"The Privateers" as written by and Andrew Wegman Bird....
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The Privateers song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentThis is probably too specific to be the only possible meaning of the song, but the lyrics make me think of Stede Bonnet, the gentleman pirate who palled around with Blackbeard and whose criminal career was little more than the series of failures. He left a good place in society (not to mention his home and wife) in order to pursue the adventurous life of a pirate. He and Blackbeard were obtained pardons together, but while Bonnet was waiting for a letter of marquee to become a legal privateer against Spanish shihpping, Blackbeard took off with his ship (which for some reason prompted Bonnet to return to a life of piracy instead of getting the letter of marquee).

    Similar to Bonnet, the singer rejects a comfortable life ("don't sell me anything," and "I don't want your life insurance"), expresses a desire to be alive and exciting, and seems to fear being forgotten ("speak of me in the present tense"), powerless ("or rather, fistless"), and left behind (the way Blackbeard, a real "profiteer," left Bonnet behind).

    As for the confession, Bonnet's own boatswain, Ignatius Pell, somewhat reluctantly testified against him. Bonnet was put to death (despite begging for mercy and his promise to have his own arms and legs cut off), dying with neither glory nor dignity.

    The song comes off as a rejection of material security in favor of some other life, possibly a life of adventure and comradery. But it also seems to encompass a sort of sadness associated with the end or failure of some glorious endeavor (both in the line about the leaves having fallen and in the multiple references to an ominous, pending confession). There is also a sense of betrayal in the lines "I can see you're just a little privateer/profiteer as your confession draws near."

    Pretty and sad.
    thriggleon December 16, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Commentjust a little note: this a lyrical reworking of "the confession" which appears on oh! the grandeur.
    patm718on December 25, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThanks for pointing that out, patm718!

    If anyone's interested in comparing the two songs, the lyrics to The Confession are available on songmeanings.net, but under the band "Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire."

    It seems like the most major alteration is the removal of lyrics directly attacking commercialization, although the lyrics retain a note of defiance toward or rejection of materialism.
    thriggleon December 27, 2008   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationMaybe I'm wrong here, but the whole thing seems pretty obvious from the lyrics. Privateer and the earlier song which it references (The Confession) seem to talk about over-commercialization and being unable to go two feet without being offered something by someone. I believe that Andrew may be adding overzealous religious people in with the rest of the people who constantly offer you things as you walk, browse or drive around anywhere.

    The term privateer seems to fit right in with the lyrical interpretation. While it has an old use (fitting in with the ships in the song), I believe Bird is saying here that those who seek to constantly gain commercial ownership over you as you go on your journey through life are little more than pirates and thieves...and their confession draws more near the more you question them about it.
    BuckWilderon August 20, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General Commentnow all the leaves have fallen, dear
    now all the weather, so bright and clear
    mw828on December 16, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commentdo you guys think this has anything to do with the song "I can see you're house from here" it seems to follow the guide lines of the music and lyrics.
    jfranken77on January 21, 2009   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningI think he's talking about religion and it's probably more "obvious" reading 'The Confession' from "Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire - Oh! The Grandeur" album wich is the source of this song
    cignoon May 27, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAlso a note - the earlier song "The Confession" from "Oh! The Grandeur", though lyrically very similar, is musically *completely* different.
    abirataon December 10, 2012   Link

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