When the War Came (5:05)

Cover of The Crane Wife

From The Crane Wife and 2 other releases

From When The War Came Songfacts. This song is a portrayal of the 900 day siege of Leningrad during WWII. During this siege, the German army surrounded the city entirely, preventing anything from going in or out. As a result, many died of starvation, and the final death-toll is estimated to be over one million dead. The song also has a political undertone to it; it is stated that despite the fact that people put their faith in the government which swore to protect them, they ended up being left unprepared and unequipped to fight the Germans off.

More specifically this song contains references to the Leningrad seed bank and what happened there during the war. From Wikipedia:
“Nikolai Vavilov (1887-1943) was a Russian geneticist and botanist who, through botanic-agronomic expeditions, collected seeds from all over the world. He set up one of the first seedbanks, in Leningrad (now St Petersburg), which survived the 28-month Siege of Leningrad in World War II. It is now known as the Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry. Several botanists starved to death rather than eating the collected seeds.”


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  • angrystarlyt

    Does anyone else think he's about to launch into "No Quarter"? [4]

    Yesterday 3:39am Reply
  • davidbowiegirl

    Good song

    24 Nov 2012 Reply
  • futchadoc

    I like how this one begins, but the middle/end are not my favorite.

    2 May 2012 Reply
  • antonijover


    13 Mar 2012 Reply
  • hooray_bianca

    this made me angry

    25 Jan 2012 Reply
  • Funky_Nickie

    Does anyone else think he's about to launch into "No Quarter"? [3]

    14 Dec 2010 Reply
  • kingoftown36

    wow this song is great

    23 Nov 2010 Reply
  • Kyptos

    Does anyone else think he's about to launch into "No Quarter"? [2]

    11 Nov 2010 Reply
  • licoricepizza

    @WingedTerrapin: thanks for that shout. the insight actually helps me like the song more. :)

    13 Jan 2010 Reply
  • WingedTerrapin

    Updated the info. There was a seed bank (a place where seeds of many species are preserved) in Leningrad established by Nikolai Vavilov (mentioned in the song). He'd collected seeds from around the world. His studies were mainly on crop genetics and improvement of yields to sustain the growing global population. Botanists at the seed bank chose to starve to death rather than eat the preserved seeds. “Solanum” is a genus of plant, some common representatives are tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants. “Asteraceae” is a family of plants, some common representatives are asters, sunflowers, daisies. “Babylon” was an ancient city, considered part of the cradle of civilization where many advances in agriculture were made. “All the grain of Babylon” is likely a reference to the diversity of crop species held within the seed bank. I’ll spare you from any further nerdery on my behalf. Unless, of course, you’d like to discuss the song or correct me on anything. Just note me or leave me a shout :]

    28 Nov 2009 Reply
  • meatloafnight

    Saw Them at Lollapoloza this year and they are awsom live colin is a awsome song writer but he remindes me so much of ben gibberd for Death Cab But he still his own awsome individual self

    30 Oct 2009 Reply
  • the_poosh

    Definitely fucking awesome.

    16 Oct 2009 Reply
  • jemptymethod

    they ask for no quarter

    9 Oct 2009 Reply
  • bratwurstking

    agreed meloy was channeling his inner led zeppelin for this one, not my favorite decemberists track but to me a mediocre decemberists song is better then most songs

    14 Aug 2009 Reply
  • PsychicDinosaur

    Love their stuff.

    28 Jun 2009 Reply
  • sufjanatic_93

    fucking cool beat

    9 Jun 2009 Reply
  • citizenkade

    Not the best, but still solid stuff from a solid band!

    22 May 2009 Reply
  • andrew49247

    "good song on a very mediocre album. " Haha what Mowie666? This is the definitely worst song on The Crane Wife.

    30 Apr 2009 Reply
  • asoftlyation

    no quarter by led zeppelin

    26 Apr 2009 Reply
  • amusings_bnl

    this one actually kind of bores me, lyrics are way too repetitive... but it is indeed a direct rip of No Quarter...

    31 Mar 2009 Reply
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