Thursday, August 23

The Mary Ellen Carter

I babbled a bit about Stan Rogers yesterday, today I want to talk about his song, The Mary Ellen Carter.  Summerfolk closes out every year first singing Good Night Irene and then The Mary Ellen Carter.  The song is about a boat that sank and the crew figuring out how they can salvage the ship they feel so strongly about.

She went down last October in a pouring driving rain.
The skipper, he'd been drinking and the Mate, he felt no pain.
Too close to Three Mile Rock, and she was dealt her mortal blow,
And the Mary Ellen Carter settled low.
There were just us five aboard her when she finally was awash.
We'd worked like hell to save her, all heedless of the cost.
And the groan she gave as she went down, it caused us to proclaim
That the Mary Ellen Carter would rise again.

Well, the owners wrote her off; not a nickel would they spend.
She gave twenty years of service, boys, then met her sorry end.
But insurance paid the loss to us, they let her rest below.
Then they laughed at us and said we had to go.
But we talked of her all winter, some days around the clock,
For she's worth a quarter million, afloat and at the dock.
And with every jar that hit the bar, we swore we would remain
And make the Mary Ellen Carter rise again.

Rise again, rise again, that her name not be lost
To the knowledge of men.
Those who loved her best and were with her till the end
Will make the Mary Ellen Carter rise again.

All spring, now, we've been with her on a barge lent by a friend.
Three dives a day in hard hat suit and twice I've had the bends.
Thank God it's only sixty feet and the currents here are slow
Or I'd never have the strength to go below.
But we've patched her rents, stopped her vents, dogged hatch and
porthole down.
Put cables to her, 'fore and aft and girded her around.
Tomorrow, noon, we hit the air and then take up the strain.
And make the Mary Ellen Carter Rise Again.

For we couldn't leave her there, you see, to crumble into scale.
She'd saved our lives so many times, living through the gale
And the laughing, drunken rats who left her to a sorry grave
They won't be laughing in another day. . .
And you, to whom adversity has dealt the final blow
With smiling bastards lying to you everywhere you go
Turn to, and put out all your strength of arm and heart and brain
And like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.

Rise again, rise again - though your heart it be broken
And life about to end
No matter what you've lost, be it a home, a love, a friend.
Like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.

You know the first bunch of times I heard The Mary Ellen Carter, it was exciting.  It was fun to clap and easy to sing along with the crowd, it has a strong beat and energy.  The chorus of "Rise again, rise again" - how can you not feel the power?  But over time, it means more to me.
And you, to whom adversity has dealt the final blow
With smiling bastards lying to you everywhere you go
Turn to, and put out all your strength of arm and heart and brain
And like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.

Rise again, rise again - though your heart it be broken
And life about to end
No matter what you've lost, be it a home, a love, a friend.
Like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.


After all the pregnancies that haven't gone right, the hope that has been raised only to crash again, this takes just a more personal meaning that brings tears to my eyes.  Sunday, I couldn't even sing along because my throat was tight with tears. 

The song is a bit vague as to the outcome, they know they have everything in place, and tomorrow they will try to raise her but we don't find out if it works.  I feel like that now.  I have all these people hoping, wishing and praying for us, the plans are in place.   I believe something will go right, but I don't know if and I don't know when.  All I have is my bruised heart and hope to rise again. 

Words have power, music has power, when the two come together like this, it is formidable.

This song has actually saved someones life.  In February, 1983, the Marine Electric sank in a storm.  The chief mate got trapped with the boat, but managed to escape and found a partially deflated lifeboat to cling to.  The words to The Mary Ellen Carter came into he head, he sang them over and over, the inspiration of "Rise Again" kept him awake while the storm crashed around him and hypothermia set in.  You can hear him tell this story in his own words (and hear Stan sing) in this clip from a Stan Rogers documentary.  Well worth the 6 minutes if you have them.

2 comments:

  1. I think you are managing your grief very gracefully - not that it's anyone's job to manage grief in any particular way. I've known many people who have struggled with infertility - and who have not succeeded in having a biological baby in the end - I have observed how gut-wrenching it is. You will find a way through this because, despite the sadness, you know your life is rich. You will find a family, even as the means right now are vague. I am very hopeful for you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, everything you said is just so true.

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