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Lyricism as Poetry in 21st-Century America

Song lyrics as the gateway to an appreciation of poetry.

Published on: November 11, 2017
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  • tellok

    Nothing ‘horrifying’ about The Name Game’, which is just a fun novelty song, never intended to impress poets, which may be one reason why few pay much attention to them.
    On the other hand, I submit the lyrics of Jon Anderson of Yes to be fine poetry.

  • WigWag

    As long as you mentioned “The Band,” my favorite song of theirs after “the Weight” (which is also remarkably lyrical) is one of their lesser known songs entitled “Acadian Driftwood.” Released in 1976, it was the fourth track on their sixth album, “Northern Lights, Southern Cross.” The song is a musical portrayal of the history of the expulsion of the Acadians from their home in the Canadian maritime provinces after the defeat of the French by the English in the 1750s.

    Robbie Robertson based the lyrics on the famous text of Longfellow’s Evangeline, which is itself well worth a read (it is also available on the internet for free in an audio version). See,

    http://nslegislature.ca/pdfs/about/evangeline/Evangeline.pdf

    and

    https://archive.org/details/evangeline_lw_librivox

    Longfellow’s poem, which is heartbreaking is the story of Evangeline who searches for her true and only love, Gabriel, after his expulsion by the British. She travels all over the United States looking for him never realizing that she is always close to finding him. Finally, she gives up in despair and settles in Philadelphia as an old lady, where at the last moment she finds him and he dies in her arms. It is the story of exile.

    Robbie Robertson did take some poetic license with the actual story; his version follows the Acadians down to their new home in Louisiana where they became the Cajuns. The lyrics to “Acadian Driftwood” are highly poet and, I think, very beautiful. See,

    The war was over
    And the spirit was broken
    The hills were smokin’
    As the men withdrew
    We stood on the cliffs,
    Oh and watched the ships,
    Slowly sinking to their rendezvous

    They signed a treaty
    And our homes were taken
    Loved-ones forsaken,
    They didn’t give a damn.
    Try to raise a family
    End up an enemy
    Over what went down on the Plains of Abraham.

    Acadian driftwood,
    Gypsy tailwind
    They call my home,
    The land of snow
    Canadian cold front,
    Movin’ in
    What a way to ride,
    Oh what a way to go

    Then some returned,
    To the motherland
    The high command,
    Had them cast away
    Some stayed on,
    To finish what they started
    They never parted,
    They’re just built that way

    We had kin livin’,
    South of the border
    They’re a little older,
    And they been around
    They wrote in a letter
    Life is a whole lot better
    So pull up your stakes, children,
    And come on down

    Acadian driftwood,
    Gypsy tailwind
    They call my home,
    The land of snow
    Canadian cold front,
    Movin’ in
    What a way to ride,
    Oh what a way to go

    Fifty under zero when the day became a threat
    My clothes were wet
    And I was drenched to the bone
    Then out ice fishin’, mmm,
    Too much repetition
    Make a man want to leave
    The only home he’s known

    Sailed out of the Gulf,
    Headed for St. Pierre
    Nothing to declare,
    All we had was gone
    Broke down along the coast oh
    What hurt the most
    When the people there said
    “You better keep movin’ on”
    Acadian driftwood,

    Gypsy tailwind
    They call my home,
    The land of snow
    Canadian cold front,
    Movin’ in
    What a way to ride,
    Oh what a way to go

    Everlastin’ summer
    Filled with ill-contempt
    This government
    Had us walkin’ in chains
    This isn’t my turn
    This isn’t my season
    Can’t think of one good reason
    To remain oh

    We worked in the sugar fields
    Up from New Orleans
    It was ever-green
    Up until the flood
    You could call it an omen
    Point ya where ya goin’
    Set my compass North
    I got winter in my blood

    Acadian driftwood,
    Gypsy tailwind
    They call my home,
    The land of snow
    Canadian cold front,
    Movin’ in
    What a way to ride,
    Oh what a way to go

    Sais tu, Acadie j’ai le mal do pays
    Ta neige, Acadie, fait des larmes au soleil
    J’arrive Acadie, teedle um, teedle um, teedle oo
    J’arrive Acadie, teedle um, teedle um, teedle oo
    J’arrive Acadie, teedle um, teedle um, teedle oo
    J’arrive Acadie, teedle um, teedle um, teedle oo
    J’arrive Acadie, teedle um, teedle um, teedle oo

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