-- Pacing The Cage --
24 June 1995. Philadelphia.
Sunset is an angel weeping
Holding out a bloody sword
No matter how I squint I cannot
Make out what it's pointing toward
Sometimes you feel like you live too long
Days drip slowly on the page
You catch yourself
Pacing the cage
I've proven who I am so many times
The magnetic strip's worn thin
And each time I was someone else
And every one was taken in
Powers chatter in high places
Stir up eddies in the dust of rage
Set me to pacing the cage
I never knew what you all wanted
So I gave you everything
All that I could pillage
All the spells that I could sing
It's as if the thing were written
In the constitution of the age
Sooner or later you'll wind up
Pacing the cage
Sometimes the best map will not guide you
You can't see what's round the bend
Sometimes the road leads through dark places
Sometimes the darkness is your friend
Today these eyes scan bleached-out land
For the coming of the outbound stage
Pacing the cage
Pacing the cage
Bruce Cockburn: Acoustic Guitar and Vocal
Janice Powers: Keyboards
Rob Wasserman: Bass
Known comments by Bruce Cockburn about this song, by date:
22-29 May 1997
[Regarding the lyric, "I've proven who I am so many times/the magnetic strip's worn thin/and each time I was someone else/and everyone was taken in."] "I think the metaphor has more to do with presenting ID or constantly having yourself identified as someone who's worthy to buy this object or that object or cross this border or that border.Ê And I was thinking, too, of my own chameleon nature when I said that, as much as anything, and that's what's been changing -- and periodically does change.Ê The astrologers would say it's because I'm a Gemini -- but there are other explanations too, I'm sure."
- from "Night Reveals Clues, Not Answers - Bruce Cockburn internalizes his angst while looking forward to an awakening", by Alexander Varty, The Georgia Straight, 22-29 May 1997. Submitted by Nigel Parry.
4 April 1998
"Pacing the Cage came pretty quick, unlike some of these other ones that, where ideas sat around for a long time. I had remarked to the person that I was with at the time, um, not in reference to being 'with' her but with reference [laughs] to my life in general that I felt like I was pacing the cage. I was just, I mean there was a lot about the way I was living at the time that just wasn't working and I was really feeling that and that's pretty much the song. You know, I don't think those feelings were unique to me, or unique to that time and place, they're, they're feelings that everybody, I think, well as its says in the song: sooner or later it's going to get ya. Um, hopefully not for long and not often, you know but...."
- from "Songwriting (part 2)" workshop, Conference '98 Festival of Faith and Writing, Lab Theatre, Calvin College. 4 April 1998. Anonymous submission.
Susan Adams Kauffman: In another song on The Charity of Night, "Pacing the Cage," you sound tired, almost in a rut: "Sometimes you feel like you've lived too long/Days drip slowly on the page/You catch yourself/Pacing the cage."
BC: It's more of a trap than a rut. When I think of &"rut," I think of the daily grind, the habitual things that keep you stuck in a certain mindset. But in that song, I'm thinking more of finding yourself in a place that you've willingly waltzed into. Suddenly, you realize it's not such a good place to be, and it's hard to find your way out, hard to know where the next step is supposed to go.
- from "Fire in an Open Hand" by Susan Adams Kauffman, The Other Side magazine, November/December 1999. Submitted by Nigel Parry.
15 January 2002
I was just wondering how you felt about the recording of the song [Pacing the Cage} by Jimmy Buffett and the use of it in the Paul Jay documentary, "Hitman Hart: Wrestling With Shadows," about Bret "The Hitman" Hart.
Bruce Cockburn: "I thought it was pretty interesting use of the song in the documentary. I thought it was a good song. Buffet's version of the song to me is so respectful that it almost suffers from that. He didn't really bring anything new to it. He's done a version of another song of mine called "All The Ways I Want You" which is perhaps a little bit more in his style, was able to make more of that song and he did a really beautiful version of that."
- from Canoe Online Chat with Bruce Cockburn, 15 January 2002. Submitted by Suzanne D. Myers.
"Triggered by a dramatic sunset, a lament at the sense of being stuck...Not, as one fan suggested, a suicide note."
~ from the liner notes of Greatest Hits (1970-2020)
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This page is part of The Cockburn Project, a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The Project archives self-commentary by Cockburn on his songs and music, and supplements this core part of the website with news, tour dates, and other current information.