"The Boatman" as written by Simon Friend, Charles Kenton Heather, Mark Chadwick, Jonathan Sevink and Jeremy Cunningham....
If I could choose the life I pleased
Then I would be a boatman
Along the canals and the rivers free
No hasty words are spoken
My only law the river breeze
Would take me to the open seas
If I could choose the life I pleased
Then I would be a boatman

If I could choose the life I pleased
Then I would be a rover
And if the road was not for me
Then I would choose another
Across mountains and valleys deep
I would take these weary feet
If I could choose the life I pleased
Then I would be a rover

But these things are so hard for me
I cannot choose my own destiny
And all the things that I want to see
Are so unclean

I wish I could choose the life I please
But I am not a free man
Others choose my destiny
But my will is never broken
I know someday I will be
Everything that I dreamed I'd be
If I could choose the life I pleased
Then I would be a boatman

Lyrics submitted by black_cow_of_death

"The Boatman" as written by Jeremy Cunningham Charles Kenton Heather

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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The Boatman song meanings
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  • 0
    General CommentI'm not 100% certain what this song is about but i can sum up a half decent guess. It seems to be about how england is not a free country and how living as a "crusty" traveller is a better way of life than being ruled by the government and having restricted freedom.
    Tom_999on May 30, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOr a more genral approach: very few of us are able to choose exactly yhe lives we wish, or are willing to make the necessary sacrifices. This songs just describes some common dreams, and gives hope.
    kootoon June 03, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAt Glastonbury 1992, Simon sung a different second verse:

    If I could choose the life I pleased, then I would be a spaceman
    Take LSD and Ecstasy and I'll be off my face man
    But all this ecstasy
    Does strange things to me
    If I could choose the life I pleased then I would be a spaceman
    boris_the_cowon June 08, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe intro is great for dancing to in your bedroom...
    ShineYouDiamondon December 19, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentahh this song makes me wanna dance, not their best song.. that title goes to battle of the beanfield.. but yea.. kick ass song
    Mr_Krinkleon July 05, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe Levellers capture a fast disappearing England, charting the time when the criminal justice bill was brought about to keep people from reconnecting with nature and non-capitalist life. The Boatman does this most powerfully, and its gentle pace belies the power of its anti-capitalist statement. 'Success' is discovering your own personality and lifestyle (for him it's being a boatman), not some urban Gucci little piggy lifestyle which seems to be all that anyone can conceptualise these days.

    This song becomes more poignant as the years go on, school playing fields are turned into construction sites and urbanity continues to sprawl. Good to see that 20 years later folk music and all it stands for is back in the mainstram again via Mumford&Sons, Laura Marling and best of all Stornoway. if you like the Levellers you'll love Stornoway, go check 'em out if you haven't already.
    Liminal2on January 30, 2012   Link

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