Poetry Sunday: Highwayman

I've had this song rattling around in my brain for the last couple of weeks, so it's time to get it out! Maybe if I share it with you as my poem of the week...

It's an old Jimmy Webb song that was very popular back in the day. That day was the late '70s, early '80s. It was recorded by a number of artists, including Webb himself in 1977, but the most popular cover of it was probably that done by Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson in 1984.

It's an unusual lyric about reincarnation - not a subject that is often written about in a pop lyric - but for those of us who believe that nothing is ever really destroyed but only changed, matter into energy or energy into matter, it is very meaningful.

      by Jimmy Webb

I was a highwayman. Along the coach roads I did ride
With sword and pistol by my side
Many a young maid lost her baubles to my trade
Many a soldier shed his lifeblood on my blade
The bastards hung me in the spring of twenty-five
But I am still alive.

I was a sailor. I was born upon the tide
And with the sea I did abide.
I sailed a schooner round the Horn to Mexico
I went aloft and furled the mainsail in a blow
And when the yards broke off they said that I got killed
But I am living still.

I was a dam builder across the river deep and wide
Where steel and water did collide
A place called Boulder on the wild Colorado
I slipped and fell into the wet concrete below
They buried me in that great tomb that knows no sound
But I am still around..I'll always be around..and around and around and 
around and around

I fly a starship across the Universe divide
And when I reach the other side
I'll find a place to rest my spirit if I can
Perhaps I may become a highwayman again
Or I may simply be a single drop of rain
But I will remain
And I'll be back again, and again and again and again and again..

As a bonus, here is that most famous cover of the song, in a performance recorded in 1990.

Cash and Jennings are gone now, of course. And yet they are still around...and around...and around...  


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