Hunger of the Pine by alt-J: Lyrics Meaning and Interpretation

Alt-J is an English rock band that was founded in Leeds in 2007 by Joe Newman. The band consists of Newman, Thom Sonny Green, Gus Unger-Hamilton, and Gwilym Sainsbury. Gus is known for his beautiful vocals. Even in the song “Hunger of the Pine”, we see his magical vocals in action. The band rose to fame with their debut album “An Awesome Wave”. Ever since then, they’ve been making a name for themselves in the music industry of America. If it’s your first time listening to this band, it might be a bit difficult for you to grasp the hunger of the pine lyrics meaning right away. However, if you pay attention to the words, you won’t have any difficulty in grasping the hunger of the pine lyrics meaning.

What Does the Title Mean?

The title of the song is a contradictory phrase. “Hunger of the pine” roughly translates into a hunger of pain. The narrator is hungry for all the despair that love brings. He loves despite being hurt. He wants to be hurt in love. He wants his lover to hurt him (emotionally). Love is the strongest drug out there. And the narrator wants more of it.

Verse 1 – What Does It Mean?

“Sleeplessly embracing

Butterflies and needles

Line my seamed-up join

Encased in case I need it

In my stomach, for my heart

Chain mail”

Feeling butterflies in one’s stomach is one of the most common feelings when in love. It’s a sign of excitement and a wee bit of nervousness. Feeling needles is a sign of discomfort. Often, those with anxiety report feeling pins and needles in their body. When someone is in love and they’re feeling especially nervous about it, feeling butterflies and needles becomes common. Another symptom of being in love is having sleepless night. In popular culture, you’d find a lot of instances of people not being able to sleep due to being in love. They tend to stay awake thinking about their lover, more often than not imagining a future with them. The narrator then tells us that he tries to protect his heart by keeping it in chain mail – a type of armor that was very common in the medieval era. Moreover, the feelings that he mentioned are in his stomach. More often than not, butterflies are often felt in the stomach.

What Does the Refrain Mean?

“Hunger of the pine

Hunger of the pine”

It’s common to misunderstand the meaning of the word “pine” in this context. Here, the word “pine” doesn’t refer to the tree, but a steady decline of someone’s mental and physical health. This is another symptom people show when madly in love. There have been a lot of lovers in history who have decayed away due to one-sided love. As mentioned before, the phrase “hunger of the pine” is a bit contradictory. Another thing to note here is that the English used in this song is a bit archaic. Thus, it gives the song a more artistic vibe.

Verse 2 – What Does It Mean?

“Sleeplessly embracing

Yawn yearns into me

Plenty more tears in the sea

And so you finally use it

Bedding with me you see at night

Your heart wears knight armour

The unrequited love is sleeplessly embraced by the narrator. It’s a beautiful phrase that describes someone accepting the inevitable. For instance, the soldiers who know that they have to go out in the battlefield tomorrow, possibly walking right into their deaths. Yet, they know that it’s unavoidable and inevitable. Thus, they embrace that fact, while staying wide awake in the night. The third line of this verse is especially beautiful. It’s a play on the phrase “plenty more fish in the sea”. Usually, whenever someone ends a romantic relationship, their loved ones console them by saying that there are plenty more fish in the sea. Our narrator views love as something painful. Thus, the plenty fish in the sea are actually sources of tears. Therefore, for him, there are only plenty more tears in the sea. The word “bedding’ is an archaic way of referring to sex. When someone “beds” another person, it usually means that they slept with them.

The last line in this verse is perhaps the most interesting in the whole song. In the first verse, the narrator mentions that his heart wears chain mail. In this verse, he observes that his lover’s heart wears knight armour. A knight’s armour is far more effective at protecting the body than a mere chain mail. Thus, the narrator implies that he’s willing to be vulnerable with his lover. However, she still hasn’t opened up with him. She still protects her heart with a knight’s armor.

What Does the Chorus Mean?

“(I’m a female rebel

I’m a female rebel

I’m a female rebel

I’m a female rebel

Female rebel)

Ooh, ooh, ooh

Sleeplessly embracing you”

The chorus once again repeats the phrase “sleeplessly embracing”. In the chorus, the narrator sleeplessly embraces his lover. This implies that his lover is also inevitable. The narrator is confident that they’re meant to be together and that they’ll end up together. “Female rebel” could be a phrase from the perspective of his lover. Perhaps, his lover has rebelled against authoritative forces just to be with him. In most art by female artists, rebellion is a very common theme. Moreover, this chorus was sampled from Miley Cyrus’ “4×4”, an artist known for breaking the norms and being unorthodox.

Verse 3 – What Does It Mean?

“Realisation grew on me

As quickly as it takes your hand

To warm the cool side of the pillow

I’m there for you, be there for me

I’ll hum the song the soldiers sing

As they march outside our window”

The narrator realizes that his relationship is pretty hopeless. There doesn’t seem to be a secured future for him and his lover. This realization took over him as quickly as his lover’s hand warms the cool side of the pillow. We all know that the cool side of the pillow doesn’t last very long when turned. Moreover, this line also implies the closeness the narrator feels with his lover. Thus, it’s even more painful for him to realize that their relationship is going nowhere. He asks his lover for a promise. A promise of staying by his side. Every human being needs another person to be by their side when the going gets tough. Just like she’ll be there for him, he’ll be there for her. He’ll do whatever she asks, so she can stay in his life. He’ll sing songs that the soldiers hum. The inclusion of the word “soldier” hints at the fact that the narrator is willing to fight for his love. The last line is again very important here. It provides some context to the whole song. Perhaps, our narrator is a soldier going off to war, or he is in a war-torn country. The soldiers marching outside the window can also represent the forces opposing their love.

What Does the Outro Mean?

“Une immense espérance a traversé la terre

Une immense espérance a traversé la terre

Une immense espérance a traversé ma peur

Une immense espérance a traversé ma peur

These lines are taken from a French poet’s poem, namely Alfred de Musset. These lines translate into: “A great hope has crossed the earth. A great hope has crossed my fear.” The narrator wants to say that even though their relationship seems dismal at this point, he still has hope in his heart.


It’s a beautiful composition with lyrics that border on the archaic. However, getting the hunger of the pine lyrics meaning isn’t that difficult if you’re used to such language. If you ask any Literature student, they’ll explain the hunger of the pine lyrics meaning straightaway. Perhaps, this is because the song is written like poetry – poetry from the era of Romanticism.

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