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When the Ship Comes In

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2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Commentary

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 When the Ship Comes In is the odd sock of this recording. While the rest of the songs are traditional ballads or protest anthems, the lyrics of Ship bring to mind to the verbosity of Hard Rain, and point towards the verbal dexterity that would come on future recordings.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Dylan commentator Stephen Scobie calls it a rather “mean and nasty” song. John Hinchey thinks the song works best if viewed as an “inner spiritual quest”. I don’t see it in either of those ways. It certainly isn’t nasty. Overthrowing a despot doesn’t make one “mean”.  And  it’s clearly not a spiritual  quest at all: it’s  about the eternal struggle between the haves and the have-nots. “The foes will rise etc.. etc…”

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 1 In his book “No Direction Home”, Robert Shelton quotes Gabrielle Goodchild on the use of a ship as a metaphor. “Throughout myth and literature, we find water as the symbol of the unconscious, spirituality, and earth, and the ship as the tiny ego of man making its lonely or triumphant voyage across dangerous deeps”.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 1 Shelton notes that the song is steeped in the Old Testament and specifically related to Revelations 7.1, which  matches the opening stanza of Ship quite closely. First the Dylan stanza:

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 Oh the time will come up
When the winds will stop
And the breeze will cease to be breathin’.
Like the stillness in the wind
‘Fore the hurricane begins,
The hour when the ship comes in.

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 And in Revelations 7.1:

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 Many have noted that Dylan’s inspiration for this song may have come from Kurt Weill’s Pirate Jenny, which was written for Bertolt Brecht’s Three Penny Opera. Dylan’s girlfriend Suze Rotolo was the set director for an amateur production of the play and it has been well documented that Dylan attended the rehearsals. Here are the lyrics of Pirate Jenny:

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 You people can watch while I’m scrubbing these floors
And I’m scrubbin’ the floors while you’re gawking
Maybe once ya tip me and it makes ya feel swell
In this crummy Southern town
In this crummy old hotel
But you’ll never guess to who you’re talkin’.
No. You couldn’t ever guess to who you’re talkin’.

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 Then one night there’s a scream in the night
And you’ll wonder who could that have been
And you see me kinda grinnin’ while I’m scrubbin’
And you say, “What’s she got to grin?”
I’ll tell you.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 There’s a ship
The Black Freighter
with a skull on its masthead
will be coming in

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 You gentlemen can say, “Hey gal, finish them floors!
Get upstairs! What’s wrong with you! Earn your keep here!
You toss me your tips
and look out to the ships
But I’m counting your heads
as I’m making the beds
Cuz there’s nobody gonna sleep here, honey
Nobody
Nobody!

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 Then one night there’s a scream in the night
And you say, “Who’s that kicking up a row?”
And ya see me kinda starin’ out the winda
And you say, “What’s she got to stare at now?”
I’ll tell ya.

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 There’s a ship
The Black Freighter
turns around in the harbor
shootin’ guns from her bow

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 Now
You gentlemen can wipe off that smile off your face
Cause every building in town is a flat one
This whole frickin’ place will be down to the ground
Only this cheap hotel standing up safe and sound
And you yell, “Why do they spare that one?”
Yes.
That’s what you say.
“Why do they spare that one?”

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 All the night through, through the noise and to-do
You wonder who is that person that lives up there?
And you see me stepping out in the morning
Looking nice with a ribbon in my hair

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 And the ship
The Black Freighter
runs a flag up its masthead
and a cheer rings the air

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 By noontime the dock
is a-swarmin’ with men
comin’ out from the ghostly freighter
They move in the shadows
where no one can see
And they’re chainin’ up people
and they’re bringin’ em to me
askin’ me,
“Kill them NOW, or LATER?”
Askin’ ME!
“Kill them now, or later?”

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 Noon by the clock
and so still by the dock
You can hear a foghorn miles away
And in that quiet of death
I’ll say, “Right now.
Right now!”

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 Then they’ll pile up the bodies
And I’ll say,
“That’ll learn ya!”

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 And the ship
The Black Freighter
disappears out to sea
And
on
it
is
me

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 Listen to Nina Simone‘s version.

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26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 Clearly, there are similarities. The ship is used as a symbol of freedom in both songs and its arrival marks the demise of the narrator’s nemesis. There are other connections as well. Dylan mentions Brecht in the Freewheelin’ liner notes. And Brecht on Brecht, the popular play written in the early sixties, is widely thought as the inspiration for the title of the album Blonde on Blonde.

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 I am always skeptical when commentators try to tie Dylan’s lyrics to literary instead of folk or blues material. In this case I don’t completely buy the connection. Perhaps Pirate Jenny got the ball rolling, but i think that’s about it. A ship is a universal symbol that has been used in thousands of songs and poems. And although the theme may be similar, the specific lyrics are not similar at all. But who knows.

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 A version with Dylan accompanying himself on piano was released on The Bootleg Series.

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30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 Bootleg Series 7.

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32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 March on Washington, 1963.

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34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 Live  Aid. Not the best.

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36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 Arlo Guthrie always does Dylan well.

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41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 Lyrics

42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 Oh the time will come up
When the winds will stop
And the breeze will cease to be breathin’.
Like the stillness in the wind
‘Fore the hurricane begins,
The hour when the ship comes in.

43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 Oh the seas will split
And the ship will hit
And the sands on the shoreline will be shaking.
Then the tide will sound
And the wind will pound
And the morning will be breaking.

44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 Oh the fishes will laugh
As they swim out of the path
And the seagulls they’ll be smiling.
And the rocks on the sand
Will proudly stand,
The hour that the ship comes in.

45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 And the words that are used
For to get the ship confused
Will not be understood as they’re spoken.
For the chains of the sea
Will have busted in the night
And will be buried at the bottom of the ocean.

46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 A song will lift
As the mainsail shifts
And the boat drifts on to the shoreline.
And the sun will respect
Every face on the deck,
The hour that the ship comes in.

47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 Then the sands will roll
Out a carpet of gold
For your weary toes to be a-touchin’.
And the ship’s wise men
Will remind you once again
That the whole wide world is watchin’.

48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 Oh the foes will rise
With the sleep still in their eyes
And they’ll jerk from their beds and think they’re dreamin’.
But they’ll pinch themselves and squeal
And know that it’s for real,
The hour when the ship comes in.

49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0 Then they’ll raise their hands,
Sayin’ we’ll meet all your demands,
But we’ll shout from the bow your days are numbered.
And like Pharaoh’s tribe,
They’ll be drownded in the tide,
And like Goliath, they’ll be conquered.

Page 37
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Source: http://www.bobdylancommentaries.com/the-times-they-are-a-changin/when-the-ship-comes-in/