Bon Iver - “Beth/Rest”

This is one of my favorite songs of all time. It beautifully covers love in a long-term relationship, which is much more complex than the initial infatuation. It also uses some famous 1980s timbres and techniques for a really timeless feel. I prefer the album version over the later autotune-heavy renditions from concerts. What follows is my interpretation of the lyrics.

It’s not her who is errant. It’s him. She’s pulling him back by just a thin rope. She’s extending olive branches, peace offerings, prying his stubbornness open with her love. He knows she tends to do that and he secretly counts on it. He won’t reveal this because he knows his behavior is childish. He admitted this once while decorating the house but she didn’t hear him right. Instead of repeating, he redirected the conversation towards mundane things.

He understands their home is their nest. It is built on a solid foundation, it’s safe (keeper’s keep) because it’s hard to “get in” (steep). It allows to recover from the daily grind. They leave outside worries and noise to the outside world.

He sees they grew up and found their love and affefction again. He knows she loves him, he knows that love is their foundation. He doesn’t mention it but he doesn’t have to: she can see he depends on it. She can see his dedication: they are married.

He doesn’t want to stumble aimlessly in the dark anymore. He wants purpose and direction. He’s serious. He’s not promising, he is actually declaring his intent. Their love is protected by this intent from ever freezing. “Heavy-mitted”. That love is bright and dependable. They can navigate life with it. There’s always danger but they trust that it’s going to be there indefinitely. It’s their foundation. So far, so good.

Errant heat to the Star
And the rain let in
And the hawser rolls, the vessel’s whole
and Christ, it’s thin

  • Errant heat = unnecessary emotional turbulence outside of norm
  • the Star = the “vessel”?
  • Rain let in = there’s an unwanted leak
  • Howser rolls, the vessel’s whole, Christ, it’s thin = the vessel is pulled by a rope that doesn’t look like much but it does the job

Well Iʼd know that you’d offer
Would reveal it, though it’s soft and flat
Won’t repeat it, cull and coffer’s that for the soffit, hang this homeward

  • I would know that you would offer
  • I would reveal it but that’s childish
  • I did that once already
  • cull and coffer’s: that for the soffit; hang this homeward = conversation at the store while selecting things for the home
  • = replacing important with the mundane; “playing house”

Pry it open with your love
Sending lost and lone standing offers

  • pry it open = calm me down, convince me, make me return to normal
  • sending = to sea (lost and lone; pulling by just a thin howser)
  • standing offers = extending olive branches

It is steep / it is stone
Such recovery
From the daily press, the deepest nest, in keeper’s keep

  • Our home is our nest. It is built on a solid foundation, it’s safe (keeper’s keep) because it’s hard to get to it (steep). It allows to recover from the daily grind.

All the news at the door
Such a revelry
Well, it’s hocked inside of everything you said to me

  • at the door = leave outside worries and matters to the outside world
  • revelry = the noise of the outside world
  • hocked = pawned

It was found what we orphaned
Didn’t mention it would serve us picked
I said your love is known
I’m standing up on it
Aren’t we married?!

  • We found again what we left behind. I know you love me, I know this is our foundation, I don’t mention it but I don’t have to: you can see I depend on it. You can see my dedication: we are married.

I ainʼt living in the dark no more
It’s not a promise, Iʼm just gonna call it
Heavy mitted love

  • I no longer want to stumble in the dark, I want direction and purpose.
  • gonna call it = I’m going to declare my intent, I’m not promising, I’m actually doing it
  • Heavy-mitted = heavily covered in mittens to protect from ever freezing

Our love is a star
Sure, some hazardry
For the light before and after most indefinitely
Danger has been stole away
This is axiom

  • Their love is bright and dependable. They can navigate life with it. There’s always danger but they trust that it’s going to be there indefinitely. It’s their foundation. So far, so good.