Song Lyrics

Moon At The Window

by Joni Mitchell

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It takes cheerful resignation
Heart and humility
That's all it takes
A cheerful person told me
Nobody's harder on me than me
How could they be
And nobody's harder on you than you

Betsy's blue
She says "Tell me something good!"
You know I'd help her out if I only could
Oh but sometimes the light
Can be so hard to find
At least the moon at the window
the thieves left that behind *

People don't know how to love
They taste it and toss it
Turn it off and on
Like a bathtub faucet
Oh sometimes the light
Can be so hard to find
At least the moon at the window
The thieves left that behind

I wish her heart
I know these battles
Deep in the dark
When the spooks of memories rattle
Ghosts of the future
Phantoms of the past
Rattle rattle rattle
In the spoon and the glass

Is it possible to learn
How to care and yet not care
Since love has two faces
Hope and despair
And pleasure always turns to fear
I find
At least the moon at the window
The thieves left that behind
At least they left the moon
Behind the blind
Moon at the window

© 1982;


[The following was submitted by Jeff Capp]
This is an allusion to / appropriation of one of the most famous poems by the Japanese Buddhist priest Ryokan (1758-1831).

The poem entitled "The Thief Left It Behind" is as follows:
The thief left it behind:
the moon
at my window.

According to Ivan M. Granger "The moon is a common metaphor, especially among the Zen poets, to represent enlightened awareness. In this haiku Ryokan is laughing at the absurdity of the theft. "The thief left it behind," he foolishly couldn't recognize the one great treasure the poor monk possessed -- "the moon," enlightenment -- and, instead, took an armload of worthless junk. (To point out what a petty haul it was, Ryokan even ran after the thief with the missed cushion.) Any sort of theft of Ryokan's possessions was a pointless act because, of course, who can take the moon from his window? Ryokan is amused and invites us to join in his laughter."

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Transcriptions of Moon At The Window

Moon At The Window has been recorded by 16 other artists

  • Benoit, Aimee-Jo  (from "Horns of Hope" - 2024)
  • Dyer, Penny (from "Adieu, Miro" - 1998)
  • Fabio Ranza & Elisabetta Zamberlan (from "Be Cool" - 2002)
  • Fisher, Cheryl (from "slow hand jazz" - 2005)
  • Friederich, Renata  (from "Moon Moods" - 2002)
  • Jenson, Mary (from "Beyond" - 2011)
  • Klein-Smith, Leslie (from "Moon At The Window" - 2016)
  • Lawrence, Tamika (from "The Songs of Joni Mitchell: A Soulful Tribute" - 2017)
  • Lemper, Ute (from "Blood & Feathers (Live from the Cafe Carlyle)" - 2005)
  • Martha J. and Chebat Quartet (from "Amelia" - 2024)
  • Moerman, Patrice (- 2013)
  • Peter Herbert, ena, Wolfgang Mitterer & Koehne Quartett  (from "Joni (12 Songs by Joni Mitchell)" - 2011)
  • Rachel Z Trio (from "Moon At The Window" - 2002)
  • Shaw, Ian (from "Drawn To All Things" - 2006)
  • Sheehan, Jennifer  (from "Stardust: A Night in the Cosmos" - 2018)
  • Timmer, Inez (from "Baas Giele Taksy" - 2022)
  • [more information on recordings by other artists]


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petewestcentral on

What ear I have for jazz is because Joni dragged me into it. This one is special. I was renting a house in Highland Park (just up the road from Joni's tenement castle). The house was robbed. That night, I pushed past the broken door, stepped through the wreckage and stopped at a back window, where a golden moon was suspended in the branches of a glittering old tree. Then Joni came out with this song, which was written just for me--if you ask me. "Is it possible to learn / How to care and yet not care" expressed the theme of my experiences in the City of Trees.

danno on

i haven't digested this one yet. it still lingers on the palate. something to look forward to in my old age, discovering a new jem in joni lyrics.
all i know is when i get up to go pee in the night, i pass by my second story window to get to the john, and there are those restless nights, like last night, where that big ol' bad ass full moon is staring at me at that window, peeking between Minnies 150 foot tall oak tree branches in the velvet night! at least i still have that, after all that those before me have taken from my youth and abandoned me.

happytheman on

wayne shorter's sax is just riveting flowing as a stream in and out of her melody.