How Deep Is The Red?

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Is this is not a pretty tale?
Is this not a riddle?
A bow shoots arrows through the air
A bow drags notes from a fiddle
But who is the beau of poor girl’s dreams?
That a king may send to battle

Is this not a pretty tale?
Is this not a riddle?
If red is the breast of soldier’s tunic hung with a silver medal
And red is the thorn that protects the rose, a deeper red than the petal
How deep is the red our redeemer bled, the debt of our sins to settle?
How deep is the red?
How deep is the red?
How deep is the red our redeemer bled?
How deep is the red?

Additional lyrics

Intro from 2005 performances of The Secret Songs:

They said that Jenny too was once an ugly wretch
And how her dress was torn and ragged
Back when her life was brief and rugged
She had no sense for fine perfume
And still her eyes cast down as she walks
through each gilded room

You'll note her gowns are never hung with a string of pearls
No one who sees her, plain and modest, senses the illegitimate girl
Hidden within ...
So, hark and hail "The Swedish Nightingale"

How Deep Is The Red?
Written byElvis Costello
Performed byElvis Costello
Produced byT Bone Burnett
MusiciansElvis Costello - vocal, Gibson Century of Progress acoustic guitar
T Bone Burnett - Kay 161 electric guitar
Dennis Crouch - double bass
Stuart Duncan - fiddle
Jerry Douglas - dobro
Mike Compton - mandolin
Jim Lauderdale - background vocals
RecordedMarch 31-April 2, 2008, Sound Emporium Studio, Nashville
ReleasedJune 2, 2009
AlbumsSecret, Profane & Sugarcane, 2009

 Written for Elvis' unfinished chamber opera The Secret Songs.
First known performance:
October 8, 2005, Copenhagen, Denmark - sung by Gisela Stille
October 15, 2005, Indianapolis, IN - sung by Elvis Costello
Last known performance:
July 26, 2020, Vancouver, BC, Canada - performed solo
     (17 known performances)

“An imagined folk riddle performed on the first occasion [Hans Christian] Andersen encounters the singer.” Journals 2008

Secret, Profane & SugarcaneSecret Profane And Sugarcane album cover medium.jpg


no known covers

Internal links