This song is one of my favorites. The more I listen to it, I find different interpretations, so I Googled around to find out more about this song and what it means, and found this, I thought I would share this even thou it might seem off topic.

This is a song about truth.

when I walk beside her
i am the better man

When he accepts no lies and lives life by his own personal truth it makes him a better man.

when I look to leave her
I always stagger back again

Lies can never last for long once you are aware of the truth even if someone tries to deceive you.

once I built an ivory tower
so I could worship from above

The ivory tower is a temple or a church. It is built in honour of the truth but it is not necessary and becomes a trap that imprisons him in lies.

and when I climbed down to be set free
she took me in again

He must climb down from the temple and the truth will reveal itself once again and take him in.

there’s a big
a big hard sun
beaten on the big people
in the big hard world

The chorus is the description of truth – LIGHT. It is within us. It helps us in the big hard worldwhen we become big people.

when she comes to greet me
she is mercy at my feet

Mercy (meaning):1 a kind or forgiving attitude towards sb that you have power to harm or right to punish; 2 an event or a situation to be grateful for, usually because it stops something unpleasant.

Truth has power. it can destroy us if we betray it. but if it comes to greet us it usually stops something unpleasant if we accept it

when I see her pin her charm
she just throws it back at me

The charm of the truth is in it’s mercy and although it can appear pinned sometimes and not moving toward us, it throws itself or her mercy back at our feet. It never leaves us no matter how hard things might seem. Truth can never be fully stopped. If we see it that way it is a lie, an illusion and we suffer because of it.

once I sought an early grave
to find a better land

He was considering suicide

she just smiled and laughed at me
and took her blues back again

But truth smiled at him and took the blues away. Her blues can mean that maybe the truth was the unbearable burden that made him consider suicide.

when I go to cross that river
she is comfort by my side

Truth gives us comfort during the hardships in life and helps us to push on through.

when I try to understand
she just opens up her hands

If we only try to understand the truth it will reveal it’s secrets to us.

once I stood to lose her
when I saw what I had done

This is about forgiveness. He did something that made him feel like he was betraying the truth.

bound down and flew away the hours
of her garden and her sun

He did things not guided by truth but lies and wasted time. That concealed the beauty of the truth which is represented by the garden and her sun.

so I tried to warn her
i’ll turn to see her weep

So he did some severe damage to the truth (or so he believes) and tried to correct it but too late.

40 days and 40 nights
and it’s still coming down on me

After a very long time it is still weeping and he’s feeling the consequences

This is one of my favorite songs ever. It took me a long time to figure out exactly what it was about. All the previous commenters could also be correct in their interpretation, but… something just didn’t fit for me.

Anyway this is what it means to me. And the music sounds so epic or anthemic, it really backs up all the emotion in the lyrics.

Amazing song!