The Circle Game

Album: Ladies Of The Canyon (1970)
  • songfacts ®
  • Artistfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • Yesterday a child came out to wonder
    Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
    Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
    And tearful at the falling of a star
    And the seasons they go round and round
    And the painted ponies go up and down
    We're captive on the carousel of time
    We can't return we can only look behind
    From where we came
    And go round and round and round
    In the circle game

    Then the child moved ten times round the seasons
    Skated over ten clear frozen streams
    Words like, when you're older, must appease him
    And promises of someday make his dreams
    And the seasons they go round and round
    And the painted ponies go up and down
    We're captive on the carousel of time
    We can't return we can only look behind
    From where we came
    And go round and round and round
    In the circle game

    Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now
    Cartwheels turn to car wheels through the town
    And they tell him,
    Take your time, it won't be long now
    Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down
    And the seasons they go round and round
    And the painted ponies go up and down
    We're captive on the carousel of time
    We can't return we can only look behind
    From where we came
    And go round and round and round
    In the circle game

    So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty
    Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
    There'll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
    Before the last revolving year is through
    And the seasons they go round and round
    And the painted ponies go up and down
    We're captive on the carousel of time
    We can't return, we can only look behind
    From where we came
    And go round and round and round
    In the circle game

    And go round and round and round
    In the circle gameWriter/s: Joni Mitchell
    Publisher: Crazy Crow Music / Siquomb Music Publishing
    Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 15

  • Harry from Calgary, CanadaI feel very sad when I hear this song. I am with Myles from Vancouver. I detest "Big Yellow Taxi" but LOVE this song.
  • Tc from Evanston, IlGarret that's true. She wrote "Circle Games" in response to Neil Young's "Sugar Mountain" a lament about being one year older and no longer able to go to a particular hang out with friends any longer due to the clubs(?) age limit. There is a Joni Mitchell quote about this on wikipedia under Sugar Mountain the song. I also remember hearing
    her say it on a live version of "Circle Game" years and years ago. That may be where the quote on wikipedia is taken from.
  • Miles from Vancouver, CanadaI actually prefer Joni's output after Court and Spark, but this is one of the best songs from Reprise albums and perhaps the only reason I'd listen to Ladies of the Canyon. Screw "Big Yellow Taxi"...I hate that song. "The Circle Game" is far better. (Sometimes it even makes me cry.)
  • Don from Aurora, OhWhat can one say about "The Circle Game" it has to be one of the best writing songs ever. It is a perfect example of Apollinian and Dionysian as per Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy.
  • Camille from Toronto, OhThis song has deeper significance to Joni Mitchell. In her late teens or early twenties prior to her fame, she gave birth to a daughter out of wedlock. It was a time in our nation when unwed mothers were practically shunned. No one in Joni's family knew about the baby till decades later. She gave the baby up for adoption. Read the lyrics of the Circle Game with this information in mind and it has a much deeper meaning. Joni never gave birth to another child. The older women of her family, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, had sacrificed their hopes, dreams and creativity for husbands and children, at times leading lives of hard work and drudgery. Joni wanted to rise above that and allow her creative side to develop, not just for herself but as a tribute to those women who came before her. Now at a midlife age, Joni and her daughter have reunited. Read about it more in depth in the book "Girls Like Us".
  • Andrew from Portland, OrYou know, I'd heard that Joni made the "It's better when an older person sings it" comment to someone who'd just performed Both Sides, Now. I could be wrong, though.
  • David from Youngstown, OhThis was one of the songs we sang at my fifth-grade elementary school graduation in 1977. I didn't get it at the time, but the lyrics are beautiful and so meaningful.
  • Randy from Las Vegas, NvSorry, I was wrong. Joni did write the song.
  • Randy from Las Vegas, NvAlthough Joni Mitchell did perform this song, I believe that it was written by Buffy Sainte-Marie. Buffy, like Joni was born in Canada. She was a native-american born on a Cree reservation in Qu'Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan.
  • Ivan from Dallas, TxA fairly famous female singer named Agnes Chan in Hong Kong covered this in the early seventies. The B side was Peter Paul & Mary's "Day Is Done".
  • Gary from Houston, TxAn older woman sang this at her own concert, and afterward Joni went back stage to meet with her. Without telling the woman that she was the writer, Joni said, "Wow, it sounds so much better when an older person sings it." The woman seemed offended, but Joni laughs at this now.
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesTom Rush (best known for writing the Walker Brothers' classic "No Regrets") later covered this, and his 1989 'best of' album was named after it.
  • Garrett from Nashville, TnAnyone know if it's true that Joni wrote this about Neil Young turning twenty? (They were friends when they were unknown artists in Canada).
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScBtw, I get what Jonie Mitchell meant about the song sounding better when someone older sang it. Someone who was older would probably have had more experiences and would have felt similar feelings about the subject matter this song deals with.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScThis song is beautiful! It's one of my favorites. I'm 17 years old, and I sang this in my Chorus class when our teacher let us sing any song we wanted for an extra credit grade. I had never performed any of Jonie Mitchell's songs in front of anyone, and luckily every one in class thought it was very good. I was very glad considering that I had been extremely nervous about the whole thing. One of my friends who had also heard the original said that I sounded like Jonie Mitchell. I don't know about that, but I was definitely glad to receive the compliment.
see more comments

Lace the Music: How LSD Changed Popular MusicSong Writing

Starting in Virginia City, Nevada and rippling out to the Haight-Ashbury, LSD reshaped popular music.

Donald FagenSongwriter Interviews

Fagen talks about how the Steely Dan songwriting strategy has changed over the years, and explains why you don't hear many covers of their songs.

Gilby ClarkeSongwriter Interviews

The Guns N' Roses rhythm guitarist in the early '90s, Gilby talks about the band's implosion and the side projects it spawned.

The Truth Is Out There: A History of Alien SongsSong Writing

The trail runs from flying saucer songs in the '50s, through Bowie, blink-182 and Katy Perry.

Jay, Peaches, Spinderella and other Darrining VictimsSong Writing

Just like Darrin was replaced on Bewitched, groups have swapped out original members, hoping we wouldn't notice.

Rickie Lee JonesSongwriter Interviews

Rickie Lee Jones on songwriting, social media, and how she's handling Trump.