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Stairway to Heaven


There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold
And she's buying a stairway to heaven
And when she gets there she knows if the stores are closed
With a word she can get what she came for

Woe oh oh oh oh oh
And she's buying a stairway to heaven

There's a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure
And you know sometimes words have two meanings
In the tree by the brook there's a songbird who sings
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven

Woe oh oh oh oh oh
And she's buying a stairway to heaven

There's a feeling I get when I look to the west
And my spirit is crying for leaving
In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees
And the voices of those who stand looking

Woe oh oh oh oh oh
And she's buying a stairway to heaven

And it's whispered that soon, if we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason
And a new day will dawn for those who stand long
And the forest will echo with laughter

And it makes me wonder

If there's a bustle in your hedgerow
Don't be alarmed now
It's just a spring clean for the May Queen

Yes there are two paths you can go by
but in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on

Your head is humming and it won't go because you don't know
The piper's calling you to join him
Dear lady can't you hear the wind blow and did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind

And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our souls
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last
When all are one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll
Woe oh oh oh oh oh

And she's buying a stairway to heaven, uh uh uh.

            Sometimes, a song can be poetic, and make very little literal sense at the same time.  “Stairway to Heaven”, is one such song.  Once again, I believe that the song may express the world viewer of the writer(s), and a song as long as “Stairway to Heaven” certainly has a lot of time to express ideas. 

            Though many of the verses are abstract, several concrete ideas can be derived from them.  One of the first is the “double meaning” nature of words.  In the English language, determining what exactly someone is saying can be a close to impossible task.  Coupled with the human tendency to make assumptions, our use of ambiguous language can lead to interesting results. 

For example, when I was called on to answer in Spanish class, and I replied that I had probably screwed up the answer, my teacher assumed that I was using the phrase as a sexual slur.  My teacher subsequently went in to a long lecture concerning my as well as my classmate’s use of vulgar and derogatory language in class and in conversation.  I hadn’t meant anything negative in my statement.  I was simply trying to say that I had probably answered the question incorrectly. 

            Like many other songs, “Stairway to Heaven” also expresses the human desire for purpose and meaning.  The “piper” might represent the leaders in our lives.  However, we should not always follow those who we think know where they are going.  In many cases the people who lead best are those who can feign confidence.  If we always “follow the piper” we may end up being led to a river to drown.  Also, we need to remember that the opportunity for change always exists.  When someone feels ensnared in their way of life or negative actions that they have committed in the past, it is easy to fall into a doom and gloom mentality.  But, as countless teachers, coaches, and parents have said, “If you tell yourself that you won’t be able to do it, then you won’t”.  When lost, we need to remember that we can always turn around, go back to the fork in the path, and pursue the other road. 

            “Stairway to Heaven” cannot truly be appreciated for its poetic value by reading the lyrics alone.  The music expresses what cannot be expressed in any other form of communication.  Several moods exist within the context of the song.  The beginning is slow and measured, with acoustic guitars and flutes setting the pace for the plaintive vocals.   The pace then picks up slightly, lightening the mood.  With the change comes lyrics that describe optimism and the ability to change.  After the guitar solo, the lyrics become more high pitched and frantic, possibly indicating that the lyrics in this section are the most important. 

            Sometimes the best indicator that a song is poetic comes not through analysis of the lyrics or listening to the song over and over again.  When a song gives you goose bumps on your arm or gives you a cold and icy feeling throughout your body, you feel that it is poetic. 

Stairway To Heaven:
Recorded by Led Zeppelin
Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones
©1971 WB Music Corp., ASCAP, Superhype Publishing, Inc.
Album: Led Zeppelin IV "Untitled"