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About the lyrics to "A Stairway to Heaven," that he himself wrote, Robert Plant has made this explanation,
It was some cynical aside about a woman getting everything she wanted all the time without giving back any thought or consideration. The first line begins with that cynical sweep of the hand ... and it softened up after that.
That "cynical sweep of the hand" is in the first line, "There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold." This line is taken from the old adage, All that glitters is not gold which means one should not be fooled by things that look expensive and valuable. However, the meaning of the first line of Zeppelin's song means that this lady thinks money can buy her passage--"a stairway"--to heaven. And, when in heaven, there willl be stores in which she can purchase whatever she wants. This woman obviously is one who believes in materialism.
The other verses have been interpreted in different ways. However, there is usually a consensus of opinion that the song is about life and carries with it spiritual overtones, whether they be Christian or Satanic or paganistic, since Robert Plant had been reading Scottish folklore before his composition of the lyrics. Clearly, the refrain, " it makes me wonder" indicates the spiritual uncertainty of the singer.
Still, after the singer looks to the west, often symbolic of the end of something or of death, and sings,
Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on.
And it makes me wonder.
there seems to be a theme of spiritual redemption as there is a choice of paths and time to change as well as a stirring of the May Queen, who is a symbol of pure spirit of renewal, And, yet, the singer whose "shadow is taller than his soul"--metaphorically, whose corruption is more than his spiritual side--still "wonders" about changing because the temptation of materialism in the "dear lady" reappears:
And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul.
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold.
Whatever one's interpretation of the song, there is usually agreement that there is and ethereal quality to the lyrics of this quintessentially Led Zeppelin song that musically leads from a folksy sound to a "muscular rock crescendo."
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