Each Small Candle

The story of "Each Small Candle". A song by Roger Waters, 1999.

The first verse was not written by an unknown torture victim from Argentine, but by Danish poet/writer Halfdan Rasmussen! This page tells the story for the first time (Researched by Jacob Crawfurd).


Before performing the song for the first time Roger Waters explained some of the background to an impatient audience. The inspiration to the lyrics came from different sources, one of them believed at thee time to be a torture victim from Argentine. The following information were displayed at the official Roger Waters web site:

A few years ago, an Italian journalist from a Florentine newspaper, involved in the Iniziativa contro la tortura, which is the initiative against torture in Northern Italy, sent some lyrics written by a South American man who had been tortured. The English translation (which represents the first stanza of the song) proved to be very moving, and was set to music. The words remained untouched.. Until Kosovo.

The London Times had a piece which told the story of a Serbian soldier who saw an Albanian woman lying wounded in a burned-out building. He left his platoon, went over and helped her, and then joined his men and marched off. There was sense in that image. The rest of the song is about that.

The Pink Floyd HyperBase dug a little deeper and were able to find the actual source (see below). I contacted the management of Roger Waters and www.rogerwaters.com has now added the following information:

Each Small Candle: In The Flesh - Live 2000
The first stanza is a poem written for Danish Amnesty International by Halfdan Rasmussen. The lyrics of the rest of the song are Roger's response to the poem.
Halfdan Rasmussen

Portrait of Halfdan Rasmussen drawn by his friend Ib Spang Olsen

Halfdan Rasmussen

Roger Waters and Halfdan Rasmussen did not know each other, but human rights issues were important to both of them. Halfdan Rasmussen were born in Copenhagen, Denmark January 29, 1915. He was a resistance fighter during the German occupation of Denmark in W.W.II and became a well known poet often writing about social issues and human rights. Halfdan Rasmussen was also loved for his nonsense verses written for children. Halfdan Rasmussen almost became a national-poet of Denmark. He died in 87 years old on 2nd March 2002.

In 1979 Amnesty International (Denmark) published a small book with poems about Human Rights (ISBN: 87-980852-2-0). Among the best were a small poem from Halfdan Rasmussen titled "Ikke Bødlen". The original text of "Ikke Bødlen" is printed below. You will find that my "direct" English translation almost to the word matches the first verse of Each Small Candle (further down the page).

Ikke bødlen gør mig bange. Not the torturer will scare me
ikke hadet og torturen, Nor the hate and the torture
ikke dødens riffelgange eller skyggerne på muren. Nor the barrels of death's rifles nor the shadows on the wall
Ikke nætterne, Nor the nights
når smertens sidste stjerne styrter ned, When the last star of pain is falling to the ground
men den nådesløse verdens blinde ligegyldighed. But the blind indifference of the merciless world


Each Small Candle - The lyrics

The history of the song goes back to July 22 1999 when Roger Waters was heard to play a new acoustic song during tour-rehearsals in Milwaukee (WI). The song was finally performed on the last gig of the tour in Kemper Arena, Kansas, August 28 1999. It has been played all through the second leg of Roger Waters' US-tour in 2000 and appears on the live album and DVD. On the 2002 world tour the last encore is either Each Small Candle or Flickering Flame. Each Small Candle can also be heard on the recent release from Roger Waters: Flickering Flame - The Solo Years vol.1.

Not the torturer will scare me
Nor the body's final fall
Nor the barrels of death's rifles
Nor the shadows on the wall
Nor the night when to the ground
The last dim star of pain, is held
But the blind indifference
Of a merciless unfeeling world

Lying in the burnt out shell
Of some Albanian farm
An old Babushka
Holds a crying baby in her arms
A soldier from the other side
A man of heart and pride
Breaks ranks, lays down his rifle
And kneels by her side

He binds her wounds
He gives her food
And calms the crying child
She gives him absolution then
Across the great divide
He picks his way back through the broken
China of her life
And there at the kerb
The Samaritan Serb turns..
Turns and waves.. goodbye

And each small candle
              Each small candle
Lights a corner of the dark...
              Lights a corner of the dark
Each small candle
              Each small candle
Lights a corner of the dark
              Lights a corner of the dark

              Each small candle lights a corner of the dark
When the wheel of pain stops turning
              And the branding iron stops burning
When the children can be children
              When the desperadoes weaken
When the sea rolls into greet them
              When the natural law of science
Greets the humble and the mighty
              And the billion candles burning
Lights the dark side of every human mind

And each small candle
Lights a corner of the dark...

Lyrics: ©1999 Roger Waters Music Overseas Limited
Administered by Pink Floyd Music Publishers, Inc.