Jethro Tull - A Passion Play The Ministry Of Information Jethro Tull a passion play explained The Ministry of Information Ian Anderson A Live Passion
Annotated by the Ministry of Information In the studio and live concerts APP @ MoI Tull The annotated passion play Magus Perde
To the Ministry admin centre MoI APP - 1973 Tull lyrics Ian Anderson's lyrics for Jethro Tull's 'A Passion Play' dissected and discussed Pilgrim's Progress
Martin Barre Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond John Evan Barriemore Barlow Act Four of The Play' Chateau d'Herouville
Introduction to the album and annotations
The Play's overall narrative
Act One
Act Two
The story of the hare who lost his spectacles
Act Three
Act Four - this page
Alternative views
The music of The Play
The cast of The Play
The 1973 album
The Play, played live in 1973
The Chateau d'Isaster Tapes
The Linwell theatre booklet
Site Search
Ian Anderson's lyrics for Jethro Tull's 'A Passion Play

Back to Act Three

Mark Ridley, Derek Small, Max Quad, Ben Rossington, John Tetrad



Scene: MAGUS PERDÉ's drawing room - midnight.

Ronnie realises he doesn't like Hell either, and plots to leave. Here he explains his feelings to MAGUS PERDÉ, and asks his assistance.

Flight From Lucifer  
Flee the icy Lucifer. Oh he's an awful fellow!
What a mistake! I didn't take a feather from his pillow.
Ronnie realises Hell is definitely not for him. He plans to leave Hell exactly as he arrived, not taking anything from Lucifer, neither gifts nor advice; not even something so inconsequential as a feather which has escaped from the pillow of the bed allocated to Ronnie.
I see two implications in Lucifer being 'icy'. Firstly, he's cold in the sense of being detached from emotion and any empathy with mortal concerns - the ultimate cynical sociopath. Secondly, he's coldly sterile and non-creative.
Here's the everlasting rub: neither am I good nor bad.
I'd give up my halo for a horn and
the horn for the hat I once had.
'There's the rub' - a Shakespearean phrase (from 'Hamlet') connoting the core of a dilemma. Ronnie, like most people, isn't purely good or bad, so doesn't really fit into either Heaven or Hell. The halo of a virtuous soul isn't appropriate, but nor are the horns of a 'damned' soul. In fact, he'd rather just be alive again, as he used to be - a plain old hat would be best.
I'm only breathing. There's life on my ceiling. He's a ghost, merely existing.
The flies there are sleeping quietly.
Twist my right arm in the dark.
They're not doing much, but they're ALIVE. Ronnie is extremely, painfully, jealous.
I would give two or three for
one of those days that never made
impressions on the old score.
He longs for even the most mundane of his days on Earth. In British idiom, to be willing to 'give one's right arm' means one REALLY wants something. Ronnie adds emphasis: he'd give his right arm two or three times over, if he could.
The 'score' could be the running total of plus and minus 'points' in Ronnie's life; the memory bank of Act 2. Alternatively, a score is the master 'script' of the music in a theatrical production or concert.
Carsten Bergmann points out Ian's numerical pun: "two or three for one" - 2 or 3,4,1. This may change the meaning of the sentence, or add an alternative (simpler) interpretation: that Ronnie would gladly swap multiple days in the afterlife for just one unremarkable day of life.
I would gladly be a dog barking up the wrong tree. i.e. wasting it's time. A common British phrase - not of Ian's own invention!
Everyone's saved we're in the grave.
See you there for afternoon tea.
Time for awaking the tea lady's making
a brew-up and baking new bread.
Ian uses a lot of English 'slang' in this passage, and another suggests itself in 'baking new bread'; to 'have a bun in the oven' is to be pregnant. To back up a stage, 'making a brew-up' might indicate, er, the act of conception. That's not a typical British phrase, though, and this whole suggestion may be tenuous.
Sam Thirouin interprets the line as creating new blood and flesh to house the forthcoming souls; a vague allusion to Christian mythology?
Jessica Kolman feels that 'making a brew-up' could have a secondary meaning, hinting at a storm 'brewing', as "... being alive again is stormy and filled with conflict".
Carsten Bergmann sees a degree of urgency in the phrase 'Time for awakening...', breaking Ronnie out of his self-pity and towards taking action.
Pick me up at half past none Since there's no imperative to 'do' anything in the infinite span of the afterlife, time is a somewhat abstract concept.
there's not a moment to lose.  
There is the train on which I came. As these four lines are the only direct railway references in The Play, I suspect that they're not really part of the narrative; Ronnie didn't 'literally' arrive on a train, it's just a metaphor he's using in his conversation with the Magus.
On the platform are my old shoes. Some interpret this line as Ronnie saying to the Magus that his old body is still available, and requesting to be 'reinstalled' in it. However, if it was buried in Act One, that mightn't be appropriate....
On the other hand...
Panglos notes a possible pun on 'platform shoes'.
Station master rings his bell.
Whistles blow and flags wave.
A little of what you fancy does you good (Or so it should). Another stock English saying, but with the parenthesis, Ian makes it his own.
I thank everybody
for making me welcome.
I'd stay but my wings have just dropped off.
"No hard feelings, but I'm leaving"
Fade to black. Back to the top of the page

INSTRUMENTAL: '10:08 To Paddington'


Scene: A beach (or river bank?), waiting for the ferry.

An obvious inference is that the ferry is that of Charon, crossing the River Styx of classical Greek mythology. The problem is that Charon transported the dead to Hades, but not back to the mortal realm. I suspect any such intended reference is merely for 'colour', rather than central to the narrative.

Magus Perdé  
Hail! Son of kings make the ever-dying sign
cross your fingers in the sky for those about to BE.
I don't think this 'cross' is the Christian crucifix, though the pun is obvious. Crossing one's fingers is an expression of hope; I think Ronnie's just saying 'wish me luck'.
There am I waiting along the sand.
Cast your sweet spell upon the land and sea.
Waiting to both board the ferry, and embark on life.
Magus Perdé, take your hand from off the chain. Andy Jackson informs me that Ian is known to have read Aleister Crowley's 'Confessions' (Chapter 5 of which is entitled 'The Magus') in 1970; specifically the 1969 edition. The introduction to this edition quotes from an earlier Crowley book, 'The Book of the Law': "Bind nothing! The word of Sin is Restriction!", which seems to tie into this line of The Play.
Loose a wish to still / the rain / the storm about to BE. 'Loose' in this context means: 'release/launch', in the same way as 'Loose the passion' in the Chateau d'Isaster's 'Scenario'.
Here am I (voyager into life).  
Tough are the soles that tread the knife's edge. Note the pun on 'soles/souls'.
'The knife's edge' may be the infinitesimally thin, but absolute, divide between life and death. Occam's Razor would be a good metaphor, though I've no reason to think it's the image Ian intended. It has been suggested that 'the knife's edge' refers to the sword bridge of Arthurian legend, but there's nothing to support the idea that Ian intended this literary reference.
Break the circle,... The magic circle imprisoning a demon/protecting a magician from that he's summoned?
Or, more prosaically, break away from convention.
....stretch the line,... A 'line drawn in the sand' would be the limit of what's acceptable. Ronnie's not suggesting the Magus should break the law, in a Promethean way, but just bend it a little.... Some have suggested the 'line' might be a ley line; maybe, if the intention was to just mention something generically 'mystical'. Then again, maybe not.... upon the devil.  
Bring the gods, the gods' own fire In the manner of Prometheus, make use of 'forbidden' power - the ability to create life is restricted to God.
Or, following the previous line, diabolic power: in Latin, 'Lucifer' is 'light-bringer' (not '-bearer').
In the conflict revel.  
The passengers upon the ferry crossing, waiting to be born,  
renew the pledge of life's long song rise to the reveille horn. Note the (possible) reference to 'Life's A Long Song'
Animals queuing at the gate that stands upon the shore In the 11 May 1973 show: '... gates that stand...'
breathe the ever-burning fire that guards the ever-door.  
Man - son of man -... A central point, stressing that Ronnie is 'just another man' (everyman), self-determining and independent of Heaven and Hell. It also emphasises that this is not the Passion of Jesus (son of god).
.... buy the flame of ever-life
(yours to breathe and breath the pain of living): living BE!
Having tested his options in the afterlife, Ronnie's sole remaining choice is to return to life, perhaps in an everlasting cycle - life may occasionally be painful, but it is real and exciting. In the afterlife, Ronnie was merely existing, unfulfilled, but he can engage with life, and really 'BE'.
In 'buying the flame of ever-life', could Ronnie be 'buying into' Hindu or Buddhist concepts of reincarnation, having found that the Judeo-Christian/Moslem model, whilst not false, isn't for him?
Here am I! Roll the stone away
from the dark into ever-day.
Strong spotlight on RONNIE, whilst fading the lights on the rest of the set.
There was a rush along the Fulham Road
into the Ever-passion Play.
He's back in the bustle of everyday life; life goes on.
Jessica Kolman interprets the fact that The Play both begins and ends 'along the Fulham Road', as implying timelessness or the eternal. I'd certainly agree it suggests seamless continuity.
Fade to black.  
"Steve! Caroline!" There has been tremendous uncertainty about this indistinct line; it was only as recently as 1999, in an online discussion, that Ian revealed the definitive lyric: "Steve! Caroline!", shouted by Jeffrey.

In live 1973 concerts, The Play ended with a loud crash. This was part of a closing film, the companion 'bookend' to the ballerina film which opened the show. A mirror on a pink background appeared on the screen, then shattered. The ballerina flew through, assuming the pose on the album's back cover.
Ian Anderson
Magus Perde

All lyrics © 1973 Chrysalis Records, Ltd. Used with respect, but not permission.

APP lyrics
discussion from TalkTull Chateau d'Isaster ideas from the St. Cleve Chronicle
Site Search Return to the top of the page Links to other sites
Ronnie Pilgrim G.Oddie
Contact the MoI The internal structure of the MoI
the hare who lost his spectacles
Peter Dejour Classic progressive rock
To the main entrance Jethro Tull tour history Jethro Tull - 'A Passion Play' annotated The Ministry Of Information blog Designed by NRT, for the MoI
APP analysed
The foot of our stairs A Passion Play