Whom the Sea Will Keep

by The National Lights

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Songs about ghosts, white whales, disappearances, drastic measures, and Joshua Slocum. Recorded intermittently between the summers of 2008 and 2018 in Richmond, New York City, and Baltimore.


released February 22, 2019

Written by Jacob Thomas Berns
Produced and arranged by Chris Kiehne
Performed by Jacob Thomas Berns, Chris Kiehne, Sonya Cotton, Jeff Alford, Derek Piech, and Gabe Dominguez
Recorded by Chris Kiehne and Patrick Scott Vickers


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The National Lights Eugene, Oregon

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Track Name: Swift Ships
I was a boy about your age
If you can believe it
When I lifted on a cool trade wind
And have never yet to leave it

I had the love of a woman then
If you can believe her
Bless swift ships and honest men
And the lass that loves a sailor

I've shook hands with kings and thieves
And lined my shirt with silver
But not once in these 30 years
Have I returned to see her

When these planks and bolts make port
Leave these ocean waters
A fool is he the man that leaves
The lass that loves a sailor

My lad
Let the land and not the water
Seal your grave
Track Name: A Dead Whale or a Stove Boat
To the shore, take the oars
Tonight we sail
Give us a stove boat if not a whale
Can ten men's lives be spared for the take in our pail?

What's a boy supposed to do?
What a boy's supposed to

On deck there's a jig
And a tambourine
No lover could draw out such bravery
So it's a dead whale or a stove boat for me

What's a boy supposed to do?
What a boy's supposed to
Track Name: The Whaleship Essex
On the planks of the lee
Outfitted for sea
A ship in 1819

Charged with the care
Of a vessel affair
Of which I've had the fond company

Off to the war
And our place in ocean lore
Onward through ivory seas

Weeks out from land
And a whale on the bend
Took from us all but our teeth

We cast our lots
A nephew was lost
Once placed in my custody

Off to the war
And our place in ocean lore
Onward through ivory seas

We sharpened our knives
Down the lengths of our spines
We'll pray for you
And split your sides

Fingers to bone
Your skeleton combed
We'll leave here
For none to find
Track Name: Joshua Slocum Sets Sail
I made a life of the ocean
Mending the boot soles of fishermen
Counting my ribs on my good hand
Sewing the salt in my skin

Traded my last for the odd bark
And took a wife without captain's leave
Who gave me three sons and a daughter at sea
I buried in Argentine

With Buenos Aires behind me
I refit a sloop and I fell on the wind
Without a companion beside me
I sailed with a pulse in my limbs

No man that takes to the sea life
Is fit to live a life on the shore
And I set sail once more from New Jersey Port
To sail this vessel down
Track Name: Lantern and Whalebone
Tell us a tale of that fond maiden summer
The wind and your lyre keeping time with the water
Whales can recall songs of the captain's daughter
Lost long ago

If love were a word worth its weight in oil
The light would come up all around the mainsail
Drive us on through a night free from peril
To leave us alone

On seaboards and sails I've fettered a life
Lost friends to the whale and brothers to wives
And the love from years ago of a captain's daughter we gave to the night

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