Prowl Great Cain
All Eternals Deck


All Eternals Deck




the Mountain Goats



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Prowl Great Cain is the eighth song on the album All Eternals Deck.


Gather jewels from graveyards,
 when I get home bury them again
Wonder if you'll ever get the chance
 to ask me why I turned you in
I saved my own skin but I live to fight,
 I live to fight another day
Still remember how brave you were
 when they came to take you away

And I feel guilty
 but I can't feel ashamed
Prowl through empty fields, great Cain

Thought I'd seen the ghost up on the
 boulevard, between the broken bits
It's hard to tell gifts of the spirit
 from clever counterfeits. 
Sleepwalk through my days and mark
 the hours until these dark times fade
Like a caterpillar crawling
 out along the surface of the blade

And I feel guilty
 but I can't feel ashamed
Prowl through empty fields, great Cain

Rummage through the gutted
 storehouse now
And lick the sweat from my brow
Saw the trucks roll out this morning,
 not sure when they're
 coming back again
Feel the prickings of my conscience
 in my chest every now and then

Sometimes a great wave
 of forgetfulness
 rises up and blesses me
And other times the sickness howls
 and I despair of any remedy

And I feel guilty
 but I can't feel ashamed
Prowl through empty fields, great Cain

Comments by John Darnielle About this SongEdit

  • "This is a song about betrayal. A lot of songs about betrayal are about betrayal and redemption. Not this one." -- 2011-04-08 - Cat's Cradle - Carrboro, NC
  • "This song is about a guy who gets out of prison. [cheers from the crowd] I'm with you: free all the prisoners. But especially this guy." -- 2012-01-31 - Visulite Theatre - Charlotte, NC
  • "A few of [All Eternals Deck's] titles have a direct, object relation...but 'Prowl Great Cain', you sort of have to figure it out. And I had that phrase for a long time and there were a couple of songs that tried to be 'Prowl Great Cain' and I was like 'What's it really about? What is the Cain figure who I want who has betrayed his brother?' And then I got it, you know, and then I put it in Cambodia in '79." -- 2011-05-11 - WXPN Session - World Cafe - Philadelphia, PA

Things Referenced in this SongEdit

  • The major reference in this song is to Cain; he and his brother Abel's story is found in the Bible in the Book of Genesis. God was pleased with Abel's sacrifice, but not Cain's sacrifice, so Cain killed his brother. God cursed Cain so he could grow no crops, leaving him to wander. God also marked him so that if anyone were to harm him, that person would be paid back sevenfold, ensuring that he would live the rest of his natural life in a cursed exile.
  • "The prickings of my conscience" may be a reference to the 14th-century English poem "The Prick of Conscience".

Live Shows this Song Was Played atEdit

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