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The Nightmare

Lyrics

Written by Stevie Nicks and Christopher Nicks.

Contributors to this interpretation included: Rhiannon, Janet, Tracy G, and Samantha. (Thank you all very much for your valuable input., May 18, 1999)


When I finally sat down to write the interpretation for this song, I realized how surprisingly complex and paradoxical it is. It confused me how the connotations and the meanings of the words kept changing. I have tried my best here to explicate the lines as they stand alone and in context of Stevie's life at that time.

Thrown down through the arms of sleep
She fell through the ivory morning
Deep into the waters
Of the one she called love
She paled in the wake
Of what some call a dream
But, you cannot know a dream
Till you've known the nightmare

I think this could represent a conflict between the subconscious and the conscious ~ a theme that that tends to recur in many of her songs. The angelic 'arms of sleep' symbolize the comfort, protection, and shelter she draws from the night. In her sleep and in pleasant dreams, she reveled in secret in her solitude and enjoyed the beauty of the mysterious. However, her ephemeral state of relative equilibrium was quickly shattered by the harsh reality, 'the ivory morning'. I don't think the whiteness here stands for purity, but for coldness and truth. She finds herself unable to cope with her existence in the ‘real' world, and is plunged back into darkness, but submerged in rough waters that bring chaos and confusion. The illusion of happiness is no more because she realizes that her relationship with another is far from perfect. She is frightened for in these deep waters there is no certitude of love, no promise of any fairy tale ending. She's thrown out in the wild sea of turmoil. If I were a psychoanalyst, I'd bring up the sexual imagery, but I'm not so I'm trusting you can see it for yourself. You will never know what you had in your possession until you've lost it-- you can never know the peace and the calm until you've experienced the opposite force.

When I stood with you against the storm
And I tried once again
Well, I said, "I'd like to leave you
With something warm"
How many times
Drowning in the sea
Drowning
That was when the dream took her prisoner
And she knew the dream was over
But, the nightmare was not over
Still some call that a dream
The nightmare...the nightmare

She stood with her lover, unified against the forces that were threatening to destroy them ... internal and external. They shared a common goal, a common battle, and lived for a similar purpose in life. Until the strain became too much for them, and she made the conscious decisions to leave. She tried to leave without causing too much pain for either of them, she tried to leave just the good memories behind and still she was drowning in her own misery. What was once love and happiness, her dreams trapped her emotions and trapped her soul in a guilded cage. Perhaps she feels like a martyr for some lost cause. And there seem to be no shining stars...they slowly extinguish themselves and fall through the fine fabric of this vast universe. And the world turns in circles of confusion all around her. Maybe at this point in her life, she is thinking about the consequences of her becoming a singer and telling people her tale, it's not a dream come true, and she has paid a very heavy price for her success. During this time in her life, she was going through many problems with drugs, relationships, etc. Her soul lies in this dark nightmare and she tries desperately to escape from it.

Well, you cannot know a dream
When you turn away
You don't know
You'll never care
The night is not your friend
And you have not had her
And when the nightmare ends
But, you never understand
When you're gone
She wakes up calling out
Oh, calling out
As children may cry as she will
Anytime...oh, anywhere
Blinded by the light of the day
She has known the nightmare

She mentions that the night is not her friend anymore; what was once a time and a place for her reflections, to remove her mind and thoughts from the hectic world, now becomes her enemy as her sleep is haunted by this ever present nightmare that she can't shut out. And only she knows how this really feels. The French pilot and philosopher Antoine de Saint-Exupery noted in his book Wind, Sand, and Stars (everyone, read this book….it is incredible), "Nobody can know anything of the world in which the individual moves and has his being. Only the man locked up in it can know what it is." She has looked into the depths of her own soul, the darkness of her heart, and it is slowly driving her to the brink of madness, it blinds her senses and her ability to think.

So about the moon and her sisters
How dare he take them prisoner
Well, if she had flung out her heart against him
Then in all of her wisdom
Oh, well that was a mystery

I didn't quite understand these lines or who she was referring to, so I went back and listened to "Sisters of the Moon" and I remembered a little of what Stevie said about that song. The moon and the sisters are all her-- recall that on the cover of The Wild Heart, there are three images of Stevie. I think the images and sister(s) of the moon in both songs are aspects of her divided Self. They all form integral components of her identity and though they maybe be separated from each other at times, she is incomplete if she lacks even one, if even one part of her individuality or identity is caged in any way. And possessing the power of the moon, she can not be imprisoned for very long, so she breaks free. It's strange how we tend to associate freedom and mystery with the moon, when ironically, it is the moon that is a prisoner of the earth's gravitational force.

The next two lines seem kind of incomplete, almost as if there was a line after "Then in all of her wisdom." I think she's saying that she should have been more expressive in her views and broken away from her lover a long time ago; has she acquired a new wisdom from her experiences? I'm not too sure if this is what she's trying to say.

That was when the dream took her prisoner
And she knew the dream was over
But the nightmare was not over
Somewhere in her ancient ways
She walks through the night
And then she tries to get through the day
Some will never know
Or share any kind of dream

People all around her fail to comprehend her ... who she is and where she is coming from. She lives in her timeless image and appeal, never in style, but never changing. And perhaps with the changing times, people are finding it harder and harder to accept her unconventionality. She lives partially wrapped up in dreams of the past, walking through the mists alone in her thoughts and suffers in agony through the day. The night provides her with a mask, but the day is a mirror in which she sees herself. I think in the last two lines she's saying that her life was all worth it, despite her suffering and all the turmoil, it was her pleasure for she lived out a dream knowing she had to pay a price for her glory and her reign. Living a dynamic, changing life (despite the agony) is so much better than living a life in unchanging equilibrium…with a soul devoid of extreme notions. And she has learned in love, there is suffering.

The nightmare
This is not the world
This is not the world
This is not the world
The nightmare
She wants him to fight...anytime, anywhere
She wants him to stand up
She wants him to win
This is not the world
This is not the world
This is not the real world
Blinded by the light of the day
Blinded by the light
She was blinded by the light of the day
Blinded by the day

She bears no evil feeling towards her ex-lover. She wants him to be successful and to fight for the causes that they once fought for together. The song ends on a very unsettling note. Does she want to step into another existence, into The Other Side Of The Mirror, away from this cruel world? A specter haunts her soul and no inner peace is established-- chaos and confusion continues to dominate the rule of the Rock ‘n Roll Queen of Pain.

Transcribed to HTML by Marty Adelson.

Copyright © 1995-2001, Martin and Lisa Adelson
All Rights Reserved.