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I need explanation of a line in lyrics by Glen Hansard from the song "Moving On." I struggle to understand the meaning of "(not here) gathering stone".

Well, If you've got blood in your heart
If you've got flesh on your bones
You should be playing your part here
Not rushing off all alone
We should be planning on our windfall
Not here gathering stone

Or listen to the song at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSM52xsuyXs

Vaclav -- Czech Rep.

I'm tired sitting around and waiting
For things that ain't gonna come
I want it all on the table
I wanna know what Ive done
I should be singing your praises
Not here banging this drum
Im tired sitting around and waiting
I am moving on
Moving on
I remember the first time I met you
Your heart was cold like a stone
You said Id better forget you řekla
Id better leave you alone
But then you reached right inside me
You showed my heart where was home
I remember the first time I met you
I felt my time had come
I felt my time had come
I felt my time had come
Well, If youve got blood in your heart
If youve got flesh on your bones
You should be playing your part here
Not rushing off all alone
We should be planning on our windfall
Not here gathering stone
If youve got blood in your heart
Yeah, your time has come
I am tired thinking about you baby jsem unavený
I am waiting for you to come
One day youre gonna leave me maybe
and I will be long gone
I should be planning on our windfall
And not here banging this drum
I am tired thinking about you baby
I am moving on
I am moving on
I am moving on

  • Not to be a jerk, but I think more people would be more inclined to help you if you typed out the lyric you're talking about. Otherwise, some people might think you're just using this to drive traffic to the song. – Teacher KSHuang Dec 23 '16 at 16:45
  • That is cool - thanks for the tip. I added the lyrics. – Venda Dec 23 '16 at 16:58
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    I haven't checked out the clip, and I haven't read the whole lyrics, but judging from the part "Not here gathering stone If youve got blood in your heart", I think it's probably used like in He that is silent gathers stones. – Damkerng T. Dec 23 '16 at 17:05
  • I wonder if the singer meant to say, "gathering moss". "Gathering stone" seems to have a negative connotation to me and so "gathering moss," also negative, fits, but honestly, I'm not 100% sure what the singer meant by what he had said. Sorry :/. – Teacher KSHuang Dec 23 '16 at 17:07
  • Guys, that is unfortunately still not enough I am afraid. Could you pls rephrase that line? The thing is I need to translate it to Czech with just a few words. I get the biblical meaning, but I would appreciate much "denser" kind of sentence. Thanks a lot. – Venda Dec 23 '16 at 17:53
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First: "gathering stone" is poetic language in this song, and not a common idiom with an obvious meaning in everyday spoken English. If you said "Wow, we were really gathering stones yesterday!" then most English speakers would have no idea what you were talking about -- or else they would assume you meant physically picking up rocks.

However, this is an interesting English language question -- it is not a common idiom, but it is either an English proverb or a Biblical reference.

There are two related sources possible for the phrase "gathering stone(s)" in the lyrics of Glen Hansard's "Untitled (Moving On)."

You should be playing your part here
Not rushing off all alone
We should be planning on our windfall
Not here gathering stone

One source for the phrase is the proverb:

He that is silent gathers stone(s).

The meaning is that a silent enemy may be picking up rocks to throw later, or a silent critic may be choosing cruel words to use later. In the context of the song, this would suggest that the ex-lovers are no longer speaking to one another, but are preparing to say or do hurtful things. An early printed example of this proverb appears listed under "Silence" for Proverbs, Maxims and Phrases of All Ages (1887). See also discussion on Power Up With Proverbs and this previous ELL question.

A second source comes from the Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:5. From the King James version:

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

The stones here have been translated and interpreted in many ways: breaking apart vs building (e.g. a stone wall), or violent throwing vs. peace, or preparing for war. However, the key is that these are parallel opposites that form a syllogism: "Cast away stones" is like "embrace" as "gather stones" is like "refrain from embracing." In the context of the song, the ex-lovers "gather stones", which is not embracing.

A side note: Ecclesiastes 3 is well known in English popular music due to its adaptation in Peter Seenger's Turn! Turn! Turn!, so it is possible that Hansard is also making a musical reference.

  • Well, Jeremy, this is pretty exhaustive, great help!!! Great help. Thanks all of you guys. – Venda Dec 23 '16 at 18:23
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    Outstanding. I think this is strongly supported elsewhere in the song--see my "Supplement" – StoneyB Dec 23 '16 at 19:18
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Supplemental to Jeremy Douglass' Answer:

I think both of Jeremy's suggestions are further supported by a network of repetitions and parallels in the song:

I should be singing your praises
Not here banging this drum

We should be planning on our windfall
Not here gathering stone

I should be planning on our windfall
And not here banging this drum

Gathering stone is equated in this series with banging this drum, and they're contrasted with Singing your praises and planning on our windfall.

This pattern is artfully complicated by shifts in contextual meaning. In the first half of the song planning on our windfall has its ordinary meaning of "taking advantage of our fortunate chance", while in the second half it seems to mean "make my plans based on the inevitable collapse of our relationship". Blood in your heart appears to signify "hot-blooded, passionate" in the first half and "consumed with rage" in the second; and in both places it seems to echo the old proverb "you can't get blood out of a stone", meaning you can't expect generous treatment from cold-hearted people.

  • Jesus Christ, this is even better than I thought. So I should reconsider my translation... this is more of a poetry. Which is great!! – Venda Dec 23 '16 at 19:16
  • @Venda Hansard cites Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Van Morrison as his major infuences--all very accomplished poets. – StoneyB Dec 23 '16 at 19:28
  • Stoney, could we stay in touch, pls? Do you have a FB account? You can find me as "Venda Kral". I would love to consult stuff with you. – Venda Dec 23 '16 at 19:36
  • @Venda I'm afraid my only public presence is here on SE, but I'm around a lot. And you can usually find most ELL folks on English Language Learners Chat, or ping them there. – StoneyB Dec 23 '16 at 19:49
  • Alright then, thanks a lot anyway. Your analysis has opened my eyes. I need to learn to read between the lines even more... – Venda Dec 23 '16 at 20:01

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