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Dancing With the Moonlit Knight

This song is by Genesis and appears on the album Selling England by the Pound (1973) and on the box set Archive 1967-75 (1998).

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Dancing With the Moonlit Knight
"Can you tell me where my country lies?"
Said the unifaun to his true love's eyes
"It lies with me!" cried the Queen of Maybe
For her merchandise, he traded in his prize

"Paper late!" cried a voice in the crowd
"Old man dies!" The note he left was signed
"Old Father Thames" - it seems he's drowned
Selling England by the pound

Citizens of Hope and Glory
Time goes by - it's "the time of your life"
Easy now, sit you down
Chewing through your Wimpey dreams
They eat without a sound
Digesting England by the pound

Young man says "you are what you eat" - eat well
Old man says "you are what you wear" - wear well
You know what you are, you don't give a damn
Bursting your belt that is your homemade sham

The Captain leads his dance right on through the night
Join the dance
Follow on! Till the Grail sun sets in the mould
Follow on! Till the gold is cold
Dancing out with the moonlit knight
Knights of the Green Shield stamp and shout

There's a fat old lady outside the saloon
Laying out the credit cards she plays Fortune
The deck is uneven right from the start
And all of their hands are playing a part

The Captain leads his dance right on through the night
Join the dance
Follow on! Round table-talking down we go
You're the show!
Off we go with: You play the hobbyhorse
I'll play the fool
We'll tease the bull
Ringing round and loud, loud and round

Follow on! With a twist of the world we go
Follow on! Till the gold is cold
Dancing out with the moonlit knight
Knights of the Green Shield stamp and shout

TriviaEdit

Selling England by the Pound

The title was actually originally the slogan used in the Labour Party Manifesto for the General Election held before the album was released which itself was using wordplay on the idea of "pound".

The pound sterling is the world's oldest currency still in use. The origins of sterling lie in the reign of King Offa of Mercia, who introduced the silver penny. It copied the denarius of the new currency system of Charlemagne's Frankish Empire. As in the Carolingian system, 240 pennies weighed 1 pound (corresponding to Charlemagne's libra)

Labour Party's Harold Wilson was elected for a third time in February 1974, taking over from Conservative Edward Heath whose government was brought to its knees by oil shortages and a crippling coal miners' strike in 1973.

Heath's most lasting achievement was to lead the UK into the EEC (later the EU) in 1973. His tenure, however, was blighted by industrial unrest, including a devastating miners' strike. This resulted in the famous 'three-day-week', in which commercial consumption of electricity was limited to three days per week, with the exception of essential services.

However the 1970s proved to be a disastrous time for any party to be in government. Faced with a mishandled oil crisis, a consequent world-wide economic downturn, and a badly suffering British economy, Governments were forced to take an interventionist approach, and companies such as British Leyland were nationalised to prevent their collapse. Pressure on sterling compounded these problems, and by the middle of the decade 1½ million people were unemployed in the UK - a previously unthinkable figure.

The Labour Party itself had adopted a left-wing agenda, 'Labour's Programme 1973', a document which pledged to bring about a 'fundamental and irreversible shift in the balance of power and wealth in favour of working people and their families.' This programme referred to a 'far reaching Social Contract between workers and the Government.' Wilson publicly accepted many of the left-wing implications of the Programme but the condition of the economy allowed little room for manouevre.

Gabriel insisted that the album be titled Selling England by the Pound, the reference to the Labour Party slogan at the time, in an effort to counter the impression that Genesis were becoming too US-oriented.

Dancing Out with the Moonlit Knight

is about the effects the British economy has on every day lives of Englishmen, the cultural crisis that they endure and the first oil crisis that happened right around that time. As transports and oil-derived vinyl were sending prices through the roof, many ways were considered to cut costs - SEBTP was the first Genesis non-gatefold and had cheaper, lighter records. Dancing Out With the Moonlight Knight is a wonderful socio-commentary partially dressed in legend. The lyrics offer the listener to "Dance with the Moonlit Knight," or defy the trends which are destroying us. It has been described as basically an epitaph to British culture as large companies destroy its heritage.

"Can you tell me where my country lies?" (1)

said the unifaun (2) to his true love's eyes.

"It lies with me!" cried the Queen of Maybe (3)

- for her merchandise, he traded in his prize. (4)


"Paper late!" (5) cried a voice in the crowd.

"Old man dies!" The note he left was signed 'Old Father Thames' (6)

- it seems he's drowned;

selling england by the pound.


Citizens of Hope & Glory, (7)

Time goes by - it's 'the time of your life'. (8)

Easy now, sit you down.

Chewing through your Wimpey dreams, (9)

they eat without a sound;

digesting england by the pound.


Young man says 'you are what you eat' - eat well.

Old man says 'you are what you wear' - wear well.

You know what you are, you don't give a damn;

bursting your belt that is your homemade sham.


The Captain leads his dance right on through the night

- join the dance...

Follow on! Till the Grail sun sets in the mould. (10)

Follow on! Till the gold is cold.

Dancing out with the moonlit knight,

Knights of the Green Shield stamp and shout. (11)


There's a fat old lady (12) outside the saloon;

laying out the credit cards she plays Fortune. (13)

The deck is uneven right from the start;

and all of their hands are playing apart.


The Captain leads his dance right on through the night

- join the dance...

Follow on! A Round Table-talking down we go.

You're the show!

Off we go with - You play the hobbyhorse,

I'll play the fool. (14)

We'll tease the bull

ringing round & loud, loud & round.

Follow on! With a twist of the world we go.

Follow on! Till the gold is cold.

Dancing out with the moonlit knight,

Knights of the Green Shield stamp and shout.

(1) It begins without any music, with Gabriel's voice asking "Can you tell me where my country lies?" This album is the reply to that very question, and the reply (while musically mind-blowing) may not be very encouraging.

(2) 1.Unifaun apparently does not have any connection with the mythological faun, but is a mercenary rank equivalent to "private".

2. Unifaun: pun that stands for representing the ancient, historical England. From uniform, unicorn, faun (fawn or faun, in general)

(3) Queen of Maybe: From Queen of May, who, in the ancient England, used to represent the starting of a good season and the hope for a good harvest. Who is the Queen of Maybe? Opportunity. Today, Queen of May is used in England only for commercial advertising of products and this "Queen of Opportunity" represents the modern England.

The first stanza could be the gambling of culture on the 'maybe' of development.

(4) This could tell of how the younger generation is throwing away a legacy ("for her merchandise, he traded in his prize").

(5) One puzzling lyric in this song is "paper late cried a voice in the crowd", especially since it went on to become the title of another songs. Americans have assumed that it meant the same thing as "extra, extra!", the way paperboys hawked a late edition of the newspaper that had just come out. A British citizen comments: "I've never heard that phrase in colloquial English. However, I have heard "Late paper!" being shouted by paper sellers. A slightly convoluted theory is therefore this: Suppose a vendor is shouting 'Late paper! Late paper!' repeatedly. Given that he is in a crowd we can suppose there is a lot of other noise, perhaps enough to drown him out at times. In these circumstances, you might, in a lull in the background noise, hear '...paper! Late...'."

2. The poetic metre in the lyrics is not terribly regular, but essentially all the stanzas begin with /-/- (strong/weak, strong/weak). "'Paper late' cried..." preserves that rhythmic opening. The more colloquial word order "'Late paper' cried..." would lead to a metre of //--, which I don't see anywhere else in the lyrics. The word order is probably nothing more complicated than the author trying to get the verbal rhythm to "sound right" -- which has led poets to slightly unusual phrasings for centuries.

(6) The "old man dies," leaving the younger generation in charge, who promptly "sell England by the pound".

Old Father Thames is the spirit of the River Thames (the one which flows through London). He is depicted as an old man with a flowing white beard and symbolises Britain's ancient past. He's part of British folklore. The Old Father Thames spirit does not recognize his modern land - Old Father Thames symbolic drowning being a death of London as it was.

(7) Citizens of Hope and Glory are the English people. From the hymn Land of Hope and Glory.

(8) "its the time of your life" could point out how easily led people are by what they're told

(9) "Wimpey is/was an indigenous chain of burger stores, so colloquially a Wimpey is/was a burger (like a Big Mac, only even nastier). "wimpey dreams" refers to Wimpey restaurants which at the time were taking over the food market with chain outlets. They took their name after Wimpy in the Popeye cartoons, because he always ate burgers! [His tag phrase was "I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today".]

Also, Wimpey are a national firm of (UK) builders who specialise in building vast estates of Identikit houses. "Dream Homes", as the adverts read. These are not made of the highest grade materials but are often built in Mock-classic English styles (Tudor, Georgian) of architecture. They were a firm that specialised in providing cheap(ish) housing often on the outskirts of larger conurbations and were seen by many working class people as a Des-Res (Desirable Residence) location to move to once they had sufficient money. This sort of house is seen as being a bit of a "trash talisman" by some sections of society. Frequently this sort of housing was a step up as families sought to better themselves.

(10) Grail: the cup of Jesus Christ from the last supper, which, according to the legend, is carried in England into King Arthur's court. Represents the splendour of the epoch.

This is about the downfall and decline of Great Britain as it loses its empire on which the sun never sets - the sun never sets on the British Empire because it is so big that it's always daytime somewhere. However, it's declining, and soon the sun will set...

(11) -"Green shield stamps" were the 70s equivalent to reward points at petrol stations or whatever - this points to commercialism. Green food stamps and price folder (Aisle of Plenty ) remind how low the Once Mighty Empire has fallen as the first oil crisis did even more damage to England Sold By The Pound to Arab Sheiks playing fortune with the Old Lady England that lays out the credit cards and plays fortune

A double meaning is used again in this phrase too. Today, in England, the Green Shield Stamps are point, scratch-and-win, or unstick-and-win prizes. Knights of the green shield stamp and shout is one of the many puns on Selling England that are totally lost on Americans. "Green shield stamps used to be issued when you purchased everyday goods at stores. You collected them and when you had enough you could exchange the stamps for other goods, i.e. they were a promotional gimmick to encourage you to shop at certain stores."

(12) The verse about the fat old lady could be a dig at those who willingly throw away their money, possibly to company directors with their lying money grabbing ways.

(13) "Credit cards" is another modern day introduction of the times - Today's fortuneteller doesn't use playing cards anymore, only credit cards, to foretell the fortune.

(14) The Fool and the Hobbyhorse are characters from the Morris Dance. From "hobby horse" came the expression "to ride one's hobby-horse", meaning "to follow a favourite pastime", and in turn, the modern sense of the term Hobby.

There is a repeated riff that can be found in "Dancing with the Moonlit Knight" and the last tracks, and it sort of draws the album together