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"Timshel" Song Meaning

Last post 12-09-2012 6:13 PM by Danthegeckoman. 14 replies.
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  • 12-30-2010 3:12 AM

    "Timshel" Song Meaning

    Hello, I was first introduced to Mumford and Sons by this song after reading East of Eden. I love the song and I am quite positive that the lines "And you have your choices/ And these are what make man great/ His ladder to the stars" are a direct reference to the novel. Can you share the meaning behind the rest of the lyrics and/or whole song? Thank you, Angela
  • 12-31-2010 4:07 AM In reply to

    Re: "Timshel" Song Meaning

    likefireandpowder24:
    Hello, I was first introduced to Mumford and Sons by this song after reading East of Eden. I love the song and I am quite positive that the lines "And you have your choices/ And these are what make man great/ His ladder to the stars" are a direct reference to the novel. Can you share the meaning behind the rest of the lyrics and/or whole song? Thank you, Angela
    The whole song is indeed based off that book. East of Eden is Marcus' favourite book, and he takes a lot of the lyrics from the whole album from books like The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden (both by Steinbeck), and then Shakespeare, which the name of the album came directly from Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing." (I do believe that's the name of it.) And Also I believe some of the lyrics in Roll Away Your Stone also came from Shakespeare's "Hamlet."

    All in all, Timshel's lyrics came directly from East of Eden and were solely inspired by that book. And it's my favourite book as well. Quite an amazing book.

    Hope that helps!!

    keep smearing my heart all over my sleeve, then someone comes and wipes it off, and takes it from me.
  • 04-07-2011 8:47 AM In reply to

    Re: "Timshel" Song Meaning

     Hello Noisemaker,

     

    I am the upcoming American Sign Language Interpreter for Coachella this year. If your interpretations of the lyrics are true to the bands' then I would love to talk to you!!!!!!!

     

    Thanks!

     

  • 04-07-2011 9:49 AM In reply to

    Re: "Timshel" Song Meaning

    noisemaker_:
    the name of the album came directly from Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing." (I do believe that's the name of it.) And Also I believe some of the lyrics in Roll Away Your Stone also came from Shakespeare's "Hamlet."
     

    Tisk, tisk, you seem to be slipping my friend! Best start brushing up on your Shakespeare:)

    give me hope in silence
    it's easier, it's kinder
    tell me not of heartbreak
    it plagues my soul, it plagues my soul
    and bury me beside you
    I have no hope in solitude
  • 04-07-2011 4:59 PM In reply to

    Re: "Timshel" Song Meaning

    musicmind75:

     Hello Noisemaker,

     

    I am the upcoming American Sign Language Interpreter for Coachella this year. If your interpretations of the lyrics are true to the bands' then I would love to talk to you!!!!!!!

     

    Thanks!

     

    Hi! If you'd really like to talk to me, I'm more than happy to help!

    keep smearing my heart all over my sleeve, then someone comes and wipes it off, and takes it from me.
  • 04-07-2011 5:01 PM In reply to

    Re: "Timshel" Song Meaning

    tripoli:

    noisemaker_:
    the name of the album came directly from Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing." (I do believe that's the name of it.) And Also I believe some of the lyrics in Roll Away Your Stone also came from Shakespeare's "Hamlet."
     

    Tisk, tisk, you seem to be slipping my friend! Best start brushing up on your Shakespeare:)

    Ah yeah, I've not read those in a while. The last one I read of Shakespeare's recently was Julius Caesar; finished that up about 2 weeks ago. Guess I'll have to start the others again haha

    keep smearing my heart all over my sleeve, then someone comes and wipes it off, and takes it from me.
  • 05-09-2011 3:23 AM In reply to

    Re: "Timshel" Song Meaning

     okay- so he liked the book and took some lyrics from it- doesn't answer the question of what the song means...  The book covers a LOT of themes and issues in its over 500 pages- Confused
    Thoughts on song's MEANING?

  • 07-03-2011 9:04 PM In reply to

    • DeusEM
    • Not Ranked
    • Joined on 05-24-2011
    • Posts 2

    Re: "Timshel" Song Meaning

     Hamlet. No.

     

    Macbeth, Act I Scene IV: "Stars, hide your fires. Let not light see my black and deep desires."

     

    While paraphrased in the song's lyrics, there can surely be no doubt as to the origins of this particular stanza.

     

    Also, smell this milk.

  • 07-18-2011 3:11 AM In reply to

    Re: "Timshel" Song Meaning

    I recently finished East of Eden. (Read in 5 nights while working graveyard shifts as a security guard.) I had only listened to Mumford & Sons a little before reading Steinbeck's novel and was not aware of the connection until after reading. I have never broken down a Mumford & Sons song before, but here it goes. First off, you should know that the word Timshel is a Hebrew word meaning 'Thou mayest.' It comes from page 301 of the Penguin edition of East of Eden, where Steinbeck's character Lee interprets Genesis 4:7 as "Thou mayest rule over sin," saying "The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in 'Thou shalt,' meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel-'Thou mayest'-that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if 'Thou mayest'-it is also true that 'Thou mayest not'." Cold is the water It freezes your already cold mind Already cold, cold mind Motivation and decision making are "frozen" or inhibited by death or the sense of great loss. In East of Eden, the characters, especially Adam Trask, struggle to keep their head clear and priorities straight in times of difficulty, often reverting to living life in a fog without any sense of direction. And death is at your doorstep And it will steal your innocence But it will not steal your substance This is more straightforward. When those you love and care about die, it steals your innocence. Mumford is warning us about its ability to steal the substance of our character and ruin our lives as well. In East of Eden, Tom Hamilton is unable to recover from his father's death, eventually killing himself. When Cathy, who Steinbeck describes as a monster and who represents evil, arrives at Adam's doorstep, she is near death. Adam empathizes with her because he had been in a similar state earlier in life after nearly being killed in a bout of jealousy by his brother. He takes her in, cares for her, and falls in love with his distorted image of her . Her presence steals Adam of his innocence and ruins his already fragile relationship with Charles, his brother. It momentarily steals his substance as well, but he works to regain it. But you are not alone in this And you are not alone in this As brothers we will stand and we'll hold your hand Hold your hand This is both a reminder to those struggling while feeling helpless and lonely that they are not alone. Importantly, it is also calling us to be there for others in times of trouble for others, so they are not alone. We can sit around depressed, or we can choose to get off our asses and help others struggling. Lee and Samuel Hamilton selflessly put the well-being of others first. It is interesting that Mumford chooses the word brothers. East of Eden is a very long and complicated version of Genesis 4, the story of Cain and Abel. In Genesis, Cain kills his brother Abel out of jealousy. In East of Eden, Charles attacks his brother Adam leaving him near death while Caleb reveals to his brother Aron that their mother is the manager of a town whore-house. Caleb knows that the shock will cause great harm to his brother, but he does it anyway. Perhaps Mumford & Sons are trying to convey that the brotherly bond is strong enough to overcome the problems exemplified in Cain and Abel and East of Eden. And you are the mother The mother of your baby child The one to whom you gave life In East of Eden, first Cyrus and Adam Trask severely damage their sons lives by preferring one brother over the other, resulting in enormous jealousy in the hearts of the less loved. I believe this line is calling on parents to love their children, reminding them that you owe it to them for creating their life. More directly, it could be seen as advice to Cathy Trask. In East of Eden, Cathy represents evil. When she discovers she is pregnant, she attempts to abort her sons but fails. After giving birth, she abandons the family and leaves for Salinas to manage a whorehouse. Cathy's decisions haunt her sons for the duration of their lives. And you have your choices And these are what make man great His ladder to the stars This is a direct quote from East of Eden. The line 'and you have your choices' is the rough definition of the Hebrew word Timshel, where the song derives its title. We can choose to either sin or commit great acts. If we choose the latter, we can be great, and climb the "ladder to the stars" and be equal with God. But I will tell the night And whisper, "Lose your sight" But I can't move the mountains for you I do not understand the first two lines of this verse. I believe "lose your sight" is a reference to Adam Trask's near blindness due to his sickness that resulted from despair that Aron, his favorite son, ran away and joined the army. Mumford may mean that we are capable of helping those in need by providing a wake up call, changing their sight, or vision, of the world. East of Eden takes place in the Salinas Valley in California. The valley is bordered to the East and West by mountain ranges. One of which Steinbeck describes as inviting, the other foreboding and hazardous. The foreboding mountains can be likened to the fruit the serpent uses to tempt Eve in Genesis. Viewed in this way, the mountains are enticing us towards sin, blocking our path to happiness and fulfillment. In order to reach greatness, we must move the mountains, and no one except one's own self is capable of bypassing them. I think the song, like the novel, is about the freedom of choice and the healthiest and most beneficial way to live life is to love and help others, because what else do we have as a human community except the well-being of its members? The only website I could find with explanation of Timshel was SongMeaning.net. There, most seemed to think the song is about abortion. I think they are on the right track, but they are thinking too narrowly. The song is surely a call to life, but abortion is just one way to destroy a life! I would appreciate any feedback or differing interpretations of this wonderful song. Peace!
  • 08-04-2011 7:40 AM In reply to

    Timshel

     I, personally, would love to hear from Mumford and Sons on what the song Timshel is about. Yes, yes, its from the book East of Eden. But i would love to know the band's interpretation of the song, The fans' opinions are quite creative and some are, in my opinion, very, very different than the intended meaning.

  • 08-04-2011 1:33 PM In reply to

    Re: Timshel

     Have merged you into this thread....

    Jo-nathan:

     I, personally, would love to hear from Mumford and Sons on what the song Timshel is about. Yes, yes, its from the book East of Eden. But i would love to know the band's interpretation of the song, The fans' opinions are quite creative and some are, in my opinion, very, very different than the intended meaning.


     

    LA Baby
  • 03-07-2012 11:12 PM In reply to

    • Music4real
    • Top 25 Contributor
    • Joined on 01-12-2012
    • Birmingham Alabama, USA
    • Posts 127

    Re: "Timshel" Song Meaning

    On page 303 of the Penguin Edition of East of Eden Lee explains,

    '"But the Hebrew word, the word timshel--'Thou mayest'-- that gives us a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if 'Thou mayest'-- it is also true that 'Thou mayest not.' Don't you see?"'

    and later he continues to say,

    '"Now, there are millions in their sects and churches who feel the order, 'Do thou,' and throw their weight into obedience. And there are millions more who feel predestination in 'Thou Shalt.' Nothing they do can interfere with what will be. But 'Thou mayest'! Why, that makes a man great, that gives him a stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win."'

    Later on 304 he goes on to say,

    "'But this-- this is a ladder to climb to the stars."' Lee's eyes shone. "You can never lose that. It cuts the feet from under weakness and cowardliness and laziness." 

    '"And I feel that I am a man. And I feel that a man is a very important thing-- maybe more important than a star. This is not theology. I have no bent toward gods. But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed---- because 'Thou mayest.' "'    

    I think the song Timshel is about having a choice and a power to decide. It directly quotes this is what makes man great/ his ladder to the stars from East of Eden and I think that means that what makes man great is his ability to be able to decide his fate and to be able to overcome the bad and fight for the good. The song talks alot about the book but I think that the bigger picture ties into having a choice and being able to decide your fate and do what you want with your life.

     But that's just me!                                               

                                                          

    Hear my voice! I came out of the woods by choice!-- It's like, Yes lads!
  • 04-04-2012 8:00 AM In reply to

    Re: "Timshel" Song Meaning

     

    Hey likefireandpowder24great choice of song must say!!!

    Thought coopaloop explain it.....Just click the below link. Quite sure, you will love to know more about this song as I do......

    http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/3530822107858789860/

  • 11-30-2012 6:16 PM In reply to

    • beja
    • Not Ranked
    • Joined on 11-30-2012
    • Posts 1

    Re: "Timshel" Song Meaning

    The above link mentions Jacob's ladder way down in the comments.  Instead of just referencing East of Eden, I believe the song is a commentary on the East of Eden and Genesis.  I'd like to provide commentary to the commentary, if the song is indeed that.  I think the writer of the song tweaks the Chinese men's interpretation to line up with scripture where Jesus references himself to Nathanael to be the ladder described in Jacob's dream in Genesis 28:12.  As a writer whose lyrics often reference serving God, it's not a stretch to say that this reference is correcting East of Eden to say- we don't become gods as Steinbeck suggests with his Chinese characters. 

    Jacob was in the middle of a desolate, rocky place, and he has just seen his mother and father for the last time.  His last encounter with his father Isaac was him stealing his brother's blessing by tricking his dying father.  OUCH.  He must have been so painfully devastated by the choice he made in retrospect, not just because it was regrettable that his twin brother wanted to kill him.

    When he went to sleep, he had the company of rocks.  He slept on one.  Not exactly the comfortable sleeping place he had at his rich father's house.  BUT he was not alone in this. God spoke to him in a dream.  He dreamed about a ladder that goes from heaven to earth with angels ascending and descending on it.  God was at the top, and he identified himself as the God his father and grandfather worshiped.  This is important because it identified Isaac.  Abraham and Isaac, his grandfather and father, were promised that their descendants would be like the stars.  So, here you have reference to stars and a ladder! What Jacob was promised by God the land on which he was sleeping and that his descendants would be as numerous as dust.  He promises that he will be with Jacob.  It's the same promise that his father and grandfather received, but that doesn't make it lose it's meaning.

    Isn't it interesting timshel in East of Eden is hinged on the meaning of the passage of Cain killing Abel, but Jacob flees Esau, and the story becomes different because for one Jacob leaves town, but Esau didn't follow him, and he probably could have.  We don't have those details, but Esau did know where Jacob was going, and he never pursued him.  Who did pursue him? God at Bethel when he had this dream. 

    We do have our choices, and it's great to have free will.  Despite the choices we make to sin or not, God pursues us and wants to bless us.  He won't choose for us.  He can't move the mountain for us unless we pray to him and believe.  I think that might be the underlying theme of this song- the beautiful picture that we can choose a wonderful life of blessing, but the choice is ours.  The choice is ours.


  • 12-09-2012 6:13 PM In reply to

    Re: "Timshel" Song Meaning

    It's funny when Atheists try to claim the Mumford and Sons have nothing to do with Christianity
    Well in love we are but ametures at best
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