Little Emperor

by Steve Earle


Hey little emperor come down from your throne
The hour glass is empty your time has come and gone
The battlements are crumblin’ the walls are tumblin’ down
Your counselors are concubines are gettin’ outta town
Some say it’s an omen say say it’s the winds of change
Which ever way it’s goin’ it’s blowin’ like a hurricane

Hey little conqueror where you gonna go
The world is even smaller than it was when you left home
Emptiness in front of you and detritus behind
Nobody ever told you that history was kind
Standin’ on the corner your fortune blowin’ in the wind
Daddy didn’t warn ya there ain’t no goin’ home again

No pomp and circumstance no more shock and awe
You’re just a little emperor that’s all

Hey little hypocrite what you gonna say
When you wind up standin’ naked on the final judgement day

How you gonna justify it who you gonna call
What if it turns out that God don’t look you at all
The leaves are in the teacup the hieroglyphics on the wall
You ain’t the first to rise up you sure won’t be the last to fall

Hey little emperor come down from your throne
And let another emperor climb on


“Uncut Gems” is a series of unreleased song lyrics, recipes, notes, and more by prominent Nashville songwriters. Nashville Review is proud to present our first uncut gem, “Little Emperor.” Steve Earle began writing “Little Emperor,” a work still in progress, this summer, as he was completing his first novel, I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive (forthcoming from Houghton-Mifflin).

Songs that established Earle’s reputation as arguably the great Texas songwriter of his generation include “Devil’s Right Hand,”  ”Little Rock N’ Roller,” “Copperhead Road,” and “Number 29.”

From a tale of a boy falling in love with his first gun, to a tale of a troubadour daddy calling home from the road, to a tale of a moon shining family turning into a marijuana farming family, to an elegy for a broke-bone tailback, Earle explores a world that is distinctly male and Southern while expanding our understanding of what it is to be male and Southern.

A collection of short stories, Dog House Roses, appeared in 2001. The novelist, short story writer, playwright, and songwriter is also an actor currently appearing on the hit HBO series Treme. – Alice Randall


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