The Eternal
Joy Division Lyrics


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Procession moves on, the shouting is over
Praise to the glory of loved ones now gone
Talking aloud as they sit 'round their tables
Scattering flowers washed down by the rain

Stood by the gate at the foot of the garden
Watching them pass like clouds in the sky
Try to cry out in the heat of the moment
Possessed by a fury that burns from inside

Cry like a child, though these years make me older
With children, my time is so wastefully spent
Burden to keep, though their inner communion
Accept like a curse, an unlucky deal

Played by the gate at the foot of the garden
My view stretches out from the fence to the wall




No words could explain, no actions determine
Just watching the trees and the leaves as they fall

Overall Meaning

The Eternal by Joy Division is a haunting and introspective song on the themes of death, loss, and separation. The opening line "Procession moves on, the shouting is over" sets the tone for the rest of the song. Here, the "procession" refers to a funeral procession, and the "shouting" alludes to the mourning and wailing associated with it. The next line "Praise to the glory of loved ones now gone" suggests that the mourning is over, and the focus is now on honoring and remembering the dead.


The third line "Talking aloud as they sit 'round their tables" is poignant in its depiction of the mundane routine of life that continues even in the face of death. The image of "Scattering flowers washed down by the rain" symbolizes the fleeting, transient nature of life.


The second stanza continues with the singer, perhaps a person left behind after someone's death, watching the procession from the garden gate. The line "Possessed by a fury that burns from inside" suggests a deep anger or frustration, perhaps at the inevitability of death and the unfairness of life. The singer tries to cry out but is unable to communicate his feelings fully. The final lines of the song, "Just watching the trees and the leaves as they fall" convey a sense of melancholy and resignation to the natural order of things.


Overall, The Eternal is a deeply reflective and emotionally charged song that captures the complexity of human experience in the face of loss and death.


Line by Line Meaning

Procession moves on, the shouting is over
The people are done mourning and have moved on with their lives.


Praise to the glory of loved ones now gone
People are praising their loved ones who have passed away, honoring their memories.


Talking aloud as they sit 'round their tables
People are reminiscing and sharing memories around tables with others.


Scattering flowers washed down by the rain
Flowers are being scattered and washed away by the rain in honor of those who have passed away.


Stood by the gate at the foot of the garden
The artist is standing by the gate of a garden and observing the mourners.


Watching them pass like clouds in the sky
The mourners are passing by the singer quickly and unnoticeably, like clouds in the sky.


Try to cry out in the heat of the moment
The singer is trying to express their emotions in the moment, but struggling to do so.


Possessed by a fury that burns from inside
The artist is feeling an intense anger or passion that is consuming them from within.


Cry like a child, though these years make me older
The artist is crying despite their age, feeling childlike in their emotions.


With children, my time is so wastefully spent
The artist feels like they're wasting their time with their children, rather than pursuing their passions.


Burden to keep, though their inner communion
The singer feels a burden to keep up appearances and maintain a sense of unity with their family, even though they feel disconnected from them.


Accept like a curse, an unlucky deal
The artist feels resigned to their situation, accepting it like a curse or an unlucky hand.


Played by the gate at the foot of the garden
The singer is playing by the gate and watching the world go by.


My view stretches out from the fence to the wall
The singer has a clear view of their surroundings, from the fence to the wall.


No words could explain, no actions determine
The singer feels like they cannot explain or change their situation, and are stuck watching the world go by.


Just watching the trees and the leaves as they fall
The artist is taking in the beauty of nature, watching the trees and leaves fall as time passes.




Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner Chappell Music, Inc.
Written by: Bernard Sumner, Ian Kevin Curtis, Peter Hook, Stephen Paul David Morris

Lyrics Licensed & Provided by LyricFind
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Most interesting comment from YouTube:

@largebluecat

Yes. A Minor with a slowly descending bass line.

If you've ever heard Arvo Part's "Cantus In Memoriam Benjamin Britten" (which is pretty much the saddest piece of classical music ever written) it does the same thing - all the instruments work down the chord of A Minor in octaves until they can go no lower and they hit rock bottom. The speed at which they descend depends on their pitch, so the basses get to the bottom of their range last. The final moments when they drop onto their lowest, and last, notes against an entire orchestra a playing low A is absolutely devastating - and exactly the effect you're hearing in this song.

The actual last note of Arvo's piece is a muffled bell, whose overtone plays a major third, not the minor you'd be expecting - this is a Picardy third, a musical device used in religious music since the Renaissance. The idea is to show that in the midst of all that medieval fear and dread of God's wrath, there is still hope of redemption and paradise. So the song, no matter how devout, ends on a positive, hopeful major chord, not a minor fearful minor one.

And that's also what happens at the end of "The Eternal" - against a sustained low chord, the bass goes up in the last bar before settling back into place. A little shaft of musical light into the gloom, mirroring hundreds of years worth of religious musical observance. Even if you've got no idea what a Picardy third is, most people have heard enough music to know what it does and to react to it - it's an emotional musical folk memory. That's why this song works the way it does, and why it's perfect for it's slot in the track listing - second to last, hitting the depths, with its final chord giving us all hope that there may be something better, more hopeful coming. We're emotionally invested in the last song, "Decades", before it's begun.

I have no idea whether four lads from Manchester in the 70s knew what they were doing when they wrote and arranged this song, but they hit on a musical framework which is very old and very deep and very beautiful, and it's great to see that these centuries old musical techniques still have an impact today.



All comments from YouTube:

@christye4246

Sometimes I think this is the saddest, most beautiful song ever recorded. At other times it’s Decades, Atmosphere or In a lonely place.

@everay1822

This and Decades are the standout Joy Division songs for me. 42 years old and hasn't aged at all.

@MentalPawn

For sure it is the saddest

@Slipknoteyeless

This has to be the most heartbreaking 💔 song ever written

@tededmunds8476

Ian sounds like a man at the end of his life. So sad. But what a beautiful artistic legacy he left...

@Ursdemars

@Paulo Gore yes...

@marjanadamovic6393

Patetikus...this is artistic expression

@pioneernut7487

He was here. He put his depression onto tape. Its tragic that his mates didnt See it and Ian killed himself

@thegetdown5060

@@pioneernut7487 i recommend this song .......... ( miss me by the impures )

vccccc

@PeterNgola

@@pioneernut7487 Thats not his mates fault that he chose that route

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