Why, not even a rustler’d have anything to do
with this branded bum steer world
this pirate flag headlong disaster course vessel
misguided charted this nautical numbskull hull
sink in silence smoke – blow your chest out in hope
sits spread-eagle on poor men
piled high on truth mountain – last link in clarity’s chain
you’ll not be thrown but dive and sink
your pockets filled with earthly burdens
when they could be filled with light and back with wings
the sky is dark in daytime
and still the blackbird’s beauty lyrics clean
sing ye brothers and end this miserable thing
and brush the dark sky in light
and let the moon bell crack and ring
upon the mast of mercy
for she is a beautiful thing
I watched her cut with clarity
the sea of Satan’s red rolling water
that stung my eyes with vile vile brine
and clung to the vine that choked Mary’s only Son
God in vain to slaughter
I can’t darken your dark cross door no more
the light lovely one with the nothing door
and oh that pours life water
Sent in by Lloyd Veerman, and originally from Vladimir Sovetov and Mark Erdman. Originally made available at Justin Sherill’s Home Page Replica. Confused? Me too.
in the last line of the song…
isn’t “eau’ that pours like water?
I think you are correct.
I am not 100% sure, but I think “and still the blackbird’s beauty lyrics clean” should be “and still the blackbirds beating lyrics clean” and “God in vain to slaughter” should be “God in vain did slaughter”.
i hear “beautied” //imbued with beauty
I disagree about “God in vain to slaughter”. The lyrics as originally put here make more sense. He is referring to Jesus (Mary’s only son). Saying he went to slaughter “in vain” could be considered heretical, but Beefheart wasn’t a Chrisitian. The word “to” is elided, but just audible.
I think its “and still, the blackbirds BE THEY lyrics clean.”
This fits with the context of the song, which is basically:
1. This world sucks, hard.
2. For some reason, we choose to jump into it, with all your earthly burdens weighing us down.
3. But really, even though this place is totally dark, there are good things that we just can’t see, such as blackbirds, which are clean lyrics (CB’s lyrics?)
4. We can make it better by noticing the good stuff (the blackbirds/lyrics, the moon bell ringing….[music, basically]) and by doing something to make it better ourselves (“brush the dark sky in light” and play some music (moon bell ringing)
5. Mercy is beautiful. It’s also above the fray: it’s the mast of the pirate ship disaster-course vessel; it’s up high with the blackbirds and the moon.
6. Mercy cuts through evil (Satan’s sea); The “Mast of Mercy” is the noun that “I watched HER cut with clarity” refers to.
So, the mast of mercy cuts with “clarity”. Clarity is repeated here, at the end; it was previously a mountain chain in which “Truth” was the last peak in the mountain chain”.
7. So, you could say that Truth, Mercy, and Clarity are what cut through hatred (“Satan’s red rolling hatred water”)
7. Then it gets super confusing, with the Jesus imagery. The vine that slaughtered Jesus (in vain) is clinging to and climbing up the mast of mercy. The mast of mercy cuts through hatred with Truth (which is the last peak of clarity’s mountain chain). Jesus is also on the mast, since the vine is climbing it to kill him. Interesting that the mast of a ship looks very much like a cross. The metaphors are mixed all over this song (e.g., rustler with a bum-steer world is equated with a pirate ship).
I agree with another commenter that CB did not appear to be a Christian, but this ending certainly is ambiguous. First, he calls Jesus “God” explicitly. Second, he says that the vine, which is climbing the mast of mercy, is what kills Jesus/God. So, the mast of mercy, which is equated in the song with Truth and Clarity, is also an image of the cross. Basically, the mast/cross is connected explicitly with Truth/Jesus. Pretty odd for a non-Christian.
What is his answer? He refuses to play along anymore: “I will not darken your dark cross door no more.” It’s confusing to link the word “cross” with this part, after just connecting the mast and the cross with the Truth and Jesus. Then he adds after mentioning the dark cross door, that there is another door: the “light lovely one with the nothing door.” I admit to not knowing how those two connects in any sort of logical way. He sets the “dark cross door” right next to the “light, nothing door”, but the connection is unclear. Maybe its something like in one vision of the world, the door is dark (and CB wants nothing to do with it), while in his own vision of the world, the world is lovely and there is no door at all. This could follow in the context of the overall song, given that he says Jesus died in vain. Jesus’ message was to redeem the fallen world, which is ruled by Satan. If he died in vain, and if the “dark cross door” is something like what you have to go through to enter into Jesus’s redeemed world, then the “light lovely one with the nothing door” could mean that the death was in vain because there are not two worlds, no Satan’s kingdom of this world or Jesus’s kingdom of heaven. There is no door to go through. There is just the existing world, which is dark, and you get through it with lyrics, music, and refusal to participate in the darker vision. Definitely not a Christian perspective. All the more confusing since he uses the names Satan and God so explicitly in his descriptions.
And the last line is just as cryptic. I think he clearly says “like water” (not “life water). I tend to think that the “And O that flows like water” has to be somehow related to the “Most Holy-O” in the title. But I have no more thoughts on what that relationship is.
However, CB says explicitly what the song is: Its a toast to the host, the most holiest ghost. After thinking about this song for a long time (I think it’s CB’s best lyrics), I don’t see how to read it except as a hopeful, slightly depressed, and disappointed acknowledgement that clarity and truth are possible, but that they are, for some reason, unattainable. CB sets out Truth/Clarity/Jesus vs Disaster/Hatred/Satan pretty clearly….then throws his hands up and says it was in vain. And in the end, he’s deciding not to participate. That’s a depressing vision. Stoic, but on the road to Nihilism too.
The toast he offers at the end seems sardonic. The host at this party is the most holiest ghost. Since Jesus/God make an appearance in this song, I think this refers to God (hard to argue CB thinks Satan is holy, after these lyrics). So, God is our host, God is the most holy ghost. Hard to say that this toast is offered unironically, since the song pretty clearly rejects Jesus’s message as the solution to the world. It’s like a toast that says, “Here’s to you, asshole”
Last thought: this song is absolutely terrific and terrifying. What a vision. The only song I’ve heard that has this kind of depth is Leonard Cohen’s “The Future,” but that one explicitly embraces Jesus as the solution to Satan’s world: in that song, you will have Christ or you will have Hiroshima…take your pick. This CB vision is more aligned with Cohen’s last album, where his position toward Christianity is far, far more ambivalent. “You Want it Darker” [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YD6fvzGIBfQ&list=PL4SnPCOcKRxZzfa0Mn8y32mr2AR6hOqMx&index=1] and “It Seemed the Better Way” [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nyMrjGX2vk] have the same themes and the same Stoic surrender in them.
“This is a toast to the ghost the host,
This is a toast to the most holiest ghost,
This is a toast to the ghost, the most holy-o
This is a toast to the ghost the host.”
Why don’t these lyrics ever show up on lyric sites?
Corrections, referencing the lyric sheet that comes with the album:
“the sea of Satan’s red rolling water” X
“the sea of Satan’s red rolling hatred water”
“and clung to the vine that choked Mary’s only Son” X
“and clung the vine that choked Mary’s only Son”
(To Matt Furlong: those lyrics are part of the song, for sure, but not on the lyric sheet, maybe because they are like the song title.)
I think he clearly says “last PEAK in clarity’s chain.” The reference is to the “truth mountain.” So, Truth is the the last mountain peak in the mountain chain (of clarity). Perhaps meaning that Truth is what you get at the end of a long series of mountains/obstacles on your way to achieving clarity.