Mrs. MacDonald's Lament


© 1969 Gordon Bok, BMI


For many reasons, among them overfishing, pollution, lack of local government control, and our general economic structure, the small-time fishermen, the jack of all coastal fishing trades, is in danger of extinction.  His credit may be good, but his creditors are caught in the squeeze too, so after awhile he can't maintain his boat or his gear, and then he can't pay his taxes on the suddenly valuable land that his family has owned for so many generations.  And so he leaves the fishing and he goes.  To Florida, to the West Coast, to the cities. 


But, in going, he takes with him a way of thinking, a way of living, the value of which to the world can never be measured or replaced.


When the wind's away and the wave away

That crazy old fool will go down the bay

Dodging ledges and setting his gear

And come back when the wind drives him in


            But he knows full well the fishing is done

            His credit's all gone and the winter is come

            But as sure as the tide will rise and run

            He'll go back on the bay again


When the snow is down on the Western Bay

That fool will go running the Fiddler's Ground

Hauling his gear in the trough of the sea

As if he'd no mind of his own


His father's gone, and his brothers are gone

And still he goes down on the dark of the moon

Rowing the dory and setting the twine

And it won't even pay for his time


When the wind's away and the wave away

Our children go down on the morning sun

They go rowing their little boats out on the tide

And they'll follow their foolish old man


            Well, you  blind old fool, your children are gone

            And you never would tell them the fishing was done

            Their days were numbered the day they were born

            The same as their foolish old man






Mrs. MacDonald's Lament  is recorded on the albums Clear Away in the Morning, North Winds Clearing, and Peter Kagan and the Wind,  and is also in the songbook Time and the Flying Snow