The Gulf Of Araby Lyrics - Natalie Merchant

Review The Song (5)



Words and music by Katell Keineg

If you could fill a veil with shells from Killiney's shore
And sweet talk in a tongue that is no more
And if wishful thoughts could bridge The Gulf of Araby
Between what is, what is, what is
And what can never be

If you could hold the frozen flow of New Hope Creek
And hide out from the one they said you might meet
And if you could unlearn all the words
That you never wanted heard
If you could stall the southern wind
That's whistling in your ears
You could take what is, what is, what is
To what can never be

One man of seventy whispers free at last
Two neighbors who are proud of their massacres
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Three tyrants torn away in a winter's month
Four prisoners framed by a dirty judge
Five burned with tyres
Six men still inside
And seven more days to shake at the great divide

(X2) The Gulf, the Gulf of Araby

Well, we would plough and part the earth to bring you home
And harvest every miracle ever known
And if they laid out all the things
That these ten years were to bring
We would gladly give them up
To bring you back to us
O, there is nothing we would not give
To kiss you and to believe we could take what is, what is, what is
To what can never be

One man of seventy whispers not free yet
Two neighbors who make up knee-deep in their dead
Three tyrants grab the reins in the summer's heat
Four prisoners lost in the fallacy
Five, on my life
And six, I'm dead inside
And seven more days to shake at the great divide

(X2) The Gulf, the Gulf of Araby






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An anthem for the aguish in the eternal battle of love and hate | Reviewer: Nelson Busch | 7/9/14

The performance of this song carries the power to move hearts and tears equal to the iconic funeral dirge, "Danny Boy"...but only if one takes a moment to clear up the "obscure" reference. I had to do this, myself, in order to "get it" and understand the powerfully sad message Katell sent out to the world from the pain haunting the depths of her soul from the death of loved ones all around her. It was worth the effort to try to understand the artist’s work. How to human beings cope with being trapped in what must seem like a living hell of endless war? Escape seems as impossible as crossing the Bridge to Araby...but what, or where, is THAT? Hit songs all have catchy hook lines that easily grab you, attaching immediately to one's favorite "mind's ear playlist", and there is nothing wrong with instantly understanding every sung word heard. The sparkling-est lyrics go viral in our "music brain"...and become the chart toppers. The Bridge to Araby is not that type of song because it takes some Medieval history sleuthing to grasp Katell's metaphor. She brilliantly conveys the apparent impasse between war and peace, and things that seem impossibly far away and unreachable, and directly experienced by so few that the truth of it becomes almost mythical..."to take what is, to what can never be,..." Before there were maps, newspapers, and a literate populace, information was shared orally, and the Town Crier comes to mind, a daily bugle of the latest news, and all were eager to hear, and then pass what they learned. This oral history tradition has existed for all time. We are no different today in that respect, but our technology connects us instantly to global events in real time...as if we were there. "The Gulf of Araby" defined the location of Arabia in the English speaking mindset of the time, which was on ‘the other side of the known world’. The few surviving crusaders to return home from “Araby” as they called it, were the “National Geographic Magazine correspondents” of the times who first brought home the news from this exotic land so very far away. The distance, the 'gulf' between was beyond their comprehension...just like the gulf between good and evil, love and hate, war and peace, the terrorists and the terrorized...and that never changes, it seems to me. This song is an absolute masterpiece...in my humble opinion. Thank you for the forum. Nelson Busch.


An Eternal Gulf | Reviewer: Paul | 12/6/12

The song touches us so powerfully, regardless of our particular circumstances, because we all wistfully face that unbridgeable gulf between what is and what we wish for but can never have. I am reminded of Harry Chapin's lyrics "sometimes thinking bout what might have been, sometimes thinking 'just as well'"

Incredible song covered by Natalie! | Reviewer: FG | 3/7/10

When I first heard this song after purchasing Natalie Merchant's Live album a decade ago I was blown away. The sheer power and sentiment uttered in the lyrics of this song is simply amazing. I didn't know it was a cover of obscure folk singer Katell Keineg. (Who's own version is very good, too.)

Some might find the lyrics a bit abstract or obscure, but the sentiment and feeling carried in those lyrics through Natalie's voice makes this song just one of the most beautifully sung and moving songs you'll ever hear.


ok | Reviewer: wakawaka | 10/3/09

basic idea of song is interesting but references too obscure for me so song for me loses power. to someone who knows what events she is referring to i'm sure the song is incredibly powerful. she has a beautiful voice and i believe she is the best writer among modern popular singers, and her songs are powerful but not all her songs have the power of some of the lyrically nonsensical but musically powerful songs like shayla / blondie. sorry...

astonishing | Reviewer: Anonymous | 10/27/06

one of the most astonishing songs ever written and couldn't be sung by anyone better...



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------ 09/23/2014

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