This song is about feeling joyous, but knowing that the joy is going to end someday. Sting wrote it after he bought a house near a barley field. The sunsets and the colors of the field were an inspiration for the lyrics, along with his love at the time, Trudie Styler, whom he married in 1992. Styler has said that the song is one of her favorites.
The major theme in this is commitment. It is about a man who has broken promises before, but is determined make this relationship last.
The story is chronological. It is about courtship, marriage, and eventual death. The two people in the song meet, court, fall in love (at this point, he reveals that he has never really made such a strong promise/commitment to someone) but feels he is ready to now. "See the children run," their offspring and the "jealous sky" refer to the Heavens. Even Heaven is jealous of their love/relationship. The esteemed sun is jealous. Eventually, he dies and tells his love that they will always remember their love specifically, when she thinks of him, he wants to be personified as such... walking in fields of gold (barley).
Hatch - Cincinnati, Ohio
Sting started writing this on the guitar. He thinks his simple songs are often his best, and uses this as an example.
The video shows Sting traversing a nighttime landscape where his amber silhouette reveals the same landscape from daytime hours. It was directed by Kevin Godley, who along with Lol Creme was half of Godley & Creme, which was both a musical group and a directing team. Godley & Creme pulled off elaborate videos for The Police, including the candles video for "Wrapped Around Your Finger
" and the Max Max-inspired "Synchronicity II
," but it was the "Fields of Gold" shoot that drove Godley to madness.
The video hinged on a motion control camera that could shoot the nighttime scenes, then shoot the daytime scenes with the exact same moves so they could appear in Sting's silhouette. "But motion control f--ked up," Godley told Songfacts
. It couldn't remember the exact moves for each of the things we did, and it proceeded to do moves that it had logged from a commercial three weeks ago or something insane like that. And they didn't have the relevant piece of equipment to correct it, so we sat around on our asses for about six hours doing nothing while they were rushing around frantically trying to mend this robot. I ended up throwing a chair at the bloody thing."
Despite the aggravation, Godley used motion control again when he did the "Theme From Mission: Impossible
" video for Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen.
The album title is a play on Sting's real name, Gordon Sumner, as well as a reference to The Canterbury Tales. In the book, which was written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 1400s, people from different backgrounds each tell stories, including tales by a nun, a miller, a knight, and a summoner. A summoner was someone who summoned a person for the king or some formal function. Like the book, Sting thought the album was a collection of songs that told many different tales.
Eva Cassidy did a popular cover of this song that the US figure skater Michelle Kwan skated to at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
In Lyrics By Sting, the singer described the view from his 16th-century manor house: "In England, our house is surrounded by barley fields, and in the summer it's fascinating to watch the wind moving over the shimmering surface, like waves on an ocean of gold. There's something inherently sexy about the sight, something primal, as if the wind were making love to the barley. Lovers have made promises here, I'm sure, their bonds strengthened by the comforting cycle of the seasons."
"Fields of Gold" is also the title of Sting's 1994 hits compilation.
Along with many songs by The Police, this was featured in The Office (US) episode "Phyllis' Wedding" in 2007. It was also used on The Sopranos episode "Full Leather Jacket" in 2000.
Audiences have taken to swaying like the barley fields in the breeze when Sting performs this, which annoys the singer to no end. He told Mojo in 1995: "It's disconcerting. But you can't stop them, can you? Oi! Stop that f---ing shite!"
Of the lyric, "So she took her love for to gaze awhile upon the fields of barley," Sting told interviewer Daniel Rachel (The Art of Noise: Conversations with Great Songwriters): "I'm using poetic license to alter syntax. I wanted to create a timeless idea that the song could have been written in the sixteenth century."
The song was re-recorded by Katie Melua as the official BBC Children in Need single for the charity's 2017 Appeal in tribute to Life President Sir Terry Wogan. ("Fields of Gold" was one of the late radio broadcaster's favorite tunes.) Recorded at Hoxa Studios in West Hampstead, Katie Melua's performance of the Sting track found her playing solo acoustic guitar accompanied solely by band-mate Mark Edwards on Hammond organ.
In a 2018 discussion at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, Paul McCartney named this as the song he wished he'd written. "I like Sting's 'Fields Of Gold,'" he said. "I thought, 'I should have written it. How dare he.'"