"When the Ship Comes In" as written by and B. Dylan....
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
Before the hurricane begins
The hour that the ship comes in

And 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

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

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

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

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'

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

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


Lyrics submitted by Jack, edited by Mellow_Harsher

"When the Ship Comes In" as written by Bob Dylan

Lyrics © BOB DYLAN MUSIC CO

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When the Ship Comes In song meanings
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  • +3
    General CommentI AGREE 100% with tommy87.

    This song is a beautiful anthem for those working for social/political change!

    Look:

    Oh the fishes will laugh
    As they swim out of the path
    And the seagulls they'll be smiling.
    And the rocks on the sands
    Will proudly stand,
    The hour that the ship comes in.

    This implies that the coming of the ship (the change, the reform, the new generation, etc) is a GOOD thing for all those it will effect.

    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.

    The political attacks, lies, mudslinging, slander, etc. of the opponents of "the ship" will for once, not be effective.

    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.

    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'.

    Again, this suggests that the coming of "the ship" is a beautiful and triumphant thing! I really love the line "The ship's wise men will remind you once again that the whole wide world is watching." President Kennedy had proclaimed that "the eyes of the world are upon us," and Martin Luther King + other advocates of civil rights constantly strove to remind the country that THE WHOLE WORLD WAS WATCHING!

    The last two stanzas are triumphant and glorious and always fill me with hope when I listen to them!

    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.

    Social/political change/reform and/or the "passing of the torch" to a new generation is going to happen! And those who oppress their fellow men (like Pharaoh's tribe) and those who have the establishment/the money/all odds on their side (like Goliath) will be defeated!

    It a beautiful, happy, triumphant, hopeful, motivating song with GREAT imagery!

    (Just one comment on the hotel room story... maybe the trouble getting a room set Dylan off or something, but we all know that Dylan was like a conductor that channeled all the electricity of the events and emotions of his times into his music; thus, whether consciously or subconsciously, I guarantee Dylan wrote this song about more than a hotel room.)
    The Pope of Erukeon June 21, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI have always thought that When The Ship Comes In is a metaphor for social change. Each verse lists all these good things that will happen when the ship comes in e.g "the winds will stop....the rocks in the sand will proudly stand.....the sun will respect every face on the deck.....the hour that the ship comes in. Which i believe to mean that everything will be better when social change occurs. It seems to fit perfectly but maybe thats just me.
    tommy87on January 27, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI just wanted to add to what '5isjusta4letterword' said, as everyone whose seen 'No Direction Home' will know, the story goes that when Dylan was travelling around with Joan Baez on her tour (this was just before Bob was a huge star) and the tour manager refused to get Dylan a room. Joan then used her status, threatening to quit the tour and so on, and eventually got him the room. In the morning Joan Baez went into Bob's room and found out that Dylan had been up all night and had just finshed this song, 'When The Ship Comes In', it apparently sums up his fellings on the people and events, to quote Baez 'Bob was hanging all of them with his eyes'. This is a great song, one of his best written. If anyone has theories on the hidden meanings and criptic metaphor i'd like to hear it.
    msr123on September 11, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentMaybe this isn't what inspired Dylan, but a lot of the imagery in this song reminds me of imagery from The Lord of the Rings... if you've read it, maybe you'll dig this, maybe you won't. But the whole idea of "When the Ship comes in" reminds me of the very end of The Return of the King, when Frodo, Sam and Bilbo sail west to the Undying Lands, and the constant references throughout the trilogy to the waning Elven population as they also sail west.

    Maybe I'm just too much of a dork? I do realize that some of the lyrics in the song don't fit with my idea, namely the last two verses. But the idea of people arriving by ship to a "promised land" of sorts, especially in the 5th and 6th verses, particularly
    "And the sun will respect every face on the deck" made me think of the song in this light.

    Anyway...it's a beautiful and devastating song.
    MidnightsBrokenToeon January 21, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentBob Dylans "when the ship comes in" Is about the return of the Ancient people of Atlantis, who will reture to earth and aid mankind in there darkests hour when the world is about to change.
    hades474on May 21, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song is heavy laden with allusions to Thus Spoke Zarathustra - Nietzsche. Morning, Stillest Hour, Ship (Ubermensche), Sea (Society), Foes (Last Man)... I hear Nietzsche in many of Dylan's works. What do you think?
    mjengladeon July 02, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti read that dylan wrote this to a hotel clerk who pissed him off
    5isa4letterwordon July 18, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti love this song. Yeah it said somthing bout that in the no direction home movie
    JohnDylanon December 07, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commentit is about social change, the upsetting experience at the hotel was just a trigger.
    Sort of reminds me to the song "we shall overcome".
    spook!!on November 16, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentyes it is true it was written in the wake of being refused a hotel room because of his scruffy image, but inspired only so much as Ode to a Grecian Urn was written about a vase in the living room or the love song of alfred prufrock was written about some guy in a coffeeshop

    Obviously a song about change. Introduced by Dylan- a song about new , different Goliath's that must be stopped. The sea is often used as a place of uncertainty, where no man makes a home and where the unknown lies. When the ship comes in there will be the collision of the outcast or departed with the structures of society on land. Very well written and very good, this song shows how much better Dylan got at channeling his anger since Masters of War
    nigelmustaphaon December 16, 2007   Link

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