Birth of Serpents
All Eternals Deck.jpg


All Eternals Deck




the Mountain Goats



Previous track

"Damn These Vampires"

Next track

"Estate Sale Sign"

Track two on All Eternals Deck. This song also appears as a demo on All Survivors Pack as track 3.

Lyrics[edit | edit source]

Let the camera pull back 'til the fullness
 of the frame is clear and plain
Peer into the screen until you see it all 
 like a vision in a crystal ball
Let it all fill with smoke
Is this somebody's idea of a joke

Let the fixer work until the silver's 
 washed away and take the
 picture from the tray
Look hard at what you see and then 
 remember you and me 
and let the truth spring free

Like a jack-in-the-box
Like a hundred-thousand cuckoo clocks
From the Oregon corners
To the Iowa corn
To the rooms with the heat lamps
 where the snakes get born

Crawl through the tunnel and follow,
follow the light northwest
See that young man who dwells inside 
 his body like an uninvited guest
See the tunnel twist
Clutch your birthright in your fist
Let the camera do its dirty work
 down there in the dark
Sink low, rise high, 
and bring back some blurry pictures to 
 remember all your darker moments by

Permanent bruises on our knees
Never forget what it felt like
 to live in rooms like these
From the California coastline
To the Iowa corn
To the rooms with the heat lamps
 where the snakes get born

Comments by John Darnielle About this Song[edit | edit source]

  • "I had this signal moment when I went to Portland at the end of touring The Life of the World to Come and I did what I always do, which is walk around where I used to live and look at things. I got my hair cut by this guy who lived in Portland when I lived in Portland, and I started asking him about people we used to know. He told me that somebody I knew was still working at the same place he'd worked, so I walked down there. But it turned out my hair dude's information wasn't current, and my guy had been hit by a car just a year before. It was weird. I had all these expectations about saying hello to my old friend who I haven't seen in 25 years. And, instead, he's dead. So I went to the hotel and slept. I woke up at 2 a.m. and wrote "Birth of Serpents", which is this marriage of images and the personal stuff underneath them. It's one of the most personal things I've ever written." -Mountain Goats' John Darnielle Talks New Album (Pitchfork)
  • "I wrote this song when I went to Portland, Oregon at the end of 2008. Well, for me, going to Portland is sorta like if you've ever, uh, you remember this old video game where you used to try and shoot ghosts? It was a very, very, very simple video game that you will still see if you go to, like, some town that nobody else goes to. You stop there for gas, and they have one bar, and that bar has a video game that was built in 1981, and it's running on the same chip, and then the 2-dimensional images have burned themselves into the screen, so no matter where you move your character, there's still this one that's just burning there at the center because it's sat there unplayed for so long, right? And the game is called, like, 'Ghost Hunt', or something like that, you know? And the idea is to shoot ghosts, which, I don't think I need to tell you, is a completely ridiculous idea, because you can't...—if they're ghosts, there's really nothing you can say to a ghost about a gun or a knife or anything, they would say 'Well I've been dead, possibly for a very long time, so shooting at me is a terrible idea.' But the ghosts in the machine can't talk, you just shoot them and I guess they pretend to be dead for the sake of, you know, everybody feeling good? So anyway, I went to Portland, there's a lot of ghosts in Portland for me. I don't try to shoot them, I try to make my peace when them—that's maybe even dumber than trying to shoot them. And yet I do it every time I go there. I woke up about an hour or two after sleep and found a title sitting in a notebook and I said 'That's for me at this moment.' Uh, Birth of Serpents." -- 2012-05-06 - The Metro - Sydney, Australia

Things Referenced in this Song[edit | edit source]

  • The song references the states of Iowa, Oregon, and California—all states in which John Darnielle has lived.

Live Shows this Song Was Played at[edit | edit source]

Videos of this Song[edit | edit source]

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.