The song "One Tin Soldier" has long occupied a personal place for me that no other song I know of can match. According to Wikipedia, the Coven version was the number one requested song in both 1971 and 1973.
The song always gave me goosebumps from the year it first appeared. For many years I attributed that reaction to the poignant circumstances as described in the song.
When I got older, I found myself looking closer at the lyrics. I ended up seeing symbolism I wasn't aware of previously. The song is described as an "anti-war" song, and certainly that message can be found in the irony of the story it tells. However, there are aspects to the song that now give me pause.
Here is a line-by-line exposition, with my thoughts following each line. After consideration, you certainly can make up your own mind. Because the song tells a story, I've listed all the verses first, then the chorus at the end, as it repeats throughout the song and remains the same.
Listen children to a story that was written long ago
First we start by recognizing the story isn't the teller's, and furthermore, it is implied that it could possibly be ancient.
'Bout a Kingdom on a Mountain and the Valley folk below
A Kingdom above, and a group of "folk" below. Notice the Valley folk likely are not an actual kingdom, and the implication is that they are not as much of an established and cohesive entity. I believe the distinction of above and below is a metaphor for the Kingdom of Heaven and of the Earth.
On the Mountain was the Treasure buried deep beneath the Stone
Notice it's not 'a' treasure or 'a' stone, but "the" Treasure and "the" Stone. While this might not necessarily be significant, it does suggest a specific reference rather than a generic one. A specific description could be that the Treasure is an eternity in God's presence, and the Stone is Christ, also known scripturally as the Rock, and as the Cornerstone.
And the Valley people swore they'd have it for their very own
The idea is presented here that it could be possible for the residents of the Valley to take something away from the residents of the Kingdom on the Mountain.
So the people of the Valley sent a message up the hill
The intent of the "valley people" has never been ambiguous, neither in the song, nor in the embodiment of the anti-theist.
Asking for the buried Treasure, tons of gold for which they'd kill
While "tons of gold" could be a metaphor, in the end I believe it wouldn't matter what the Treasure is. It's just an excuse to destroy anything related to God.
Came an answer from the Kingdom, with our brothers we will share
This is the answer that one would expect from a Christian perspective, because God's intention of salvation and forgiveness has never been a secret since Christ rose from the dead.
All the secrets of our Mountain, all the riches buried there
The secrets of Heaven, that are scripturally described as being beyond our ability to even imagine. The riches are the rewards of the Kingdom, shared among all those who seek good and not evil.
Now the Valley cried with anger, "Mount your horses, draw your sword!"
The expected reaction of those who would rather not take the high road, and believe that they are entitled to anything they think they deserve. They are, after all, acting on their own conscience, and care nothing about what God may think.
And they killed the Mountain people, so they won their just reward
This is where the story diverges from reality. From an exclusively human perspective, this kind of carnage has historically happened so many times that it's delusional to imagine we have ever risen above it. In spiritual matters, the anti-theist ethos that drives many to rebellion for its own sake, encourages one to mistakenly believe that the darkness in the universe will one day triumph over the Light.
Now they stood beside the Treasure, on the Mountain dark and red
Another aspect of anti-theist fantasy. To rid the world forever of the allegedly hypocritical morons who humbly adhere to the writings of "bronze age sheep herders" is an unwritten dream of the dark side of humanity. The bloody imagery, coupled with the biblical reference in the chorus (See chapter 8 in the book of Revelation) about trumpets blowing, strongly indicate that this is a metaphor for Armageddon. The word "Armageddon" comes from a Hebrew word Har-Magedone, which means "Mount Megiddo."
Turned the Stone and looked beneath it
"Peace on Earth" was all it said
A consistent desire of God from Genesis all the way to Revelation. The anti-theist labors to discredit anything that requires personal accountability regarding God's rules for the celebration and protection of life as a human being.
Go ahead and hate your neighbor, go ahead and cheat a friend
As a boy I thought this was written with irony. Now I believe it's misguided admonishment.
Do it in the name of Heaven, you can justify it in the end
Anti-theism gives way to pernicious cynicism.
There won't be any trumpets blowin' come the Judgment Day
A direct reference to Revelation, and one that completely contradicts what is actually written.
On the bloody morning after
The morning 'after' Armageddon. Bloody is a clear reference because the Bible describes the aftermath this way: "And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And
the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the
winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs." For those interested in modern conversions, that's blood deep enough to touch the bridle of a horse for a distance of 200 miles.
One Tin Soldier rides away
This is a slander toward Christ Himself, who will lead the battle of Armageddon against the remaining anti-theists who eventually decide to summarily obliterate the last remaining remnants of believers from the earth. Referring to the triumphant and judgment-bringing person of Jesus Christ as a "tin soldier" is a sarcastic display of disrespect.
I believe it is no coincidence that the band Coven recorded both of the wildly popular versions, and I think the Biblical references and metaphors in the lyrics are also no coincidence. I believe the song had intentional malice toward Christianity. Coven weren't the writers, but the decision to have them record the song is at the very least a conspicuous one.
One of Coven's albums (from 1969) was called "Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls." Jinx Dawson, the band's singer, was often photographed wearing necklaces that featured upside-down crucifixes. Etc., etc.
But of course, as with anything else in life, subjectivity provides the possibility that everything I just wrote here is misguided.
What do you think?