The Ways of Man

© 1977 Gordon Bok, BMI


I wrote this song while doing the music for a public television documentary on the maritime history of Maine called "Home to the Sea." It became the theme song, with Ann Mayo Muir singing the full version of the song at the end of the film.  If it sounds bitter, remember that the day is late and not the fate of the small fisherman on the Northeast coast looks even darker than it did before.  There's no subsidy here for the "little fellow" – only more paperwork.


The ways of man are 'passing strange

He buys his freedom and he counts his change

Then he lets the wind his days arrange

And he calls the tide his master.


Oh, the days, oh the days,

Oh, the fine long summer days.

The fish come rolling in the bays

And he swore he'd never leave me.


But the days grow short and the year gets old

And the fish won't stay where the water's cold,

And if they're going to fill the hold

They've got to go offshore to find them.


So they go outside on the raving deep

And they pray the Lord their soul to keep

But the waves will roll them all to sleep

And the tide will be their keeper.


Oh, the tide, oh, the tide,

Oh, you dark and you bitter tide.

If I can't have him by my side,

I guess I have to leave him.


I gave you one, I gave you two:

The best that rotten old boat could do.

You won't be happy till I give you three,

But I'll be damned if you'll get me.


Oh, the tide, oh, the tide,

Oh, you dark and you bitter tide.

If I can't have him by my side,

The water's welcome to him.


Ah, Lord, I know that the day will come

When one less boat comes slogging home.

I don't mind knowing that he'll be the one,

But I can't spend my whole life praying.


I gave you one, I have you two:

The best that poor old boat could do;

You'll have it all before you're through –

Well, I've got no more to give you.


(repeat first first)



The Ways of Man is recorded on the Bok, Muir, & Trickett albums First Fifteen Years Vol I and  Ways of Man, and is also in the songbook One to Sing, One to Haul