-- Shipwrecked At The Stable Door --
released 1988

Found on:

Big Circumstance (1988)

Rumours of Glory - box set Disc 4 (2014) [compilation album]

The man who twirled with rose in teeth
Has his tongue tied up in thorns
His once expanded sense of time and
Space all shot and torn
See him wander hat in hand -
"Look at me, I'm so forlorn -
Ask anyone who can recall
It's horrible to be born!"

Big Circumstance comes looming
Like a darkly roaring train -
Rushes like a sucking wound
Across a winter plain
Recognizing neither polished shine
Nor spot nor stain -
And wherever you are on the compass rose
You'll never be again

Left like a shadow on the step
Where the body was before -
Shipwrecked at the stable door

Big Circumstance has brought me here -
Wish it would send me home
Never was clear where home is
But it's nothing you can own
It can't be bought with cigarettes
Or nylons or perfume
And all the highest bidder gets
Is a voucher for a tomb

Blessed are the poor in spirit -
Blessed are the meek
For theirs shall be the kingdom
That the power mongers seek
Blessed are the dead for love
And those who cry for peace
And those who love the gift of earth -
May their gene pool increase

Left like a shadow on the step
Where the body was before -
Shipwrecked at the stable door

Known comments by Bruce Cockburn about this song, by date:

Editor's note: Dave Hedenstrom wrote to the Project from St. Paul, MN to point out that "The song 'Shipwrecked at the Stable Door' was apparently inspired by the book 'Lion and Lamb' by Brennan Manning, which Bruce mentions as a source of inspiration in the liner notes for 'Big Circumstance.' The final chapter of that book is titled 'The Shipwrecked at the Stable.'"

  • Circa 1990 -

    This is one of those sort of religious leaning ones. I always picture myself as a sort of drunk in a doorway when I sing this song, you know, just to give people an idea where it's coming from. Ranting about religion.
    -- from Radio Interview, BBC Radio 1, 1990, Interviewer is Johnny Walker. Transcribed and submitted by David Newton.

  • 19 June 1997

    Yvon Malenfant reports that 'Shipwrecked...' "came from a story by Walter Wangerine or one of the writers Bruce lists in the 'Big Circumstance' credits. Yvon continues, "The story is about how in our modern day we would not want to enter the manger scene because of foul odors as well as the "commonness" of the scene. We want power, comfort and ease-thus we are shipwrecked at the stable door because of our lack of humility and not expecting to fine the divine in the simplest of settings."

    Following his performance in Indianapolis (June 19, 1997), Karen Derrick asked Bruce about the line "Left like a shadow on the step where a body was before." Bruce affirmed that he was thinking about what happened in Hiroshima in 1945 when the white hot bomb blast left people's shadow's imprinted on concrete.

    Courtesy of Frank Brusca.

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    This page is part of The Cockburn Project, a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The Project archives self-commentary by Cockburn on his songs and music, and supplements this core part of the website with news, tour dates, and other current information.