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A Whiter Shade of Goddess

Updated on March 29, 2015

A Whiter Shade Of Pale - Procol Harum

Was the lyrics based on this book?
Was the lyrics based on this book?

My Interpretation of the "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" lyrics

There does seem to be a lot of confusion about what the words of the popular song "A Whiter Shade of Pale" mean. Anyway, these are the lyrics by Keith Reid.

We skipped the light fandango

turned cartwheels 'cross the floor

I was feeling kinda seasick

but the crowd called out for more

The room was humming harder

as the ceiling flew away

When we called out for another drink

the waiter brought a tray

The first verse simply describes a drunken party, but saying that, "the ceiling flew away", suggests they were also taking hallucinogenic drugs

And so it was that later

as the miller told his tale

that her face, at first just ghostly,

turned a whiter shade of pale

In the chorus line, it is recognized by most people that the song's lyrics were referring to "The Miller's Tale" in "Canterbury Tales" by Geoffrey Chaucer written in the 14th century. This is an extremely crude story, about two student s who lust after a carpenter's wife. Where one gets tricked into, ""kissed her naked arse full savorly". This behaviour is symbolic of an extreme act of worship. A Goddess likewise would be expected to be worshipped. wiki/The_Miller Tale.

Then in the last line of the chorus we are told that, her face turned "A whiter shade of pale". At the time these lyrics were written was a fairly popular book called, "The White Goddess" by the poet Robert Graves. The very fact that this mysterious woman had a ghostly white face suggests she was the White Goddess as portrayed by Robert Graves. She hints at this in the next two lines

She said, 'There is no reason

and the truth is plain to see.'

But the narrator of these lyrics refuses to take the hint.

But I wandered through my playing cards

and would not let her be

In these two lines he shows he not only doesn't recognize her as a Goddess, but was also disrespectful of her as well

one of sixteen vestal virgins

who were leaving for the coast

The references to Vestal Virgins is interesting, as they worshipped the Goddess Vesta. This priestess order was older than the Roman Empire as it seems that Rhea Silvia, the mother of Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, was a Vestal Virgin

The Miller's tale is in the book, Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.
The Miller's tale is in the book, Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.

At the beginning of the Roman Empire the Vestal Virgins held high status in Rome, as they were the " Keepers of the Flame", and if it was to go out, then it was believed, Rome would fall. But over the years their status was slowly undermined

Then when Rome became Christianised, the Vestal Virgins were turned into nuns, and the sacred flame was put out. Then true to the ancient prophecy, Rome started to deteriorate through civil war and invasion by Huns and Goths until it finally collapsed. wiki/Vestal_Virgin.

and although my eyes were open

they might have just as well've been closed

So even though, again, there was another hint at her Goddess status, the narrator still refuses to recognize who she was

She said, 'I'm home on shore leave,'

though in truth we were at sea

The fact they disagreed if they were on shore or at sea, might be about their mental states, she felt safe and secure with her "feet on the ground" but he was, "all at sea."

so I took her by the looking glass

and forced her to agree

Again he is very disrespectful and forces his opinions onto her

saying, 'You must be the mermaid

who took Neptune for a ride.'

He is now willing to recognize her supernatural status by saying she is a mythical mermaid but is still is not willing to see her as a Goddess.

But she smiled at me so sadly

that my anger straightway died

She is obviously trying to save him and was clearly sad, he was rejecting her help.

If music be the food of love

then laughter is its queen

It seems he was still intoxicated and enjoying the party he was in

and likewise if behind is in front

then dirt in truth is clean

The paradoxes in these two lines suggest he was unable to see the reality of his situation, which was the opposite of what he thought it was

My mouth by then like cardboard

seemed to slip straight through my head

He is now saying he has a hangover.

So we crash-dived straightway quickly

and attacked the ocean bed

These two lines suggest he was drowned. So the moral of the story is that because he failed to recognize and respect a Goddess, he was left to drown in his path of self destruction.

Robert Graves in his books would say this is true of the whole human race. We once worshipped Goddesses and revered and respected women but with the rise of male gods and patriarchy the human race has been ever since on a course of self-destruction.

© 2012 William Bond


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    • wabond profile image

      William Bond 2 years ago from England

      You could look up Bard of Ely, Foemeno, he is a songwriter.

    • foemeno profile image

      David Charles 2 years ago from New York

      Am I the only one that writes original lyrics on this site?

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 5 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      The band were very much associated with the psychedelic 60s and their songs often have assumed drug references as well as a strong melancholy feel. Homburg and Salty Dog were big hits for the band.

    • wabond profile image

      William Bond 5 years ago from England

      Thank you Bard for your response. I didn't know much about the band, but liked the song. Some time ago I decided to look at the words of the song on the internet and saw "the White Goddess" connection. No one else seem to be saying this, so this is why I wrote the article.

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 5 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      One of my favourite songs by one of my favourite bands from that time. The references to the sea continued in their single and album Salty Dog. The band were also mentioned in Barefoot in the Head by Brian Aldiss, a sci-fi book about what happens after hallucinogenic drugs are used as weapons of chemical warfare.