Ship of Fools
“Tell me quick” said Old McFee
“What’s this all have to do with me?”
“I’ve spent all my time at sea a loner.”
“Is there something else I should know?”
“Something hidden down below the level of your conversation?”
Well he turned away before the answer
Though I yelled aloud he refused to hear
It became to clear
So it went as we put out
I was left in constant doubt
Everything I asked about seemed private
The captain strolled the bridge one night
I stopped him in the evening light
To ask him would it be all right to join him
But he stood there like some idol
And he listened like some temple
And then he turned away
All along the fateful coast
We moved silent like a ghost
The timeless sea of tireless host possessed us
The wind came building from the cold northwest
And soon the waves began to crest
Crashing cross the forward deck
All hands lost
I alone survived the sinking
I alone possessed the tools
On that ship of fools
Ship of fools
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
The ship of fools is an allegory that has long been a fixture in Western literature and art. The allegory depicts a vessel populated by human inhabitants who are deranged, frivolous, or oblivious passengers aboard a ship without a pilot, and seemingly ignorant of their own direction. This concept makes up the framework of the 15th century book Ship of Fools (1494) by Sebastian Brant, which served as the inspiration for Bosch’s famous painting, Ship of Fools: a ship—an entire fleet at first—sets off from Basel to the paradise of fools. In literary and artistic compositions of the 15th and 16th centuries, the cultural motif of the ship of fools also served to parody the ‘ark of salvation’ as the Catholic Church was styled.
Michel Foucault, who wrote Madness and Civilization, saw in the ship of fools a symbol of the consciousness of sin and evil alive in the medieval mindset and imaginative landscapes of the Renaissance. According to Jose Barchilon’s introduction to Madness and Civilization, “Renaissance men developed a delightful, yet horrible way of dealing with their mad denizens: they were put on a ship and entrusted to mariners because folly, water, and sea, as everyone then ‘knew’, had an affinity for each other. Thus, ‘Ship of Fools’ crisscrossed the sea and canals of Europe with their comic and pathetic cargo of souls. Some of them found pleasure and even a cure in the changing surroundings, in the isolation of being cast off, while others withdrew further, became worse, or died alone and away from their families. The cities and villages which had thus rid themselves of their crazed and crazy, could now take pleasure in watching the exciting sideshow when a ship full of foreign lunatics would dock at their harbors.”
A 1962 novel by American writer, Katherine Anne Porter of the same name, set in the autumn of the year 1931, also uses the device of the allegory, and can be seen as an attack on a world that allowed the Second World War to happen. The novel was the basis for a 1965 film starring Vivien Leigh and Lee Marvin.
Ship of Fools is also the title of a 2002 science fiction novel by Richard Paul Russo where the Ship of Fools is, not surprisingly, a space ship on which no one knows the destination.
In addition, Ship of Fools was used as the title of a book by the Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole on the causes of the financial crisis in Ireland, the metaphor being used to describe the Irish political establishment and their self-deception regarding the economic situation in the country.
Theodore Kaczynski, more commonly known as ‘The Unabomber’, wrote a play Ship of Fools while in prison, which uses the allegory for the state and advocates violent revolution on environmentalist grounds.
In popular music
Experimental Irish folk group, Dr. Strangely Strange, recorded a song titled “Ship of Fools” on their debut album Kip of the Serenes (1969).2
The Doors, John Cale and Grateful Dead have all had a song called “Ship of Fools” in their respective albums Morrison Hotel (1970), Fear (1974) and From the Mars Hotel (1974).
Van Der Graaf, the late 1970s incarnation of Van Der Graaf Generator, had a song called “Ship of Fools” that was the opening track on the live album Vital and a studio version of the song was the B-side on the final single released by the band.
World Party also released a “Ship of Fools” song, in 1986.
Robert Plant recorded a song by this name in 1987 for his album Now and Zen; in the same year Erasure also released a song called “Ship of Fools”.
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