My favorite Melville story. Worked on the words to this song for 3 or 4 years, and then was so sick of it I couldn't come up with any music. Sent it to Pierce, and got a demo back in three days...

Billy was a sailor, young tan and tall.
'Though he was twenty-one,
He was hardly a man at all.
And the crew loved Billy
As he sailed the "Rights of Man"
And how he came to meet his fate
No one understands.

The Handsome Sailor in service to the King,
In every way perfection except for nature's sting--
For his tongue it would freeze, and
His voice, it would stall.
He was like Adam on a man o'war, sailing straight for a Fall.

He'd say "God Bless The Captain,
God Bless Captain Vere!"
When his tongue was loosened,
well, it rang out loud and clear.

Claggart was a mystery, a man of thirty-five.
A serpent full of knowledge, he calculated lies.
And why he hated Billy, it was never quite clear.
There was a light in Billy he could not stand to be near.

Both stand before the captain as the storm begins to brew.
"Conspiring insurection," Claggart does accuse.
But Billy's tongue it is frozen, so his fists move instead.
He swings at his accuser and coldly drops him dead.


The final retribution brought Claggart to the floor.
The vengence of an angel, like Ananais before.
But action must be taken for the law demands respect.
So the captain sentenced Billy to hang by the neck.

The crew is assembled to watch Billy die.
To die for rules and regulation--Not Claggert's lie.
A rope stretched from the yardarm to a knot at Billy's neck,
And innocence surrendered when his bare feet left the deck.

He'd say "God Bless the Captain,
God Bless Captain Vere."
When his tongue was loosened
It rang out loud and clear.
He'd say "God Bless the Captain,
God Bless Captain Vere."
His final words were spoken,
And they rang out loud and clear.

©1993 by Delma Carl Suggs and Pierce Pettis
Published by Hurricane Hole Music, ASCAP and Lets Have Lunch Music, ASCAP
All Rights Reserved

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© 1996 by Saltwater Music