2012 Mar 4 The Flowers of Bermuda

This was one of my favourite Stan Rogers songs, until Nathan sang it, and now it is also one of my favourite Nathan Rogers songs.  It is a beautiful example of how a song that is a work of art in the hands of one great artist, can be reborn into something wonderful and new in the hands of another great artist.

 

You can find the story behind the song, according to Stan, here:

Sing Out: How Legends Are Made: Stan Rogers, “The Flowers of Bermuda,” and Air Canada Flight 797

“I took my first trip to Bermuda in May, 1978 and loved it. While I was there, I discovered that the whole area around Bermuda is a kind of ship graveyard. I found a map showing the location of most of the known wrecks and discovered that a coal carrier called the Nightingale sank off the North Rock in the early 1880s. The rest of the details are pure invention, except for the fact that Bermuda is lovely.”

from the liner notes to his album Between the Breaks … Live! (though the ship may actually have been called the Curlew… see the Sing Out article!)

And here’s Stan singing it:

And, from a lovely post on Forever Bermuda about the song:

Known as something of a classic in Canada, “Flowers of Bermuda” by singer Stan Rogers is a song that explores Bermuda’s maritime history, while acknowledging the sheer romanticism of the island and its natural beauty.

The song tells the tale of the fictional ship Nightingale, a coal-carrying vessel that departed from Scotland en route to America in the 1800s.

After making its way into the North Atlantic via the River Clyde, the Nightingale commences a 21 day trip that to Bermuda that is destined to end, by songwriter Rogers’ own hand, in disaster.

Nearing the end of their last day of travel, with only five hours of sailing left to reach the Bermudian shore, the ship’s watchman warns of breakers ahead.

Too late, the captain attempts to bring the ship around, and the Nightingale runs aground, causing massive damage to the vessel.

In an act of heroic altruism, the captain allows the crew to take his own personal lifeboat as those set aside for the crew have been destroyed. The captain himself remains aboard, drowning there off of the coast of Bermuda as he sinks with his ship.

The song’s name derives from the point in the story at which the captain believes he can smell the flowers of Bermuda from the location of his watery grave, along with the chorus, which is sung, “Oh, there be flowers in Bermuda, beauty lies on every hand, and there be laughter, ease, and drink for every man, but there is no joy for me.”

 

And of course, the lyrics, written by Stan Rogers:

He was the Captain of the Nightingale
Twenty-one days from Clyde in coal
He could smell the flowers of Bermuda in the gale
When he died on the North Rock shoal

Just five short hours from Bermuda
In a fine October gale
There came a cry “Oh, there be breakers dead ahead!”
From the collier Nightingale

No sooner had the Captain brought her round
Came a rending crash below
Hard on her beam ends, groaning, went the Nightingale
And overside her mainmast goes

“Oh, Captain, are we all for drowning?”
Came the cry from all the crew
“The boats be smashed! How then are we all to be saved?
They are stove in through and through!”

“Oh, are ye brave and hardy collier-men
Or are ye blind and cannot see?
The Captain’s gig still lies before ye whole and sound
It shall carry all o’ we.”

Here we go!
He was the Captain of the Nightingale
Twenty-one days from Clyde in coal
He could smell the flowers of Bermuda in the gale
When he died on the North Rock shoal

But when the crew was all assembled
And the gig prepared for sea
‘Twas seen there were but eighteen places to be manned
Nineteen mortal souls were we

But cries the Captain “Now do not delay
Nor do ye spare a thought for me
My duty is to save you all now, if I can
See ye return as quick as can be.”

He was the Captain of the Nightingale
Twenty-one days from Clyde in coal
He could smell the flowers of Bermuda in the gale
When he died on the North Rock shoal

Oh, there be flowers in Bermuda
Beauty lies on every hand
And there be laughter, ease and drink for every man
But there is no joy for me

For when we reached the wretched Nightingale
What an awful sight was plain!
The Captain, drowned, was tangled in the mizzen-chains
Smiling bravely beneath the sea

He was the Captain of the Nightingale
Twenty-one days from Clyde in coal
He could smell the flowers of Bermuda in the gale
When he died on the North Rock shoal

He was the Captain of the Nightingale
Twenty-one days from Clyde in coal
He could smell the flowers of Bermuda in the gale
When he died on the North Rock shoal

He was the Captain of the Nightingale
Twenty-one days from Clyde in coal
He could smell the flowers of Bermuda in the gale
When he died on the North Rock shoal.

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