Rearrange your liver to the solid mental grace

By Sean Carroll | December 29, 2005 2:42 pm

Close to the EdgeSome holiday frivolity for you. I’m a big fan of Yes‘s progressive-rock masterpiece Close to the Edge, but I’ll admit that I always presumed the lyrics were mostly nonsense. Not true! It turns out that every line is imbued with subtle and hermeneutically challenging messages, worthy of the closest of readings. Happily, such a reading has been provided by the Church of Yahweh (don’t ask). Here are the lyrics by Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, and Chris Squire; have a crack at interpreting them yourselves before peeking at the answers.

I. The Solid Time Of Change

A seasoned witch could call you from the depths of your disgrace,
And rearrange your liver to the solid mental grace,
And achieve it all with music that came quickly from afar,
Then taste the fruit of man recorded losing all against the hour.
And assessing points to nowhere, leading ev’ry single one.
A dewdrop can exalt us like the music of the sun,
And take away the plain in which we move,
And choose the course you’re running.
Down at the edge, round by the corner, not right away, not right away.

Crossed the line around the changes of the summer,
Reaching to call the color of the sky.
Passed around a moment clothed in mornings faster than we see.
Getting over all the time I had to worry,
Leaving all the changes far from far behind.
We relieve the tension only to find out the master’s name.

Down at the end, round by the corner.
Close to the edge, just by a river.
Seasons will pass you by.
I get up, I get down.
Now that it’s all over and done,
Now that you find, now that you’re whole.

II. Total Mass Retain

My eyes convinced, eclipsed with the younger moon attained with love.
It changed as almost strained amidst clear manna from above.
I crucified my hate and held the word within my hand.
There’s you, the time, the logic, or the reasons we don’t understand.

Sad courage claimed the victims standing still for all to see,
As armoured movers took approach to overlook the sea.
There since the cord, the license, or the reasons we understood will be.

Down at the edge, close by a river, close to the edge, round by the corner.

Sudden call shouldn’t take away the startled memory.
All in all, the journey takes you all the way.
As apart from any reality that you’ve ever seen and known.
Guessing problems only to deceive the mention,
Passing paths that climb halfway into the void.

As we cross from side to side, we hear the total mass retain.

Down at the edge, round by the corner, close to the end, down by a river.
Seasons will pass you by.
I get up, I get down.

III. I Get Up, I Get Down

In her white lace
You can clearly see the lady sadly looking.
Saying that she’d take the blame
For the crucifixion of her own domain.

I get up, I get down, I get up, I get down.
Two million people barely satisfy.
Two hundred women watch one woman cry, too late.
The eyes of honesty can achieve.
How many millions do we deceive each day?

Through the duty she would coil their said
amusement of her story asking only interest
could be laid upon the children of her domain

I get up, I get down, I get up, I get down.

In charge of who is there in charge of me.
Do I look on blindly and say I see the way?
The truth is written all along the page.
How old will I be before I come of age for you?
I get up, I get down.

IV. Seasons Of Man

The time between the notes relates the color to the scenes.
A constant vogue of triumphs dislocate man, so it seems.
And space between the focus shape ascend knowledge of love.
As song and chance develop time, lost social temp’rance rules above.

Then according to the man who showed his outstretched arm to space,
He turned around and pointed, revealing all the human race.
I shook my head and smiled a whisper, knowing all about the place.
On the hill we viewed the silence of the valley,
Called to witness cycles only of the past.
And we reach all this with movements in between the said remark.

Close to the edge, down by the river.
Down at the end, round by the corner.
Seasons will pass you by,
Now that it’s all over and done,
Called to the seed, right to the sun.
Now that you find, now that you’re whole.
Seasons will pass you by,
I get up, I get down.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Entertainment, Music, Words
  • spyder

    Then of course there is the chess matches in the previous album.

    I’ve seen all good people turn their heads each day so satisfied I’m on my way.

    Take a straight and stronger course to the corner of your life.
    Make the white queen run so fast she hasn’t got time to make you a wife.

    ‘Cause it’s time, it’s time in time with your time and its news is captured
    For the queen to use.
    Move me on to any black square,
    Use me any time you want,
    Just remember that the goal
    for us to capture all we want, anywhere,And so much more, as in Wakeman’s solo efforts and Howe’s too. Jon Anderson continues to be incredibly productive including film scores, children’s books, poems, and lots more.

    It is good to read that one as young as you was inspired by this early 70’s psychedelia…

  • Paul Valletta

    I am a very big fan of Yes, and band Members own works.

    I also have my own interpretation based as a listener for many a year.

    A picture here:

    is based on a pebble I found on the beach, whilst listening to the TOTO album (the pebble has an uncanny resemblance to a planet, not earth?).

    My collection of Yes albums is total and complete, as far as I am aware, I also have a vast collection of individual band members works.

    I have incline to the solo music of Jon Anderson, here:

    one can see the amazing volume of work he still does.

  • Paul Valletta

    Oh I better mention that some of the lyrics refer to the journey of the band between gigs, the lyrics for instance here:”Down at the Edge,Close by a River, Close to the Edge, Round by the corner”

    are a collective reply statement, to one member of the band’s request to diirections to their next gig?

    Just think ‘band-in-van’driving from gig to gig, drinks..dope..women..and crashout spells no-doubt!

    I believe the album title refers to the pressure of ‘on the road’, and stress there-in?..almost to the point of break-up?

    But no doubt Jon’s articulate reasonings and thoughts can be mis-interpeted many ways?

  • Paul Valletta sorry again, I mention Jon’s First solo album:

    which is the finest solo album EVER!..and I know my music.

    This album has a deep an meaninful “spiritual” Universal collective theme runing through it.

    I believe he is re-writing a folow up “olias2”?

    Apologies for being a little to thorough!

  • Josh

    As an aside, I luckily was able to play cello in an orchestra accompanying Yes for two concerts back in the days of yore (high school). Unfortunately, my thumbs were too green to fully appreciate it at the time. They have certainly gotten old though. I remember the stark age difference between all the band members and the keyboardist. Something tells me …
    Also, appropriately, the colors of the concerts (PNC Bank & Arts Center, Jones Beach) were trippy to say the least.

  • Henry Holland

    What a great album CttE is! I love Siberian Khatru, it’s one of my favorite songs. Yes was really on a hot streak from The Yes Album until Relayer.

  • Tom Renbarger

    Those lyrics flowed from the pen of Proggy P. McProg himself, didn’t they?


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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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