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The Bob Zentz Songbook

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Ships That Pass

From Closehauled on the Wind of a Dream

Adapted from the poetry of C. Fox Smith (1882-1954)

Music and additional lyrics 2003, 2007 Bob Zentz

 

 

1.  There are ships that pass in the nighttime, some poet has told us how (D-D/C#-Bm-G-D)

But a ship that passed in the daytime is the one Im thinking of now (G-D-Em-A)

Where the seas roll green from the Arctic, and the wind comes keen from the Pole (D-D/C#-Bm-G-D)

Tween Rockhall Bank and the Shetlands, up north on the long patrol  (G-D-Em-A-D)

 

2.  We sighted her one day early, the forenoon watch was begun

There was mist like wool on the water and the glimpse of a pale cold sun

She came through the dim grey weather, a thing of wonder and gleam

From the port o the past on a Bowline, closehauled on a wind of dream

 

3.  The rust of years was upon her, she was weathered by many a gale

The flag of a Spanish republic went up to her peak at our hail

But I knew her, Lord God! I knew her, as how could I help but know

The ship that Id served my time in, no matter how long ago

 

4.  Id have climbed to her royals blindfolded, Id have known her spars in a crowd

Aloft and alow I knew her, brace and halliard and shroud

From the scroll-work under the stern-ports, to the paint on her figure-head

And the shout, All hands, on her maindeck, would have tumbled me up from the dead

 

5.  She moved like a queen on the water, with the grace that was hers of yore

The sun on her shining canvas, what had she to do with this war?

With a world that is filled with trouble, in seas that are stained with crime?

She came like a dream remembered, dreamt once, in a happier time

 

6.  She was youth and its sorrow that passes, the light, the laughter, the joy

The south, and the small white cities, the carefree heart of a boy

The farewell flash of the fastnet, to light you, the whole world round

And the hoot of the tug at parting, and the song of the outward bound

 

7.  The sun, and the flying-fish weather, night and a fiddles tune

Palms, and the bright maize-yellow, of a low West Indian moon

Storm in the high south latitudes, and the boom of a trade-filled sail

The anchor watch in the tropics, and an old Sou Spainers tale

 

8.  But was it the lap of the wave I heard ... or the chill winds cry

Or a snatch of a deep-sea chantey I knew in the years gone by?

Was it the whine of the gear in the sheaves, or was it the seagulls call

Or the ghost of my shipmates voices, tallyin to the fall?

 

9.  I went through her papers duly, and no one, I hoped, could see

A freight of the years departed, was the cargo she bore for me!

I talked for a while with her captain, while we searched her for contraband

As I longed for the grip of her wheel-spokes, like the grip of a friends right hand

 

10.  Then I watched as her helm went over, the sails were sheeted home

And under her moving forefoot, the bubbles broke into foam

Till she faded from sight in the greyness, a thing of wonder and gleam

For the port of the past on a bowline, closehauled on a wind of dream

From a port of the past on a bowline, closehauled on a wind of a dream!

 

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