THE GOOD SHIP ENGLAND (Song at Riptide)
An allegory about good and evil. At the time I wrote it, I was very much into sea chanties. I also loved a lot of Gordon Bok’s music. And I recall that I had recently seen the movie Billy Budd. In my song, the hero has to choose between serving the Empire and obeying his conscience. I should also mention that this was written sometime duing the Vietnam war when I was determined not to kill or be killed for my country. I didn’t know if I was going to be called up (drafted) but my parents were encouraging me to flee the country if need be. I also contemplated refusing and being sent to jail. They never did call me, but my friend Phil was sentenced to 3 years in pison for conscientious objection.
I should also note that a similar theme is explored in my adaptation of Amazing Grace-song 8.
The good ship England sails the seas, for many a year it sails the seas
It stops at evey eastern port to take their gold
And at night when the crew of the good ship goes off with the women and off with their clothes
A single sailor stays behind and sheds some tears.
Oh the storm on the seas grows strongernow and sea birds surround
Every captain wants to know what drove his ship underground
The captain sent the lad away and shackled him for 30 days
For no good seaman weeps in doubt about his role
And when the ship set sail once more to rape the farthest foreign shore
The lad said, “Captain, turn around and head for home!”
The lad said, “Captain, can’t you see that what you take from each country Ebbs your human dignity and leaves them cold?”
The captain ordered him to hang fo treason to the royal gang
And the very last words to the captain spoke were “Curse your bones!”
And when the sailor breathed no more the fearless crewmen roared and roared
And in their joy they could not see the wave come near
The ship she dove and did not rise and every man was drowned alive
300 ships with gold and spice were lost in all
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