A city of wild hopes and dishevelled dreams,
Reclines by the riverside
Waiting for the tide of its times.
A seabound, wavecrowned, tidebound city,
City of white spray and foam,
Crested by gulls, and smiles, and screams,
City on its long way home.
A restless, relentless, unrelenting city,
Troubled by the sound of its own name,
Submerged in the shadows of its own long story,
Immersed in the echoes of its fame,
Liverpool is always disembarking,
And embarking for faraway coasts,
From the distant port of a Saturday night,
To the harbours of Sunday’s ghosts.
You’re closer to life in Liverpool,
And closer to death as well:
Life goes out with the late ebb tide
And death comes in on the swell.
Liverpool, you’d like to remember
But the Gold Coast rattles its chains.
Liverpool, you’d like to forget
But the Scotland Road memory remains.
Liverpool cries out for its rights in the daytime
And at night it cries for its wrongs,
Liverpool still fighting the same old fights
Still singing the same old songs.
City of breeze and billows,
City of showers of stars,
City of alcohol flowing free,
City of a thousand bars.
Irish American African City,
City of the Shanghai Run,
From Birkenhead via Marseilles to Calcutta,
To the sound of the One O’clock Gun.
We are a river town, and we know what it means
To be a city by the sea,
The sailors’ highway, the old whale road,
Where the furrow still follows free.
City of the deck and gangway,
City of the plank and crane,
City of the mooring rope, forearm-thick,
City of the bollard and chain,
Of time’s old battered suitcases,
Oceans of rudder and wheel,
Steerage, passage and anchorage,
Sailcloth, funnel and keel.
An old world gateway to the new world Broadway,
Shipper of all mankind,
Your voyagers crossing high seas to far places,
Trawling their memories behind.
O immigrant, emigrant, itinerant city,
City of Atlantic rain,
I’ll love you from New York to Baltimore,
I’ll love you from Boston to Maine,
From the broad, brimming seas
Where you roam where you please
And I’ll love you right back again.
Liverpool, like life, has always promised
New Worlds, new horizons, new rivers.
And Liverpool, like life, sometimes lets you down.
And life, like Liverpool, sometimes delivers.
The Mersey is a sister to the Mississippi,
To the Congo, the Clyde and the Liffey,
And Liverpool is the brother to every man
And woman, doing the best they can.
Carrier of dark cargo,
A memory in cotton and grain,
City of unbreakable pride,
City of unbearable shame,
How sweet, the sweet of Liverpool cane,
How bitter the slave whip scar,
How deep the cuts on Liverpool’s back,
What a wounded city you are,
Where history sings through the gull’s cry,
And groans in the streets late at night,
Moans in the creaking of gangways,
And the sound of moorings pulled tight.
Liverpool was born in the mesh of that story,
In the net, in the web, in the weave of the world.
Liverpool was made in the threshing of history,
To the ends of the earth, where its tides unfurled.
There goes The Alabama, Confederacy-bound
Stealing out of the bay,
While the rowdy Dublin packet ships pass
Bringing rebellion the other way.
Your wrecks litter the beds of oceans,
Your name picked in whispers by degrees,
Liverpool garlanded in coral and starfish,
In the depths of faraway seas.
The sea-urchins cluster around you,
In the murk where your relics lie,
Liverpool rusted and barnacled
Left on the seabed to die.
Liverpool is a memory draped with mermaids
In seawrack on the seabed stones,
A legend on the prow of a whaler off Nantucket,
And a collection of narwhal bones.
City of the workhouse,
The alehouse, and the whorehouse
City of the dosshouse,
The jailhouse, and the poorhouse.
A Victorian nightmare of disease and death,
Wet with railway steam,
Shadows in black-bricked tenement hollows,
Echoes in the midnight scream.
All Christs are crucified, but Liverpool’s is crucified twice.
There goes the Catholic one carrying his cross
From one end of Hope Street to the other,
At the corner of Hardman Street, by the Philharmonic bar
He scraps with his Protestant brother.
Stretched out between cathedrals, in mad communion,
Once a city of the divided steeple,
A city now fading in orange and green
To a city of working people.
Liverpool was made to show us
What life can be like. And death.
Life, like Liverpool, is breathtaking,
And Liverpool is a taker of breath.
Liverpool still welds its name to far off places,
Like Heysel, and Istanbul.
Liverpool with its heart never empty
And its pockets never full.
Eddies and backwash, reflections and shadows
In the surface currents’ swirl,
Lives that live in the turn of the crest
Where the breaking waves unfurl.
Here on the sea wind at three hours past midnight,
Illegitimate, wheeling and free,
A memory comes rolling off the moonlit tide
Buffeting the waves of the sea.
A pouring language, a city of life,
Brandishing every word that it utters,
A city with hope raging in its veins
And alcohol thundering in its gutters.
Unbridgeable, unbridled, unassailable city,
City where the wild gull screams,
Stormy haven, harbour of hope,
Spring anchorage of our dreams.
Absurd, impossible, sister of life,
Puerto loco of the northern seas
With the smell of a crazy seaport
And the breath of life on your breeze.
That play of light on water
Is the shimmering beauty of the universe, my friend:
Either that, or mad, irredeemable, drunken nights
Spent reeling under these Northern stars.
Implausible, implacable, impossible city,
Surreal of the Jungian dream,
A pool of life in a history of death
Carrying its memories downstream.
O give me your folksongs of love and confusion
Where your ferryboats criss-cross and glide,
I love the way a Liverpool song goes half round the world,
And the chorus comes back on the tide.
Resistant, resonant, resounding city,
City of the red guitar,
City that sang that the world might sing
From the back of a Mathew Street bar,
I’ll love you for the worldwide embrace you bring
In the booths of the old White Star.
Unbeatable, upbeat, merseybeat city,
Strumming your rhythms out free,
With a dockside harmonica echoing
The voice you throw out to the sea,
And windswept with stars, and ocean rain,
The broadening bay throws it back again,
Bearing the memory of the dockers’ laughter,
And all us poor souls who came following after.
Your Welsh-Irish accents still flourish
Wherever your songs are sung
In the fricatives of your history,
And the shibboleth it left on your tongue.
They call us whiners, whingers, shirkers,
Thieving scousers, lazy workers,
With their curses shrivelling on their lips:
But Liverpool knows the score.
And Liverpool just shakes its hips.
To Liverpool they say you are brutal,
Criminal, hopeless and lost
And they try to stamp us with the Hillsborough brand,
And bring us to heel, whatever the cost,
The unwanted child of the land.
Liverpool, giving back the sneer,
Lets the seawind sing its name,
Holds up its head in the face of the world,
And carries on just the same.
Other cities may bow the knee,
Make their peace with troubles and doubts,
Other cities may get in line,
But Liverpool twists and shouts.
Come and show me another city
With its face turned so proud to the sea,
A city so raucous, and ribald, and rough,
A city so ready to be free.
We were born of a turbulent blood.
We were bound to troubled lands.
City of the strike and the riot,
City of marching bands.
Urgent, emergent, insurgent city,
City of the one red star,
I’ll love you from Murmansk to Archangel,
I’ll love you in the Baltic Fleet bar,
I’ll love you more as a Petrograd,
But I’ll love you just as you are.
Liverpool shouts its existence on the seawind,
River of, giver of life.
Live, Liverpool, live!
River of laughter and strife.
The battleships of imperial majesty
Made Britain the world’s great jailer:
But the bolshiness of Liverpool
Is pure Potemkin sailor.
The Mersey is a river, is a river of the world,
Its waves insisting their whispered solution,
Many cities say many things
But Liverpool says: revolution.
Liverpool still looks to sea, and windward,
Still turns its face to the tide,
Liverpool, still waiting for the clouds to clear
From the bay at the river’s side.
Where to Liverpool?
Your ship lies at anchor now.
But the gulls’ screams will cry the morning sail,
And the tide will beat back on the prow.
Liverpool forever setting out on the foam,
To be free as the winds in the bay,
Liverpool still trying to find its way home,
Where the turn of the tide leads the way.
Waiting for a chance to reconcile its story,
Waiting for its dreams to be resolved,
Striving for a future in a changing world,
With a chance for its wrongs to be solved.
Liverpool still listening for its sister cities,
Where the music of history will play,
Waiting for the chords that will strike up the times
To make tomorrow, from yesterday, and today.
And Liverpool will be a part of that.
And Liverpool will not be wrong.
And Liverpool will be the singer.
And Liverpool will be the song.