Grateful Dead

Reuben And Cerise

Lyrics By: Robert Hunter
Music By: Jerry Garcia

Cérise was brushing her long hair gently down
It was the afternoon of Carnival
As she brushes it gently down

Reuben was strumming his painted mandolin (note 1)
It was enlaid with a pretty face in jade
Played the Carnival Parade (note 2)

Cérise was dressing as Pirouette in white
When a fatal vision gripped her tight
Cérise, beware tonight

Reuben, Reuben, tell me truly true
I feel afraid and I don't know why I do
Is there another girl for you

If you could see in my heart
You would know it's true
There is none, Cérise, except for you
Except for you
I swear to it on my very soul (note 3)
If I lie may I fall down cold

When Reuben played on his painted mandolin (note 4)
The breeze would stop and listen in (note 5)
Before going its way again

Masquerade began when nightfall finally woke
Like waves against the bandstand dancers broke
To the painted mandolin

Looking out on the crowd, who is standing there? (note 6)
Sweet Ruby Claire at Reuben stared
At Reuben stared
She was dressed as Pirouette in red
And her hair hung gently down

The crowd pressed round, Ruby stood as though alone
Reuben's song took on a different tone
And he played it just for her

The song that he played was the Carnival Parade
Each note cut a thread of Cérise's fate
It cut through like a blade

Reuben was playing his painted mandolin (note 7)
When Ruby froze and turned to stone
For the strings played all alone

If you could see in my heart (note 8)
You would know it's true
There is none, Cérise, except for you
Except for you

The voice of Cérise from the face of the mandolin
Singing Reuben, Reuben, tell me true
For I have no one but you

If you could see my heart
You would know it's true
There is none, Cérise, except for you
Except for you
I swear to it on my very soul (note 3)
If I lie, may I fall down cold

The truth of love an unsung song must tell (note 9)
The course of love must follow blind
Without a look behind (note 10)

Reuben walked the streets of New Orleans till dawn
Cérise so lightly in his arms note 11)
And her hair hung gently down

There are some variations on the spelling of the title. The Hunter book of lyrics has it as "Reuben and Cérise" (with an acute accent on the 'e' of Cérise). But the version on the Garcia album "Cats Under The Stars" is titled "Rubin And Cherise" (thanks to Todd for pointing this out). I've also seen some references to "Ruben," though I think that's just an error.

This is a song mainly associated with the Jerry Garcia Band and with Hunter's solo performances. But the Grateful Dead played it four times in 1991 (thanks to Brad Dilli for help with the Dead's version).

(1) Hunter sings "... the painted mandolin"
(2) Garcia sang "From the Carnival Parade" on at least one occasion with the Dead
(3) these are Hunter's published lyrics, and what Garcia sang. But on the CD 'Box Of Rain' Hunter sings:

Well Reuben swear to it on your very soul
If you lie may you fall down cold

(4) Hunter sings "played the painted mandolin"
(5) Garcia sings "The breeze would pause to listen in" on 'Cats Under The Stars'
(6) Garcia sometimes sang "who was standing there"
(7) with the Dead, Garcia sang "Reuben was strumming his painted mandolin". On the version on 'Box Of Rain' Hunter sings "Reuben put down the painted mandolin" (and omits "When" from the start of the next line)
(8) Hunter omits this repeat of the bridge in his version
(9) Hunter adds in two extra verses here:

Ahoy, old ferryman, riverboat of Charon ride
Though alive, take Reuben to the other side
For his sweet Cérise has died

It's a long lonely walk from Hell to the burying ground
Cérise may return but don't you look around
For your glance would cut her down

(10) Hunter sings "But Reuben looked behind"
(11) Hunter sings "With the ghost of Cérise in his empty arms"

Reuben And Cerise