Like Flight of Earls, The Pogues’ Thousands are Sailing (written by guitarist Phil Chevron) ties the economic emigration of the 80’s in with a prior wave of emigration—in this case, the post-Famine emigration to the United States.
The island it is silent now But the ghosts still haunt the waves And the torch lights up a famished man Who fortune could not save Did you work upon the railroad Did you rid the streets of crime Were your dollars from the White House Were they from the five and dime Did the old songs taunt or cheer you And did they still make you cry Did you count the months and years Or did your teardrops quickly dry Ah, no, says he, twas not to be On a coffin ship I came here And I never even got so far That they could change my name Thousands are sailing Across the Western ocean To a land of opportunity That some of them will never see Fortune prevailing Across the Western ocean Their bellies full Their spirits free Theyll break the chains of poverty And theyll dance In Manhattan’s desert twilight In the death of afternoon We stepped hand in hand on Broadway Like the first man on the moon And the Blackbird broke the silence As you whistled it so sweet And in Brendan Behan’s footsteps I danced up and down the street Then we said goodnight to Broadway Giving it our best regards Tipped our hats to Mr. Cohan Dear old Times Square’s favorite bard Then we raised a glass to JFK And a dozen more besides When I got back to my empty room I suppose I must have cried Thousands are sailing Again across the ocean Where the hand of opportunity Draws tickets in a lottery Postcards we’re mailing Of sky-blue skies and oceans From rooms the daylight never sees Where lights don’t glow on Christmas trees But we dance to the music And we dance Thousands are sailing Across the Western ocean Where the hand of opportunity Draws tickets in a lottery Where e’er we go, we celebrate The land that makes us refugees From fear of priests with empty plates From guilt and weeping effigies And we dance
I’ve always loved the lines
Where e’er we go, we
celebrate / The land that makes us refugees. They really
capture something about the Irish in America that I never knew
how to put into words otherwise.