Song Lyrics

Hunter

by Joni Mitchell

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I was alone and sickly
It was a quarter of a moonlit night
I heard him cry through my window shade
And it filled me so full of fright
But I could not turn my back on him
I put on the back porch light
"Can I help you" said the Good Samaritan
"Can I help you" said the Good Samaritan

I brought him bread and a blanket
But I told him "You can't come in"
You can sleep outside in the tool shed
Though a little rain comes in
Oh, I don't know you, you're a stranger
I don't know where you've been
"You can't come in here" said the keeper of the inn
"I don't want you in here," said the keeper of the inn

But I couldn't sleep for the thinking
You know my night got so insane
I thought, maybe he was an angel
And I left him out in the rain
And what if he was the devil
He'd be coming after me again
But when I woke in the weary morning he was gone
When I woke in the weary morning he was gone

I thought maybe he was an angel
And I left him out in the rain
And what if he was the devil
He'd be coming after me again
When I woke in the weary morning he was gone
When I woke in the weary morning, Lord, he was gone

© April 30, 1971; Joni Mitchell Pub Corp

Footnotes to Hunter

Joni talks about the song in an interview with the Ann Arbor Argus in 1969:

Oh, that's the one about Hunter. Well, that's the two temptations of this crazy cat that came to my door. I had been sick for a long time, and it was the first day I was well, and I said to myself, 'Now then I'm really going to take good care of myself'; that afternoon I had gone to the dentist - first day I was out of bed I said, 'Now I'm going to get my teeth worked on. I'm going to get myself really together, all prepared, all patched up.' After I came home from the dentist, it was such a drag having that drill in my mouth all day, that I said, 'OK, now I'm going to cool myself out. I'm going to treat myself to something.' And I went into a store and bought a pair of black leather shoes from Greece that were beautifully crafted; they had thick heels, and they looked like witch's shoes - they had big bows on the front. So I took them home and tried them on; I was all dressed in black. I had on the black shoes and black stockings and a black dress and it was very late at night and I got very superstitious. I was staying all alone in my house, so I said, 'Well, enough of this, I'll just go to bed.' So I walked down the dark hallway into my bedroom - there was no light on. And as I went to the window to pull the blind down - and the rollers on the blind were rolling a bit (makes noise) - there was this blood-curdling yell right outside the window. It was this cat, and I knew it was the cat. But even though I knew it was the cat, because of the black and all of the symbolic things that had gone down, it really scared me. And I used to talk to the cat - he'd go by in the hills when I was up in my studio - he had a really loud meow, he'd go RRRRRRRRRow, like that, and I'd copy his sound back to him. And I thought, 'oh dear, I'm really a witch, now I'm into black magic; all of my good, bright powers have gone and I'm conjuring up terrible things.' So I didn't know what to do, so I called him from the back door. He came around and just looked terrible - he was starving and feverish; all his fur was stuck together. So I said, 'You wait there' - the top half of the Dutch door was open - and I went to the frig and brought down some milk and a blanket, but when I was coming back he had leapt over the Dutch door with his last strength and he was stalking up the hall he was dribbling and he was dribbling and it was just repulsive. And I said, 'God, I just don't want this animal in my house, he'll bring fleas and all sorts of things,' and I was thinking of my own preservation. So I fed him and put him outside, but somehow or other I felt that was cruel, and so my guilty conscience bothered me all that night, and I kept hearing him breaking into the house - which was all in my imagination, but I couldn't sleep. So it was like some sort of temptation, and the song that I wrote from it - I wrote a good Samaritan verse, which was the first thought to feed him and give him a blanket; and then an innkeeper verse where I hurried him away in spite of my first good intentions, because of myself. But then he came back three days later, and I was so relieved to see him 'cause I'd been feeling like a monster, wondering if I'd really failed some test. So I took him in, and he's my cat; and he's really strange - he has a hare lip and a cleft palate... it's amazing that he's even alive. He's an eight year old cat. I took him to a vet and found that out...

Transcriptions of Hunter

Hunter has been recorded by 3 other artists

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