"unifaun" meaning in Genesis song

What does “unifaun” mean in the Genesis song “Dancing witht the moonlight knight?”

From memory, the lyrics are:

“Can you tell me where my country lies,
Cried the unifaun to his true love’s eyes
It lies with me cried the Queen of Maybe
For her merchandise he traded in his pride.”

From this site:


And here I was picturing a goat-footed satyr-like being with a single horn. Rather like Harryhausen’s cyclops, only smaller, not as scaley and with two eyes.

Actually I hadn’t been picturing anything as I don’t seem to have noticed this song before just now.

Ahh, those were the days… back when Phil Collins was just a drummer. :slight_smile:

Nah - he was a singer then, too (See “More fool me”).

True… he also sang “For Absent Friends” on Nursery Cryme. But you know what I mean…

Portmanteau word. “Two meanings packed up in one word.” A portmanteau was an item of luggage which folded out into two sections but could be attached together into a single piece. But if the above reference is to be believed, it’s three meanings packed up into one word.

The song “Dancing with the Moonlit Night” is about the ironic contrast between the romantic glamor of medieval England and the drab commercialism of modern England, both worlds overlaid on one another and interpenetrating in the singer’s imagination. The unicorn is a symbol of the English nation—order and rule, while the faun is a symbol of wild nature—randy and untameable. Packed together they make an ironic contrast. The whole song is an exercise in wordplay. The fat old lady dealing out credit cards instead of Tarot cards is like T.S. Eliot’s Madame Sesostris from The Waste Land, only satirical.

Oh, come on, Phil Collins was a better vocalist than Peter Gabriel.

That first bit I never heard (not saying it hasn’t been used). Cite?

Why the English think it’s about “order and rule” is kind of bizarre. It makes sense if national encomiums have an idea of their uniqueness, coupled with beauty, however.

Is the interpretation of that portmanteau spelled out in the song?

Do Englishmen, or Collins (as a guess) absorb this cultural image in school, or something?


So, strictly speaking The unicorn is a symbol of the **Scottish **nation. Artistic licence I suppose.


I still don’t buy that unicorn–>“order and rule,” which I’m pretty sure is grabbing the wrong end of the horn, as it were.

Huh- even though I’m a prog-rock fan, and that is my favorite Genesis song, I never saw a lyrics sheet for “Dancing With the Moonlit Knight.” I actually thought Gabriel was saying “unicorn,” and would have had no idea what a unifaun is. A unicorn/faun hybrid? A play on words, combining “uniform” and “faun”?

The overall “meaning” of the song was always sort-of clear to me, though. It’s a reflection on England’s decline. It contrasts the glorious mythology of England’s past with the much grubbier, more commercial reality of England in the Seventies.

The unifaun, I suppose, is a made-up magical, medieval woodland English creature who’s looking at modern England and thinking, “There’s no magic here any more. What happened to my country?” I’m sure the elderly JRR Tolkien (who, I think, was still just barely alive in 1973 when the ***Selling England By the Pound *** LP came out) would have understood the sentiments perfectly.

Sure; just the same way as you absorb all those associations regarding the Freedom-Loving [del]Assyrian[/del], [del]Roman[/del], [del]Byzantine[/del], [del]Russian[/del], [del]Prussian[/del], [del]Austrian[/del], [del]French[/del], American Eagle, and all that tosh regarding General Washington.

Or the Germans learn of the Hartz Mountains and the Emperor under the Hill; or the Native Americans the Wendigo, or the Jews of Gideon and the Judges, or the Texians of Legends of The Old South-West. It’s just something that’s there, and private to the people.
As far as Order is concerned, these things come from mediaeval reasonings, such as — to take the first two to come to mind — The Pelican [ in Her Piety ] as a symbol of Sacrifice ( she draws blood to feed her children ), and the[FONT=Trebuchet MS] Phoenix as a symbol of Renewal. Obviously these were synthesized from many earlier traditions.


Let’s move this to Cafe Society, which didn’t exist when this thread was started in 2003.

General Questions Moderator

No problem with that. Agree absolutely. Pelican (you have provided the interpretive reasoning contemporaneous with the symbolism); Phoenix–>Renewal (rebirth from destroying fire). Check and check.

Unicorn–>order and orderly rule? Still don’t get it, and haven’t seen cite. I don’t think original explanation upthread on interpretation of “unifaun” is supportable under that explanation. As “unicorn” in general, sure why not.

And you know what? Still never heard (or h. of) the song. Just here for the ride.