Sunday, July 19, 2009

Here in the Middle of the Known World

Update by Dymphna: From the mouth of the man himself...


For contrast, see a live version from at De Kring theatre, in Roosendaal, The Netherlands, October 7th, 2008. The music in the live version is very fine, as it often is in front of an audience, but the quality of the audio on the CD is better.

Listen to both and take your pick.


Sparks of Ancient Light I find myself in need of a change of pace during this Sunday afternoon interlude.

So here’s “Hanno the Navigator”, the title number from Al Stewart’s latest album, Sparks of Ancient Light. In this song Mr. Stewart takes a slightly longer historical journey than usual, all the way back to the Phoenicians:

Hanno the Navigator
by Al Stewart


It’s a good day
for going to sea
Hanno the Navigator said to me
There’s an open sky and a steady breeze
out beyond the Pillars of Hercules
Above the foam-kissed waves seagulls scream
up in the masts of our trireme
and it’s a good day
for going to sea
Hanno the Navigator said to me

Water
Water
From horizon to horizon
All I see is water

Steer beyond all maps and charts
down along the coast of Africa
The first Phoenicians on this beach
where the monkeys gibber and the parakeets screech
Strangest women run wild down there
covered head to toe in fur and hair
They fight like demons
better let them be
Hanno the Navigator said to me
- - - - - - - - -
Water
Water
From horizon to horizon
All I see is water

When you pull close to your fire at night
with your family framed in the candlelight
safe inside these walls of stone
in the only village you’ve ever known
The rain-soaked moon plays splintered crystal
shadows on your windowsill
Like sparks of light in the shifting skies
our ancient ships go sailing still on

Water
Water
When my sailing days are done
I’ll seek Poseidon’s daughter

Oarsmen pull and curse and sweat
underneath this creaking deck
At night I hear their stories told
strong through storms and weak for gold
Carthage stands like an azure pearl
here in the middle of the known world
And it’s a good day
for going to sea
Hanno the Navigator said to me

Water
Water
From horizon to horizon
All I see is water
Water
Water
When my sailing days are done
I’ll seek Poseidon’s daughter

It’s a good day
for going to sea
Hanno the Navigator said to me

9 comments:

Clayton in Mississippi said...

Thanks for sharing this! I enjoyed it so much that I just bought the complete Al Stewart CD, and posted a link to this song on the Facebook page of a favorite cousin who at this very moment is sailing.

Rocha said...

Well it's not exaclly my music type but it's not bad to hear it.
But i swear to you, liking ancient historyas i do i would never imagine hearing a music about Hanno the navigator.

Rocha said...

Speaking of ancient history who would think that Rome in 380 had less than 100 years left? Could a Parisian, a Berliner or a New Yorker in 1914 think we would be in such dire situation in 2009?

Dymphna said...

Rocha --

If you're interested in history, you might try listening to more of Al Stewart. His CD, "Between the Wars" is particularly evocative of that period...I can never understand how he manages to capture it all with his little musical net.

I realize that 1918--39 is not "ancient history but it's still intriguing music.

My personal favorite is "Joe the Georgian". A ditty played in a minor key sung in the voice of all Stalin's pals, waiting in the "anteroom to Hell" with pitchforks in hand. They're planning on making Stalin dance a bit when he gets there.

I would think that the Brits would have many more favorites since his early work uses places in Britain --e.g., "Clifton in the Rain".

No doubt Stewart (accompanied by L Juber)will be discovered and rediscovered down the years, just as the old standards are today. Elvis Costello's rendition of "Funny Valentine" is superb.

The Poster Formerly Known as Gordon said...

Thanks, Dymphna. I like Al Stewart in the 1970's, including his historically themed music ("Lord Grenville" and "On the Border" come mind). I didn't realize he was still at it.

laine said...

Thank you for this ditty. I passed it on to a friend who loves sea songs and playing the guitar and whose son is named Hanno.

Robin Shadowes said...

I have to admit that I haven't heard most of his albums but his Year Of The Cat from 1976 is one of my all time favourite albums. All songs on it are great including the tracks Nodrog mentioned although my favourite is the title track itself. I think I also love it because it has that certain touch of engineer/producer Alan Parsons.

Rocha said...

Dymphna,

I have to confess that i was surprized to hear that there was more. And anyone who makes a music about Stalin in hell must have a place on my Ipod. =]

Paul said...

I knew I recognized the voice, but couldn't place the name. Its been a few years. Then I saw 'A; Stewart'. I liked it Baron. It's a good move to post these sorts of things.