River Man

Album: Five Leaves Left (1969)
Charted: 48
  • Betty came by on her way
    Said she had a word to say
    About things today
    And fallen leaves.

    Said she hadn't heard the news
    Hadn't had the time to choose
    A way to lose
    But she believes.

    Going to see the river man
    Going to tell him all I can
    About the plan
    For lilac time.

    If he tells me all he knows
    About the way his river flows
    And all night shows
    In summertime.

    Betty said she prayed today
    For the sky to blow away
    Or maybe stay
    She wasn't sure.

    For when she thought of summer rain
    Calling for her mind again
    She lost the pain
    And stayed for more.

    Going to see the river man
    Going to tell him all I can
    About the ban
    On feeling free.

    If he tells me all he knows
    About the way his river flows
    I don't suppose
    It's meant for me.

    Oh, how they come and go
    Oh, how they come and go. Writer/s: EMILY DICKINSON, NICK DRAKE
    Publisher: BMG Rights Management
    Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind

Comments: 4

  • Whydoit from San ClementeRiver man is god
    Betty is Nick contemplating suicide

    Betty came by on her way
    Said she had a word to say
    About things today
    And fallen leaves.

    My take: nick has something to say about the world today and about the past

    Said she hadn't heard the news
    Hadn't had the time to choose
    A way to lose
    But she believes.

    My take: he is agnostic has not taking time to listen to the word of god or choose one religion but believes in god

    Going to see the river man
    Going to tell him all I can
    About the plan
    For lilac time.

    My take: he is going to talk to god about his plan to kill himself which would end in a funeral of flowers lilacs

    If he tells me all he knows
    About the way his river flows
    And all night shows

    My take: if god would tell him the meaning of life or how the world "river" works and all the night that show is a reference to the stars and the universe

    In summertime.
    Betty said she prayed today
    For the sky to blow away
    Or maybe stay
    She wasn't sure.
    For when she thought of summer rain
    Calling for her mind again
    She lost the pain
    And stayed for more.

    My take: Again he is trying to decide whether the pain of life is worth it but remembers the good times and choose to live a bit longer

    Going to see the river man
    Going to tell him all I can
    About the ban
    On feeling free.

    My take: going to talk to god about the ban to commit suicide and being set free of this world

    If he tells me all he knows
    About the way his river flows
    I don't suppose
    It's meant for me.
    Oh, how they come and go
    Oh, how they come and go.

    If god tells him the meaning of life maybe life is not meant for him just like others before him also come and go
  • Craig from Lafayette Hill, PaAnother possible meaning for the album title is this short story by O. Henry, The Last Leaf:
    http://www.online-literature.com/o_henry/1303/

    It's quite astonishing that, Five Leaves Left, came out approximately five years before his death, and of course contained the song, Fruit Tree, whichof course, fortells his own destiny.
  • Roman from Barrie, Onis it a coincidence that like this song many other songs by other artists about a "river" are about sorrow, pain, death and other forms of tragedy; is this perhaps the common stream in mankind.
  • Musicmama from New York, NyThis song is not just about the seductiveness of quite desperation and despair; it's a kind of metaphor in music for the seductiveness of quiet desperation and despair. The music moves along--I was going to say languidly, but that word sounds to leisurely, and there is nothing in this song that hints and leisure--like the drifting of a seemingly slow and melancholy, yet inescapable, river current. The narrator of the song has no choice but to go to the river man even if the answers and anything else the river man has are not meant for him--or for "Betty," who waits "for the sky to blow away" or "perhaps to stay." She isn't sure of which.

    In some odd way, this song reminds me of T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Check it out--and, of course "River Man." I love this song and, in fact, every other song that accompanies it on the "Five Leaves Left" album.
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