"Tell the bed not to lay, Like the open mouth of a grave"

aanais

New Member
Polish
Hello everybody!

I've been trying to translate Madonna's song "Don't tell me" and I have a few problems with understanding her lyrics.
Especially with "Tell the bed not to lay, Like the open mouth of a grave" and: "(Tell the sun not to shine,Not to get up this time, no, no,) Let it fall by the way, But don't leave me where I lay down"

Let's start with this line with the bed - does she mean - to tell the bed not to make (so why lay)? or like - tell: this is a bed on which u can't lay.
Ok, and what with this open mouth (of grave)- does she mean: serious or grave on a cemetary? And how does this connect with this bed?

And next lines: Let it fall by the way - does she mean sunset to happen by the way?
and: don't leave me where I lay down - where I lay down like on the bed?

Thank you in advance.
Anna
 
  • Frank Smith

    Senior Member
    ENGLISH-SCOTLAND
    I think "lay" here is used in its intransitive sense. (He lay awake at night, unable to sleep). So the bed is lying there looking like it is your grave. As for the other problems, it is "poetic licence" and therefore grammar and syntax rules are not always a good guide to interpreting songs or poems.
     

    aanais

    New Member
    Polish
    Now, I have just come with a new idea : maybe tell the bed not to lay - means like: tell the bed not to fold - and now it makes sens with this mouth - not to open? (like this bed)
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    It would probably make better sense if it said "Tell the bed not to lie (there)" but then it wouldn't have the close rhyme with "grave". The other line also is set up to rhyme "way" with "lay" (if you listen to the song the word "down" is musically after the end of the line - it's a little bit unusual musically speaking). You can lay down anywhere. She doesn't want the sun to rise (shine, get up).
     

    Frank Smith

    Senior Member
    ENGLISH-SCOTLAND
    That was my point about poetic licence. The need to make things rhyme and lines contain an equal number of syllables is traded off against the need to make clear grammatical sense. Therefore I never worry about what songs and poems really mean. Only their authors can know for sure!
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hi aanais - welcome to the forums:)

    Many people use "lay" instead of "lie", but it's not correct in standard English. That's what Madonna is doing here - you'll see the lyrics also have don't leave me where I lay down, where standard English would have don't leave me where I lie down.

    If you put lay lie into Dictionary and thread title search, you'll find several previous threads on this confusion between "lay" and "lie". You'll also find this usage note:
    usage: The words lay and lie are often used incorrectly. Lay means, broadly, ‘put something down’, as in they are going to lay the carpet, whereas lie means ‘be in a horizontal position to rest’, as in why don't you lie down? The past tense and the past participle of lay is laid (they laid the carpet); the past tense of lie is lay (he lay on the floor) and the past participle is lain (she had lain awake for hours).

    (And yes, "grave" here means "grave in a cemetery".)
     
    Last edited:

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Now, I have just come with a new idea : maybe tell the bed not to lay - means like: tell the bed not to fold - and now it makes sens with this mouth - not to open? (like this bed)
    It's not about a bed that can fold or open. Just a normal bed that just sits/lies there and looks like a very inviting place for you to lay down and go to sleep. The "open mouth of a grave" refers to a grave that has just been dug. No one is buried in it. It might make you wonder what it might be like just to lie down in it and stop worrying about life, but she doesn't want to think like that (the first line of the song "Don't tell me to stop," - the bed, like a grave, is inviting her to stop so tell it not to do that).
     

    George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    What it means is very unclear as it the rest of the song... But don't forget that it doesn't have to mean anything at all.... It is only vehicle to make money....

    GF..

    A possible interpretation is that the bed looks like her grave.. and possibly will be her way to the grave. But then ......
     

    aanais

    New Member
    Polish
    Thank you guys for your help...I am still thinking how to translate it into my mother tounge.
     
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