a short site about The Divine Comedy

French version


Lyrics & Music: Neil Hannon

Published by: Damaged Pop Music / BMG Music Publishing Ltd.

Originally interpreted by: The Divine Comedy


To see the lyrics, click on the name of the version you are interested in (on the left).




The opening song of Promenade is full of musical and literary references.

Musically, the long instrumental introduction is influenced by the works of Philip Glass and Michael Nyman [1]. For such an ambition, the song would not be played live until the band get a larger line-up at the end of 1994.

As part of the concept-album it tells of something quite ordinary: a girl, the heroine of the story, taking a bath. Neil’s description is very reminiscent of Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, also called Aphrodite’s Bath. Venus was the Roman goddess of beauty and Aphrodite the Greek goddess. Thus, the heroine is beautiful. She’s later also compared to Ophelia, the heroine of Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet.

The song starts with Neil reciting lyrics from a hymn by Isaac Watts entitled ‘O God, Our help in Ages Past’. This quotation also features on the soundtrack to the 1963 film Tom Jones, the same film from which the closing sample of the album “Happy the man, and happy he alone…” is taken. There’s also a reference to a nursery rhyme which goes: “Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub”. The Sound of Music is a British musical, and Brave New World is a novel by Aldous Huxley, although the line “in a brave new world” may also refer to a line from Shakespeare’s The Tempest: “O brave new world, that has such people in’t!”

But there’s more to this song. It’s the opening song of Promenade, and as such, it settles the background for the album. In it there are elements of the album. For instance, the hypothesis that the heroine might be drowned and her comparison to Ophelia, who drowns herself, actually anticipate ‘Neptune’s Daughter’.

The demo version of the song contains Neil reciting poetry over the sections which are instrumental on the finished version. The lines are lines 199-224 of ‘The Traveller, Or, A Prospect of Society’ by Irish poet Oliver Goldsmith. Oliver Goldsmith may also have been an influence on the writing of ‘Assume The Goldsmith’.
There are also some other lyrics which are unidentified, perhaps written by Neil:

“Oh, what is life but a slow moving stream?
We are rocks on its shore being washed into rounded persons
Soon we are sent with the flow to a place
Further on, further on, until one day we reach the ocean blue

Who are you to tell me what to do?
You are not one of us!
You are not one of the great big rocks!
Go on your way! Take that pebble along with you!
We have great works to do!
We have great thoughts to think on!
Go on!”

[1] Les Inrockuptibles 20/04/2001