Picaresque

by The Decemberists

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credits

released 22 March 2005

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Track Name: The Infanta
Here she comes in her palanquin
On the back of an elephant
On a bed made of linen and sequins and silk

All astride (on her father's line)
With the King and his Concubine
And her nurse with her pitchers of liquors and milk

And we'll all come praise the Infanta
And we'll all come praise the Infanta

Among five score pachyderm
All canopied and passenger'd
Sit the Duke and the Duchess's luscious young girls

Within site of the Baroness
Seething spite for this lithe largess
By her side sits the Baron - her barren-ness barbs her

Chorus

A phalanx on camel back!
Thirty ranks on a forward tack
Follow close, their shiny bright standards a-waving!

While behind in their coach-and-fours
Ride the wives of the King of Moors
And the veiled young virgin, the Prince's betrothed.

Chorus

And as she sits upon her place
Her innocence laid on her face
From atop the parapets blow a multitude of coronets
Melodies rhapsodical and fair!
And all our hearts afire, the sky ablaze with cannon fire,
We raise our voices to the air
To the air.

And above all this folderol
On a bed made of chaparral
She is laid, a coronal placed on her brow.

And the babe all in slumber dreams
Of a place filled with quiet streams
And the lake where her cradle was pulled from the water.

Chorus
Track Name: We Both Go Down Together
Here on these cliffs of Dover
So high, you can't see over
And while your head is spinning
Hold tight, it's just the beginning.

You come from parents wanton
A childhood rough and rotten
I come from wealth and beauty
Untouched by work or duty

And O! My Love! My Love!
And O! My Love! My Love!
We both go down together!

I found you, a tattoo'd tramp
A dirty daughter from the labor camp
I laid you down in the grass of a clearing
You wept, but your soul was willing

Chorus

Meet me on my vast veranda
My sweet untouched Miranda
And while the seagulls are crying
We fall but our souls are flying!

Chorus
Track Name: Eli, The Barrow Boy
Eli, the barrow boy of the old town
Sells coal and marigolds
And he cries out all down the day

Below the tamaracks he is crying,
"Corncobs and candlewax for the buying!"
All down the day

"Would I could afford to buy my love a fine robe
Made of gold and silk Arabian thread
But she is dead and gone and lying in a pine grove
And I must push my barrow all the day.
And I must push my barrow all the day."

Eli, the barrow boy - when they found him
Dressed all in corduroy he had drowned in
The river down the way.

They laid his body down in the church yard
But still when the moon is out
With his push cart he calls down the day:

"Would I could afford to buy my love a fine gown
Made of gold and silk Arabian thread
But I am dead and gone and lying in a church ground
But still I push my barrow all the day
Still I push my barrow all the day"
Track Name: The Sporting Life
I fell on the playing field
The work of an errant heel
The din of the crowd and the loud commotion
Went deafening silent and stopped in motion

The season was almost done
We'd managed it twelve to one
So far I had known no humiliation
In front of my friends and close relations

But there's my father looking on
And there's my girlfriend arm and arm
With the captain of the other team and all of this is clear to me
They condescend to fix on me a frown
How they love the sporting life!

And father had had such hopes
For a son who would take the ropes
And fulfill all his old athletic aspirations
But apparently now there's some complications

But while I am lying here
Trying to fight the tears
I'll prove to the crowd that I come out stronger
(Though I think I might lie here a little longer.)

'Cause there's my coach-- he's looking down
The disappointment in his knitted brow
"I should've known," he thinks again. "I never should've put him in."
He turns to load the lemonade away
And breathes in deep the sporting life.

Rpt. First Chorus
Track Name: The Bagman's Gambit
How could I refuse a favor or two
And for a tryst in the greenery
I gave you documents and microfilm too.

And from my ten-floor tenement
Where once our bodies lay
How I long to hear you say
"No they'll never catch me now
No they'll never catch me
No they cannot catch me now
We will escape somehow."

It was late one night
I was awoken by the telephone
I heard a strangled cry on the end of the line

Purloined in Petrograd
They were suspicious of where your loyalties lay
So I paid off a bureaucrat
To convince your captors there to secret you away

And at the gate of the embassy
Our hands met through the bars
As your whisper stilled my heart:
"No they'll never catch me now
No they'll never catch me
No they cannot catch me now
We will escape somehow."

And I dreamt one night
You were there in form
Hands held high
In uniform.

It was ten years on when you resurfaced in a motorcar
And with a wave of an arm you were there and gone.
Track Name: From My Own True Love (Lost At Sea)
Four score years, living down in this rain-swept town
Sea-salt tears swimming round as the rain comes down

Mr. Postman, do you have a letter for me?
Mr. Postman, do you have a letter for me?
A letter for me
From my own true love, lost at sea
Lost at sea.
Track Name: 16 Military Wives
16 military wives, 32 softly focused, brightly colored eyes
Staring at the natural tan of 32 gently clenching wrinkled little hands
17 company men, out of which only 12 will make it back again
Sergeant sends a letter to 5 military wives as tears drip down from 10 little eyes.

Cheer them on to their rivals
Because America can and America can't say no
And America does if America says it's so.
And the anchor person on TV goes "na na na na na na na na na"

15 celebrity minds, leading their 15 sordid, wretched, checkered lives
Will they find the solution in time using their 15 pristine moderate liberal minds?
18 Academy chairs, out of which only 7 really even care
Doling out a garland to 5 celebrity minds, they're humbly taken by surprise.

Chorus

14 cannibal kings, wondering blithely what the dinner bell will bring
15 celebrity minds, served on a leafy bed of 16 military wives

Chorus
Track Name: The Engine Driver
I'm an engine driver
On a long run, on a long run
Would I were beside her
She's a long one, such a long one

And if you don't love me let me go
And if you don't love me let me go

I'm a county lineman
On the high line, on the high line
So will be my grandson
There are powerlines in our bloodline.

And if you don't love me let me go
And if you don't love me let me go

And I am writer, a writer of fictions
I am the heart that you call home
And I've written pages upon pages
Trying to rid you from my bones.

I'm a moneylender
I have fortunes upon fortunes
Take my hand for tender
I am tortured, ever tortured

And if you don't love me let me go
And if you don't love me let me go

Chorus
Track Name: On The Bus Mall
In matching blue raincoats our shoes were our showboats
We kicked around
From stairway to station we made a sensation
With the gadabout crowd

And Oh what a bargain! We're two easy targets
For the old men in the off-tracks
Who paid in palaver and crumpled old dollars
Which we squirreled away
In our rat-trap hotel by the freeway
And we slept in Sundays.

Your parents were anxious, your cool was contagious
At the old school
You left without leaving a note for your grieving
Sweet mother while your brother was so cruel.

But here in the alleys your spirits were rallied
As you learned quick to make a fast buck
In bathrooms and barrooms, on dumpsters and heirlooms
We bit our tongues,
Sucked our lips into our lungs 'til we were falling
Such was our calling

And here in our hovel we fused like a family
But I will not mourn for you
So take up your makeup and pocket your pills away
We're kings among runaways
On The Bus Mall
Down on The Bus Mall.

Among all the urchins and old Chinese merchants
Of the old town
We reigned at the pool hall with one iron cue ball
And we never let the bastards get us down

And we laughed off the quick tricks.
The old men with limp dicks
On the colonnades of the waterfront park
As four in the morning came on cold and boring
We huddled close in the bus stop enclosure, enfolding
Our hands tightly holding

Chorus
Track Name: The Mariner's Revenge Song
We are two mariners, our ship's sole survivors
In this belly of a whale
Its ribs our ceiling beams, its guts our carpeting
I guess we have some time to kill

You may not remember me - I was a child of three
And you a lad of eighteen
But I remember you and I will relate to you
How our histories interweave

At the time you were a rake and a roustabout
Spending all your money on the whores and hounds

You had a charming air all cheap and debonair
That my widowed mother found so sweet
And so she took you in - her sheets still warm with him
Now filled with filth and foul disease

As time wore on you proved a debt-ridden drunken mess
Leaving my mother a poor consumptive wretch

And then you disappeared. Your gambling arrears
The only thing you left behind
And then the magistrate reclaimed our small estate
And my poor mother lost her mind.

Then one day in spring my dear sweet mother died
But before she did I took her hand as she dying cried:

"Find him, bind him, tie him to a pole
And break his fingers to splinters
Drag him to a hole until he wakes up naked
Clawing at the ceiling of his grave!"

It took me fifteen years to swallow all my tears
Among the urchins in the streets
Until a priory took pity and hired me
To keep their vestry nice and neat.

But never once in the employ of these holy men
Did I ever once turn my mind from the thought of revenge!

One night I overheard the prior exchanging words
With a penitent whaler from the sea
The captain of his ship, who matched you toe to tip,
Was known for a wanton cruelty.

The following day I shipped to sea with a privateer
In the whistle of the wind I could almost hear:

Chorus

There is one thing I might say to you
As you sail across the sea
Always your mother will watch over you
As you avenge this wicked deed

And then that fateful night we had you in our sight
After twenty months at sea
With your starboard flank abeam,
I was getting my muskets clean
When came this rumbling from beneath.

The ocean shook, the sky went black, and the captain quailed
And before us grew the angry jaws of a giant whale!

I don't know how I survived - the crew was chewed alive
I must've slipped between his teeth
But O! what providence, what divine intelligence!
That you should survive as well as me.

It gives my heart great joy to see your eyes fill with fear
So lean in close and I will whisper the last words you'll hear:

Chorus
Track Name: Of Angels and Angles
There are angels in your angles
There's a low moon caught in your tangles
There's a ticking at the sill
There's a purr of a pigeon to break the still of day

As on we go drowning
Down we go away
And darling, we go a-drowning
Down we go away

There's a tough word on your crossword
There's a bedbug nipping a finger
There's a swallow, there's a calm
Here's a hand to lay on your open palm today

As on we go drowning
Down we go away
And darling, we go a-drowning
Down we go away

There are angels in your angles
There's a low moon caught in your tangles