Let the Bells Ring

I’ve always thought this was one of Nick Cave’s God songs. Sometimes he’s very critical of religion, and makes fun of godly people. On the other hand, he frequently explores matters of faith, and some of his songs are actually quite reverent. Biblical themes are often touched upon, which makes perfect sense for a songwriter who has such fascination with destiny, doom, sin, punishment, and redemption. This song fits in with the reverent side. There is a sense of inevitability, the feeling that, as another poet wrote, like it or not you will have to serve somebody. It seems to be both lamenting and glorifying the death of Christ, as the deity prepares to leave behind the human world. I’ve always taken it as an interpretation of Christ’s agony in the garden, when He grappled for the last time with His human fears and finally accepted His fate. According to Nick Cave himself, though, the song has slightly earthlier roots; it was written in tribute to Johnny Cash, who passed away a year before Abattoir Blues was released.

C’mon, kind Sir, let’s walk outside
And breathe the autumn air
See the many that have lived and died
See the unending golden stair
See all of us that have come behind
Clutching at your hem
All the way from Arkansas
To your sweet and last amen

Let the bells ring
He is the real thing
Let the bells ring
He is the real, real thing

Take this deafening thunder down
Take this bread and take this wine
Your passing is not what we mourn
But the world you left behind
Well, do not breathe, nor make a sound
And behold your mighty work
That towers over the uncaring ground
Of a lesser, darker world

Let the bells ring
He is the real thing
Let the bells ring
He is the real, real thing

There are those of us not fit to tie
The laces of your shoes
Must remain behind to testify
Through an elementary blues
So, let’s walk outside, the hour is late
Through your crumbs and scattered shells
Where the awed and the mediocre wait
Barely fit to ring the bells

Let the bells ring
He is the real thing
Let the bells ring
He is the real, real thing


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