"Haul Away" as written by and Mark Knopfler....
Was a windless night
When you left the ship
You never were
A steady bold one
I gave my hand
Ah but you did slip

I’m a living man
And your a cold one
So haul away
Haul away from here

My love’s as fair
As a girl can be
My wedding ring
Is a heavy gold one
Now you lay alone
In the deep dark sea
I’m a living man
And your a cold one
So haul away
Haul away for home

The morning brings
Lord a fresh young breeze
To fill our sails
To end the doldrums
Our lucky ship
Speeds across the sea
I’m a living man
And your a cold one
So haul away
Haul away for home


Lyrics submitted by mike, edited by LidoTRK, SailFree

"Haul Away" as written by Mark Knopfler

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Haul Away song meanings
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8 Comments

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  • +1
    General CommentThe story told in Haul Away is not immediately apparent as (like in other MK songs) it is masked a bit by the lovely music and clever writing.

    The story begins clearly enough with the falling overboard of a sailor but the first clue that this may be no ordinary accident is the opening line that it was a windless night. You might expect such a fall to occur in a storm but not in calm seas.

    The next clue is the narrator's comment "You never were a steady bold one" which reveals a bit of his feelings toward the unfortunate victim. Another clue is the use of "ah" in the line "I gave my hand, Ah but you did slip." This indicates a certain degree of resignation over the incident - as if the narrator doesn't feel quite so bad about the event. He certainly never expresses any sadness about it.

    Why would he feel that way?

    The answer is in the next verse which turns, rather abruptly, from talk of the accident to the narrator's wife. He speaks of her beauty and says his wedding ring is a heavy gold one - an interesting way of stating how strongly he feels about his commitment to her - particularly so with the use of "heavy."

    The very next line takes us back to the drowned sailor. On the album Mark sings: "Now you lie alone" (not "lay" as shown in the lyrics above) as if to indicate the other fellow may have once laid next to the narrator's wife (or at least tried to) and has now paid for his indiscretion with his life. There's also the double meaning of "lie" in this case - a comment on the deceitful actions of the victim - just as the line "...and you're a cold one" may well be commentary on the actions of the dead man.

    The closing verse and the lines about how the morning brings a new start and ends the doldrums (an end to both windless weather and to the narrator's depression) indicates he's putting things behind him and ready for a fresh start with his wife upon his return home.

    So with all that, and getting back to that first verse, the question becomes did the fellow really fall? Or did he have a little help on the night he "left the ship?"
    Anson12on October 05, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentHi guys, I appreciate all your comments and opinions. Want to put it more concrete. Knopfler said in an interview (Privateering EPK) to write this lyrics he was inspired by the Patrick O'Brian's book "Master and Commander"...there are also a movie with Russell Crowe. One of the sailors was forced by the others to drown himself because the others thought he brings bad luck. There was a doldrums, no wind and he decided to sacrifice himself so their sailing to be continued. There are other boy who gave him a hand but "you did slip" Don't know if Knopfler's interpretation is for a man or woman...Here is this slipping episode:
    youtu.be/…
    Slaviadon August 16, 2016   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationI'd say these lyrics are pretty straight forward.

    The singer is with his wife (as he sings of his wedding ring) on a boat out to sea, who jumps into the ocean to take her life (the wind is still, ergo no storm set the boat in motion having her thrown over board), and when he sings that "you were never a steady bold one" it could refer to that she isn't brave enough to face the problems in life and instead takes her life (which also would explain the windless night-part).
    But, there is a silver lining, as sung:

    The morning brings
    Lord a fresh young breeze
    to fill our sails
    to end the doldrums
    Our lucky ship
    speeds across the sea

    This perticular excerpt, of course, also brings the thoughts of it being somewhat more imaginary, such as a dream dying, or maybe a set back in the singer's life that brings misery, but following rain is always sunshine.

    There might be countless more explanations, but this is the one that comes to mind for me. Very beautiful song, it has that same perfect, wonderful gloomy feel that Brothers in Arms has. Just...perfect!
    LidoTRKon September 14, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAs with everything that Mark writes, there are so many layers to this piece. Lots of superstitions abound among seafarers. One of them is that a member of the crew could be 'bad luck' for the ship and other crew members. Thus the idea that if the one who had brought the doldrums on, were to remove himself, then the winds would pick up again.

    The narrator is much devoted to his wife, and is eager to return to her, and the sooner the winds return, the sooner the ship can haul away for home.
    caitriona4on January 05, 2013   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationFirst and foremost, as are with quite a few of his songs, this one is filled with both beauty and sadness and there are few that can equal the lyrics this man has written. That is simply my opinion.

    As far as the meaning of this gem, that can only be decided by the listener and that person's personal life experiences. I don't believe there is a right or wrong answer as to what his thought process was behind his words. Only the composer knows for sure.

    That being said, this song has deep meaning to me. I clearly see what CromCrom means with his/her interpretation (his reply to Anson12). I have lived those words. I lost my husband and it took me years to move forward. I couldn't let go. I still felt married to him. Ten long and lonely years later, a man entered my life and brought me back to the world of the living. He was my fresh breeze who filled my sails and ended my doldrums. It took me some time, but I was finally able to allow myself to find home again.
    Distarr60on June 23, 2013   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationI appreciate everyone's interpretation here. I listened to this song for the first time about a year ago, and have listened to it many times since then. I can't describe the "beautiful yet haunting" feeling I got when I heard it the first time and immediately grabbed my guitar to strum along and played it a few more times to let the feeling sink in. The tune feels very old-world Irish or Scottish but I'm no expert there.

    My own thought is that perhaps MK is simply portraying the feelings going through the mind of a seaman following an accident where a weaker seaman drowns. I don't think it was a love or woman who "leaves" since the narrator references them both as men (living and cold). I don't think the weaker, unlucky seaman was murdered - "Ah, but you did slip" emphasis on "Ah" which shows regret. The stronger seaman tried to help and regrets the loss, but is mentally trying to move on at the time the song is written/voiced by the character within the song.

    He is recalling the tragedy, where he tried to help, but at the same time trying to distance himself so as to not carry the blame - by voicing the primary reason reason that the one who drowned slipped and was never "a steady bold one".

    I would imagine any seaman who went through this experience would want to get home - to his loved ones - to heal and put the bad experience behind him. He is genuinely thankful ("Lord") for the breeze so he and the crew can return home quicker. Repeating the line "I'm a living man and you're a cold one" is probably his way of distancing himself within from the incident as well. Kind of like, "this is just the way it is now...you drowned, but I didn't". I think this keeps the blame very neutralized and reiterates that it was a simple yet unfortunate accident at sea.

    Cheers...
    discosauron September 15, 2015   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI agree, it is about a work college who was having an affair with the story teller´s wife and had an accident working but the main character did nothing to save him.

    Now that he is dead, the main character is relaxed and now is waiting to get home.
    pedro10253on December 07, 2015   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationIt is an allegory about a beloved wife who died young of an illness. The ship is life itself, not a literal ship. He misses her greatly as in the "heavy gold" wedding ring. But eventually life goes on, perhaps he finds a new love (fresh young breeze), and feels lucky about it--but still misses his dead wife.
    SailFreeon January 30, 2016   Link

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