“Sailing to Philadelphia” by Marc Knopfler
I love narrative songs like this, not only do they tell a story but they intrigue you and make you want to find out more. The title track is drawn from Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon, a novel about Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, the two English surveyors who established the border separating Pennsylvania and Delaware from Maryland and Virginia in the 1760s. This border later became known as the Mason-Dixon Line and has been used since the 1820s to denote the border between the Southern Unites States and the Northern United States.
Jeremiah Dixon, like me, was from the North East of England and the track always make me feel homesick. Since Dixon’s day thousands of Geordies (A term for people from around Newcastle) have left the city to find work and opportunities else where.
One constant in my home town is the river Tyne. It has defined the city, marked its borders and for thousands of years been the main artery of trade and commerce for the people of the North of England. In this new millennium it is having to find a new role as the trade in steel and coal has gone and modern transport systems mean the river is reduced to the role of casual spectator when once it was the beating heart of the city.
The River Runs
At Warden Rocks you can witness the marriage of two rivers
On a good day it is a gentile journey from the meeting of the waters
At other times it charges through the valleys like an avenging Angel
Sweeping aside all and battering everything into submission
On it marches through ancient woodland and redundant mining towns
Until at last, it reaches the city and pushes open its welcoming gates
Past galleries of unfathomable art and the lilt of Northumbrian pipes
Along the route the Romans took and that the Vikings followed
Flotillas of fear that penetrated it’s protective shield and ravaged it shores
This black-hearted river does not forgive those who underestimate it
On the quayside as Hens and Stags weave their drink sodden way
The river watches the unwary like a crocodile eyeing a wildebeest
Below the bridges it still heaves and spits, a boundary between two rival tribes
Eventually, it wanders aimlessly towards the dark waters of the North Sea
Sneaking out of the harbour mouth in search of new beginnings
Ⓒ Jeff Price August 2017