Come sail your ships around me
And burn your bridges down
We make a little history, baby
Every time you come around

Come loose your dogs upon me
And let your hair hang down
You are a little mystery to me
Every time you call around

We talk about it all night long
We define our moral ground
But when I crawl into your arms
Everything, it comes tumbling down

Come sail your ships around me
And burn your bridges down
We make a little history, baby
Every time you come around

Your face has fallen sad now
For you know the time is nigh
When I must remove your wings
And you, you must try to fly

Come sail your ships around me
And burn your bridges down
We make a little history, baby
Every time you come around

Come loose your dogs upon me
And let your hair hang down
You are a little mystery to me
Every time you call around

Come sail your ships around me
And burn your bridges down
We make a little history, baby
Every time you come around


Lyrics submitted by typo, edited by trillium8

The Ship Song song meanings
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31 Comments

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  • +7
    General CommentI wrote the song because Anita and i would argue at a constant pace and I would always tell her to unleash the dogs and burn the bridges as a way of saying you can say what you feel but forget the past and let's move forward. in an argument one always has to stand down until the other quits. this cleans off the slate. the first verse contemplates arguing all night long until one gives in and they embrace each other and start over. this was not one of my "dark" songs. I write what I feel and I was not feeling "dark". if you want "dark" then immerse yourself into murder ballads. thank you

    Nicholas Edward Cave
    thestaggerleeon October 19, 2010   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI think that is a fair interpretation, however, I think it could also be about forbidden love, an affair, not just old lovers. It's clear that they are old lovers with a history. Burning bridges, makes me guess that she is married. Finding myself in a similare situation in my life, I find the line "We make a little history, baby/Every time you come around" especially beautiful. Inside of a relationship that can have no future, I found myself telling my lover that I will remember him when I am an old woman. Sometimes life is complicated, like a good song.
    funnysmartnameon March 20, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI love this song. Giving yourself entirely to another person. That's all. Come what may, ships, dogs.
    melodic_trashon July 06, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"For you know the time is nigh
    When I must remove your wings
    And you, you must try to fly"

    he's touched her soul (removed her wings) in a way that she can never really be (fly) far from him.
    franglaison February 29, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General Commentit really surprises me that no one has commented on this song before...it's just beautiful. i'm not too sure whether i understand all the lyrics, but i love it.
    i would b glad if someone could tell me what is meant by
    *Come sail your ships around me*

    is it referring to his want to have her near him?
    or could it be interpreted as sexual??
    *Lady_Elvenhair*on August 14, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think "come sail your ships" means a battle is about to begin: he sees courtship as a war, but in a playful sense, it's not a sad song. I suppose "and let your hair hang down" refers to war too: the woman is seen as a warrior goddess. These lyrics are really haunting, it's one of my favourite Nick Cave songs.
    Gummitchon August 28, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI agree with Lady Evelnhair, this is a beautiful song. I love it. I have only heard the version with Concrete Blonde and it is so good.
    My favorite lines are:

    Your face has fallen sad now
    For you know the time is nigh
    When I must remove your wings
    And you, you must try to fly

    It is about letting someone you love go. It may be sad, but it is the right thing to do. Although, I have always wondered why the songs speaks of "removing wings" when it is hard to fly without them? Perhaps that is the irony in it?

    ELS24on August 29, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"We talk about it all night long
    We define our moral ground
    But when I crawl into your arms
    Everything comes tumbling down"

    Talk about a weird verse...
    Vertigo22on June 02, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti think this song is about inspiration. the process of creation.
    it's always a struggle. taking from some unknown source. working as a tool for something you may not fully understand.

    you can define a moral ground, think of it as a craft, put it in a 'frame'. but when it comes to 'painting' - rules are no longer valid. they're useful as a rational background. hints for the person who encounters it, leading to the certain emotional path. but the process of creation remains a mystery.

    come sail your ships around me
    and burn your bridges down
    - an invitation for a brand new journey

    come loose your dogs upon me
    and let your hair hang down (image of tranquility)
    - haunt me with ideas and watch the clash

    your face has fallen sad now
    for you know the time is nigh
    when i must remove your wings
    and you, you must try to fly

    let's say that inspiration is personified as an angelic vision of a woman. with wings being a symbol of freedom but also of a womb. her face is sad, she feels the end is near. the work is done. another gulf has its bridge.
    i think that's the most difficult/important part in the process of creation - knowing where the thread changes its structure. the moment when you say 'cut'. you see the birth of something that has its own life.
    'remove your wings' - remove protection. you must try to fly - find your way to people. inspire. 'grow your own wings'.

    this song is more than a song. it's a description of a particular frame of mind. that's the way i see it.
    but the most important beauty of any song, poem, painting, (...), is the fact that anyone can understand it in his/her own way. if it strikes a chord, develops something new in you every time it comes around - the work is done. the circle is closed.
    balticon July 11, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think this song is about two ex-lovers that continually go back to each other.

    The two lovers have a history of each time they meet they make love. But this time when they meet again, they don’t want to let this happen because they are both very guarded and hurt during their on and off again relationship. When they talk about their moral ground, I feel that it is they are agreeing to not make love. However, when they are in each other embrace “everything comes tumbling down” and they can no long resist the urge to make love.
    edamspectoron January 01, 2006   Link

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