Monkey & Bear
Joanna Newsom Lyrics


Down in the green hay
Where monkey and bear usually lay
They woke from a stable-boy's cry

He said; someone come quick!
The horses got loose, got grass-sick!
They'll founder! Fain, they'll die

What is now known by the sorrel and the roan?
By the chestnut, and the bay, and the gelding grey?

It is: stay by the gate that you are given
And remain in your place, for your season
And had the overfed dead but listened
To that high-fence, horse-sense, wisdom...

Did you hear that, Bear? Said monkey
We'll get out of here, fair and square
They left the gate open wide!

So
My bride
Here is my hand, where is your paw?
Try and understand my plan, Ursala
My heart is a furnace
Full of love that's just, and earnest
Now; you know that we must unlearn this
Allegiance to a life of service
And no longer answer to that heartless
Hay-monger, nor be his accomplice
(that charlatan, with artless hustling!)
But; Ursala, we've got to eat something
And earn our keep, while still within
The borders of the land that man has girded
(all double-bolted and tight-fisted!)
Until we reach the open country
A-steeped in milk and honey

Will you keep your fancy clothes on, for me?
Can you bear a little longer to wear that leash?
My love, I swear by the air I breathe:
Sooner or later, you'll bare your teeth

But for now, just dance, darling
C'mon, will you dance, my darling?
Darling, there's a place for us
Can we go, before I turn to dust?
Oh my darling, there's a place for us
Oh darling
C'mon will you dance, my darling?
Oh, the hills are groaning with excess
Like a table ceaselessly being set
Oh my darling, we will get there yet

They trooped past the guards,
Past the coops, and the fields, and the farmyards
All night, till finally:

The space they gained grew
Much farther than the stone that bear threw
To mark where they'd stop for tea

But walk a little faster
And don't look backwards
Your feast is to the East, which lies a little past the pasture

When the blackbirds hear tea whistling, they rise and clap
And their applause caws the kettle black
And we can't have none of that!

Move along, Bear; there, there; that�s that
Though cast in plaster
Our Ursala's heart beat faster
Than monkey's ever will

But still;
They have got to pay the bills
Hadn't they?
That is what the monkey'd say

So, with the courage of a clown, or a cur
Or a kite, jerking tight at its tether
In her dun-brown gown of fur
And her jerkin' of swansdown and leather

Bear would sway on her hind legs;
The organ would grind dregs of song, for the pleasure
Of the children, who'd shriek
Throwing coins at her feet
Then recoiling in terror

Sing, dance, darling
C'mon, will you dance, my darling?
Oh darling, there's a place for us
Can we go, before I turn to dust?
Oh my darling, there�s a place for us

Oh darling
C'mon, will you dance, my darling?
You keep your eyes fixed on the highest hill
Where you'll ever-after eat your fill
Oh my darling, dear, mine
If you dance
Dance, darling, and I love you still

Deep in the night
Shone a weak and miserly light
Where the monkey shouldered his lamp

Someone had told him
The bear had been wandering
A fair piece away from where they were camped

Someone had told him
The bear'd been sneaking away
To the seaside caverns, to bathe

And the thought troubled the monkey
For he was afraid of spelunking down in those caves

Also afraid what the village people would say
If they saw the bear in that state;

Lolling and splashing obscenely
Well, it seemed irrational, really; washing that face

Washing that matted and flea-bit pelt
In some sea-spit-shine, old kelp dripping with brine

But monkey just laughed, and he muttered;
When she comes back, Ursala will be bursting with pride

Till I jump up!
Saying: you've been rolling in muck!
Saying: you smell of garbage and grime!

But far out
Far out
By now
By now
Far out, by now, Bear ploughed
'Cause she would not drown:

First the outside-legs of the bear
Up and fell down, in the water, like knobby garters

Then the outside-arms of the bear
Fell off, as easy as if sloughed from boiled tomatoes

Low'red in a genteel curtsy
Bear shed the mantle of her diluvian shoulders;

And, with a sigh,
She allowed the burden of belly to drop like an apron full of boulders

If you could hold up her threadbare
Coat to the light where it's worn translucent in places

You'd see spots where
Almost every night of the year Bear had been mending suspending that baseness

Now her coat drags through the water
Bagging, with a life's-worth of hunger, limitless minnows;

In the magnetic embrace
Balletic and glacial of Bear's insatiable shadow;

Left there!
Left there!
When Bear left Bear
Left there!
Left there!
When Bear stepped clear of Bear

Contributed by Addison J. Suggest a correction in the comments below.
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Most interesting comments from YouTube:

citrus meat

Down in the green hay
Where monkey and bear usually lay
They woke from a stable-boy's cry
He said; someone come quick!
The horses got loose, got grass-sick!
They'll founder! Fain, they'll die
What is now known by the sorrel and the roan?
By the chestnut, and the bay, and the gelding grey?
It is: stay by the gate you are given
And remain in your place, for your season
And had the overfed dead but listened
To that high-fence, horse-sense, wisdom...
Did you hear that, Bear? Said monkey
We'll get out of here, fair and square
They've left the gate open wide!
So
My bride
Here is my hand, where is your paw?
Try and understand my plan, Ursala
My heart is a furnace
Full of love that's just, and earnest
Now; you know that we must unlearn this
Allegiance to a life of service
And no longer answer to that heartless
Hay-monger, nor be his accomplice
(That charlatan, with artless hustling!)
But; Ursala, we've got to eat something
And earn our keep, while still within
The borders of the land that man has girded
(All double-bolted and tight-fisted!)
Until we reach the open country
A-steeped in milk and honey
Will you keep your fancy clothes on, for me?
Can you bear a little longer to wear that leash?
My love, I swear by the air I breathe:
Sooner or later, you'll bare your teeth
But for now, just dance, darling
C'mon, will you dance, my darling?
Darling, there's a place for us
Can we go, before I turn to dust?
Oh my darling, there's a place for us
Oh darling
C'mon will you dance, my darling?
Oh, the hills are groaning with excess
Like a table ceaselessly being set
Oh my darling, we will get there yet
They trooped past the guards,
Past the coops, and the fields, and the farmyards
All night, till finally:
The space they gained grew
Much farther than the stone that bear threw
To mark where they'd stop for tea
But walk a little faster
And don't look backwards
Your feast is to the East, which lies a little past the pasture
When the blackbirds hear tea whistling, they rise and clap
And their applause caws the kettle black
And we can't have none of that!
Move along, Bear; there, there; that's that
Though cast in plaster
Our Ursala's heart beat faster
Than monkey's ever will
But still;
They have got to pay the bills
Hadn't they?
That is what the monkey'd say
So, with the courage of a clown, or a cur
Or a kite, jerking tight at its tether
In her dun-brown gown of fur
And her jerkin' of swansdown and leather
Bear would sway on her hind legs;
The organ would grind dregs of song, for the pleasure
Of the children, who'd shriek
Throwing coins at her feet
Then recoiling in terror
Sing, dance, darling
C'mon, will you dance, my darling?
Oh darling, there's a place for us
Can we go, before I turn to dust?
Oh my darling, there's a place for us
Oh darling
C'mon, will you dance, my darling?
You keep your eyes fixed on the highest hill
Where you'll ever-after eat your fill
Oh my darling, dear, mine
If you dance
Dance, darling, and I love you still
Deep in the night
Shone a weak and miserly light
Where the monkey shouldered his lamp
Someone had told him
The bear had been wandering
A fair piece away from where they were camped
Someone had told him
The bear'd been sneaking away
To the seaside caverns, to bathe
And the thought troubled the monkey
For he was afraid of spelunking down in those caves
Also afraid what the village people would say
If they saw the bear in that state;
Lolling and splashing obscenely
Well, it seemed irrational, really; washing that face
Washing that matted and flea-bit pelt
In some sea-spit-shine, old kelp dripping with brine
But monkey just laughed, and he muttered;
When she comes back, Ursala will be bursting with pride
Till I jump up!
Saying: you've been rolling in muck!
Saying: you smell of garbage and grime!
But far out
Far out
By now
By now
Far out, by now, Bear ploughed
'Cause she would not drown:
First the outside-legs of the bear
Up and fell down, in the water, like knobby garters
Then the outside-arms of the bear
Fell off, as easy as if sloughed from boiled tomatoes
Low'red in a genteel curtsy
Bear shed the mantle of her diluvian shoulders;
And, with a sigh,
She allowed the burden of belly to drop like an apron full of boulders
If you could hold up her threadbare
Coat to the light where it's worn translucent in places
You'd see spots where
Almost every night of the year Bear had been mending suspending that baseness
Now her coat drags through the water
Bagging, with a life's-worth of hunger, limitless minnows;
In the magnetic embrace
Balletic and glacial of Bear's insatiable shadow;
Left there!
Left there!
When Bear left Bear
Left there!
Left there!
When Bear stepped clear of Bear
Sooner or later you'll bury your teeth



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i dont read it this way. i took "outside-legs" etc refer to the costume the monkey forced on bear, and that she instead repurposed this costume, her coat, into a fishing net. now the bear is free from her parasitic relationship to monkey, and able to work productively for her own desires. i think people are right to read this as a song about class struggle, from feudalism to capitalism (predicated on the lie that bourgeois and proletariat are "in it together") but that rather than ending in a tragic defeat or death we find our heroic proletariat liberated and in control of the means of production, free from the lifetime of hunger imposed upon her.

If you could hold up her threadbare
Coat to the light where it's worn translucent in places
You'd see spots where
Almost every night of the year Bear had been mending suspending that baseness

Now her coat drags through the water
Bagging, with a life's-worth of hunger, limitless minnows;
In the magnetic embrace
Balletic and glacial of Bear's insatiable shadow

bone chilling.



All comments from YouTube:

cans of swine

When are we going to start a crowdfund and turn this into a full length feature film already

maaskeimorgen

I'm a native danish speaker but I speak english well enough to comprehend this as well as any native english speaker, I think. I'm very grateful for that

13gondolla37

The player we used for this record made her voice wibbly and alien when we stepped too hard. It was creepy and awesome.

hanto

kinda(really) late but what player was?

Char

oh my goodness, i never understood what this song was about, but i analyzed it just now, and it made me really depressed..

Jordan Murphy

@Joey Martinez I read them as people, in an abusive relationship, the circus as only a metphor

strawberry vanilla

im late! But I don't think Bear dies. I know the lyrics are quite literal at the end: her body is falling apart as she soaks in the water, almost as if she is made of something soluble. But I like to think it is actually her releasing tension that she has so long harbored due to her years of serving those who would exploit her. she has been denied her nature by being made to perform, and it is in the water that she finds her identity once more. Her belly drops because she stops sucking in her gut. her shoulders fall because she no longer holds an unnaturally erect posture. Bear is exhausted and worn as she swims, but I see her moving with impossible speed and power, as Bears do. Bears are excellent swimmers, and Monkeys often cannot swim at all. Bear has found her freedom in doing what she alone can do, going across the water to live in a place where she will be free from all disturbance. I also want to note that Monkey speaks often in this narrative while Bear never says a word. We are to assume the troupe they escaped from was run by humans that would take advantage of them, and after liberating themselves Monkey begins to take advantage of her in the same way. It mirrors clearly the phenomenon where some abused people take on the behaviors of their tormentors, becoming abusers themselves. The 'Bears' will become more empathetic because of their pain, while 'Monkeys' emulate what has injured them in an attempt to avoid further victimization. So the empathetic party has a soft spot for those who share their pain and thus a hard time doling blame, while the abusive party takes advantage of this softness to perpetuate cruelty. Anyway, all that to say Monkey speaks because he is behaviorally adjacent to the abusive Human, while Bear does not speak because she is simply a Bear.

Paris Sinclair

I'm positive there's a double meaning to the song- one being an origin story of Ursa Major wherein Monkey takes advantage of Bear and lies to her, etc and she finally breaks free. But I know all the songs on Ys are deeply personal to Joanna, so this absolutely will be a metaphor for her own life and experience- perhaps a record label or producer who wanted her to perform tricks and kill her creative spirit until she was able to break free and realize her own vision? Or perhaps a romantic partner who led her on with an exciting start and wonderful descriptions of the future while the reality of the day to day was exhausting as "almost every night of the year she'd been mending, suspending that baseness" in an attempt to make things work? Who knows.

MCVessels

@j Except that what Bear does isn't described as a drowning. Rather than drowning, her bodyparts fall away one by one: they're consciously cast off, until Bear is left bare. There's nothing left of her that Monkey would recognise, but in a sense she's more herself - more the uncompromised, bare Bear - after this surreal, eerie transformation than she has ever been.

j

jmmmm83 yeah but bear left by committing suicide...

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