the prison network of the Soviet Union GULAG. It is worth noting that the GULAG is characterized as one of the most cruel and difficult prisons, which once again emphasizes how terrible the consequences of our actions can be.

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“Forgive us now for what we’ve done” – this line is a direct appeal to children and a plea for forgiveness.

“take these before we run away the keys to the gulag” – the lyrical hero understands that only children, the future generation can forgive, forgive the sins of their ancestors and correct their mistakes.

«We’re older now, the light is dim
And you are only just beginning».

These lines describe the relationship of generations. One generation is replaced by another, and each newly arrived generation has the opportunity to build the world in a new way, to make it better, because it is only at the beginning of the path.

«It’s short, it’s simple, it’s crystal clear
It’s round about, it’s somewhere here».

All human truths are on the surface, everything is much simpler than it seems. Yes, at the beginning of the path, fear seizes a person. Fear of the unknown, fear of making a mistake, fear of dissatisfaction, but one has only to start, look around and understand that the world is much simpler and kinder.

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«The cleaners have done their job on you
They’re hip to it, man, they’re in the groove
They’ve hosed you down, you’re good as new
They’re lining up to inspect you»

Despite the fact that children are just starting their journey, they are pure and immaculate, they are always watched by “cleaners”, those who will not allow the defilement of society, those who are fighting for a brighter future for all mankind.

«We’re all weeping now, weeping because
There ain’t nothing we can do to protect you»

The inability to protect children causes bitterness in the lyrical hero. He understands that now he can no longer save his descendants. Now the children themselves are responsible for their actions and the price of a mistake is too high. The child himself understood this, Jim. We can see this in the next lines.

«Poor old Jim’s white as a ghost
He’s found the answer that we lost».

“little train!” has a symbolic meaning. He sends the heroes to a new world, a bright future that they themselves can build. “We’re happy, Ma, we’re having fun.” The heroes do not hide their joy.

But is there a place in this future for those who poisoned their lives in the past, for those who pay for their sins in the “prisons” of morality?

«Hey, little train! Wait for me!
I once was blind but now I see
Have you left a seat for me?
Is that such a stretch of the imagination?»

It is in these lines that the lyrical hero understands the essence of life. He understands that he made mistakes and is ready to atone for his guilt. He wants to see this better bright world.

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«Hey little train! Wait for me!
I was held in chains but now I’m free
I’m hanging in there, don’t you see
In this process of elimination!»

“I was imprisoned in chains.” A line that describes the internal state of the hero. But who is to blame for his imprisonment? Is he on his own? Or his ancestors, who gave him the burden of responsibility for their actions? Should he bear this burden of a sinner? In my opinion, no. The hero was able to rethink the morality of life, he became free (“now I’m free”).

«We’re happy, Ma, we’re having fun
It’s beyond my wildest expectation»

He expected the worst, he was ready for it. That’s how he was taught. But the lyrical hero has become higher than this, he is not mired in indifference, selfishness and tyranny. He is happy that he was able to understand the meaning of life. I was able to understand the main law of universal happiness – not to be indifferent.

Throughout the song, the following lines can be found:

«O children
Lift up your voice, lift up your voice
Children
Rejoice, rejoice»

They serve as a call to life. The lyrical hero insists that children live their lives brightly. “Screamed” about themselves, left a mark in the history of mankind. Were not afraid to express ourselves. You can live with pleasure not only in the luxury of your own pleasure. Respect and respect for others breeds respect for the person himself. Human life is too short to make mistakes. There may not be enough time to correct them, and throwing off the burden of responsibility for your mistakes on your descendants will not bring happiness to more than one generation.

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  1. Mikey

    Just an amazing interpretation of this song. And I’ve found a lot of songs from Nick Cave has so many levels. So many different ways to see it.

    Reply