My former wife, Marla, bought me two Marvin Payne CDs for Christmas this year: “Ships of Dust” (1971) and “Houses and Towns” (1973). Back when we were both undergrads at BYU, Marvin used to go door-to-door through the Provo student apartment complexes with his guitar and a backpack full of albums for sale — which is how Marla bought her original copy of “Ships of Dust”.
I used to sing the title song “Ships of Dust” as a lullaby to our daughters, Jacqui and Bethan, when they were about 8 and 5, respectively. I sang it again tonight as a lullaby for my 5-year-old granddaughter, Sydney. Here are the lyrics:
We wandered through the shipyards,
through the timber and the rope,
and the wise men saw the longing in our eyes.
So they made for each of us
a ship of dust, with sails of trust,
and the sun behind us vanished from the skies.
Now it’s a long time since the sunset,
and the time we raised the sails,
and the time the old shipbuilders waited for.
There are wonders in the night;
there are strange and dangerous shades of light,
but the dawn is gonna see me on that shore.
Sweet stars, mark the night.
Fair winds, arc the right waves over my prow—
I am homeward.
Wooden wheels and oaken rudders
bend like grass against the sea,
and the canvas fails and falls against our hope.
I am climbing on the mast
and I see a trace of dawn at last
and I feel a strange new feeling in the rope.
Now the sun splits the horizon
where I thought the beach to be,
and the graveyard for the ships done with the sea
But I’m on a sea of glass
and the light is more than sun can pass
and the deck is turning silver under me.
Sweet stars, mark my mind.
Fair winds, you can find me sailing your source—
I am homeward.
Words and music © 1971, Marvin Payne
Sydney fell sweetly asleep while I sang. ..bruce..