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Ballad of the Great Eastern

This song is by Sting and appears on the album The Last Ship (2013).

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In 18 hundred and 59 the engineer Brunel
Would build the greatest ship afloat
And rule the ocean's swell
Nineteen-thousand tons of steel
They used to shape the mighty keel
Forged inside the smelter
Where they made the gates of Hell
And the name upon the contract
Isambard Brunel

As day-by-day the monster grew
The engineer Brunel
Would watch the devil's handiwork
And woe betide a man who shirks
Or slows the pace to build the keel
Nineteen-thousand tons of steel
Anyone with eyes to see
Is but a bride of Hell
And the name upon the draftsman's chart
Isambard Brunel

A riveter was on the hull
With his apprentice lad
He'd served his time with the older man
Some say it was his dad
Two hundred men upon the shift
But when the day is done
The count is hundred ninety-eight
Before the setting sun

They searched the yard all through the night
Until the morning bell
No more delays are countenanced
By Isambard Brunel
And so they work a double shift
To make the time in full
No mention of the missing men
They seal the double hull

The ship was launched upon the tide
And all the townsfolk cheered
A brass band played but not a word
Of omens they had feared
But before the afternoon was out
The celebration wrecked
A dignitary clutched his heart
And collapsed upon the deck
No doctors could revive him
As the telegraphs would tell
And the name upon the coffin
Isambard Brunel

And now upon the open sea
The mighty ship did plough
But many feared the darkness
In the shadow of its prow
An explosion on the lower deck
Would take the souls of five
With a growing superstition
Among the sailors still alive

The captain and his boy are lost
While rowing to the shore
The crew will threaten mutiny
And say they'll work no more
They began to say the ship was cursed
They hadn't even seen the worst
They'd signed on able-bodied men
But they wouldn't sail to Hell
When the name upon the manifest
Is Isambard Brunel

For fourteen years that ship will sail
Misfortune taken hard
The owners barely find a crew
To reach the breakers' yard
And as they take the plates apart
Unseal the double hull
The breakers call the foreman o'er
They'd found a human skull
And then they find the younger man
Perforced to understand
That in the hour of their torment
He'd reached his father's hand

In 18 hundred and 59 the engineer Brunel
Would build the greatest ship afloat
And rule the mighty swell
The final shift was over
And the breakers' hammers fell
And the name upon the manifest
The contract signed in Hell
Was the same as on the draftsman's chart
One Isambard Brunel

Written by:

Sting, Rob Mathes Wikipedia16, Dominic Miller Wikipedia16, Kathryn Tickell Wikipedia16, Ira Coleman Wikipedia16, Jo Lawry, and Peter Tickell