"When I was young and full of grace"
"Grace" is divine influence
in a person. [Ron Henry] * It also means effortless charm or beauty. [Chris Piuma]
"and spirited a rattlesnake."
"Spiriting a rattlesnake"
refers to snake handling Christian cults of US Appalachian region
who incorporate the handling of poisonous snakes into services
as fulfillment of Biblical verse about the holy taming the serpent.
"on your honor"
This is taken from a Boy Scout
oath. [Ron Henry]
"I believe in coyotes"
"Coyote" being the wild
canine, but also the Native American holy trickster spirit. [Ron Henry]
"What you want and what you need"
See also Finest
Worksong. [Ron Henry]
"the horns of the day"
That is, dawn and dusk. [Ron Henry]
* According to ICFTS, the original version of this lyric was
"the hours of the day", but someone misread Stipe's
handwriting, and Stipe preferred the new version. [Chris Piuma]
"Silly rule golden words make"
This refers to the Golden Rule,
"Treat others as you would have them treat you". C.f
previous line: "Think of others and the others will think
of you." [Ron Henry]
"Perfect is a fault, and fault
This is word-play linking fault
as in character flaw to fault as in geologic seam. [Ron Henry]
"Example is the checker to the
The "checker" is a Checker
Marathon cab, which Stipe drove, but according to Stipe not significant
except for rhythm and sound of line. [Ron
Henry] * re:checker. i needed a rhyme
and drove a checkcab.doesnt mean a thing. its featured on the
cover of document behind me for the never believers. [Stipe, on AOL]
"And I believe the poles are shifting"
Major geologic and climactic shifts
in the Earth's history have been accompanied by a reversal of
the north and south magnetic poles. [Ron
Henry] * It could also be "polls"
that are shifting; i.e., popular opinion is changing. [Chris Piuma]