There was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run When the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun Long before the white man and long before the wheel When the green dark forest was too silent to be real
But time has no beginnings and hist'ry has no bounds As to this verdant country they came from all around They sailed upon her waterways and they walked the forests tall Built the mines the mills and the factories for the good of us all
And when the young man's fancy was turnin' to the spring The railroad men grew restless for to hear the hammers ring Their minds were overflowing with the visions of their day And many a fortune lost and won and many a debt to pay
For they looked in the future and what did they see They saw an iron road runnin' from sea to the sea Bringin' the goods to a young growin' land All up through the seaports and into their hands
Look away said they across this mighty land From the eastern shore to the western strand Bring in the workers and bring up the rails We gotta lay down the tracks and tear up the trails Open 'er heart let the life blood flow Gotta get on our way 'cause we're movin' too slow
Bring in the workers and bring up the rails We're gonna lay down the tracks and tear up the trails Open 'er heart let the life blood flow Gotta get on our way 'cause we're movin' too slow Get on our way 'cause we're movin' too slow
Behind the blue Rockies the sun is declinin' The stars, they come stealin' at the close of the day Across the wide prairie our loved ones lie sleeping Beyond the dark oceans in a place far away
We are the navvies who work upon the railway Swingin' our hammers in the bright blazin' sun Livin' on stew and drinkin' bad whiskey Bendin' our old backs 'til the long days are done
We are the navvies who work upon the railway Swingin' our hammers in the bright blazin' sun Layin' down track and buildin' the bridges Bendin' our old backs 'til the railroad is done
So over the mountains and over the plains Into the muskeg and into the rain Up the St. Lawrence all the way to Gaspe Swingin' our hammers and drawin' our pay Drivin' 'em in and tyin' 'em down Away to the bunkhouse and into the town A dollar a day and a place for my head A drink to the livin' and a toast to the dead
Oh the song of the future has been sung All the battles have been won O'er the mountain tops we stand All the world at our command We have opened up the soil With our teardrops and our toil
For there was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run When the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun Long before the white man and long before the wheel When the green dark forest was too silent to be real When the green dark forest was too silent to be real And many are the dead men too silent to be real
Writer/s: Gordon Lightfoot
Publisher: Warner Chappell Music, Inc.
Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind
Seventhmist from 7th HeavenLightfoot's comments (from his "Songbook" collection): This was part of a two-hour special that was played on New Year's afternoon. I got the idea to write it long from a mentor of mine named Bob Gibson, who is a major figure in the folk revival. He had written a song called "Civil War Trilogy," which had a slow part in the middle, and I followed that pattern. Without a piece of input like that, I probably wouldn't have been able to approach the song on that basis. The song says a lot. Canadian author Pierre Berton said to me, 'You know, Gord, you said as much in that song as I said in my book [about the building of the railroad across Canada].' I appreciated the compliment."
Phil from Wales, UkThe song was commissioned as a part of the celebrations of Canada's Centenial year (1967). A very moving song which I latched onto during the 8 months I spent in Canada that year. I haven't been back since but I still love the song.
Meocyber from Alma, Co Gordon' one of my top solo gutarists/composers. This song ,to me, talks of humans exploring and advancing to seek better lives in the unknown wilderness. Pretty and optimistic.
Heather from Los Angeles, CaI love Lightfoot's voice. He can take a Canadian history lesson and weave it into a touching, spellbinding song.
Nathan from From The Country Of, CanadaI hate to be an anti-narcissist Canadian, but thank you to the Chinese for our railroad.
Jodi from London, OnHearing this song is one of the few things that makes me proud of my country.
Kelley from Hickory, KyThere have been a lot of great train songs over the years, this one and "City of New Orleans" are the best. Sadly Americans know little about the building of our own transcontinental railroad, much less the Canadian achievement. Canadians get this great masterpiece; Americans get "I been workin' on the railroad, all the live-long day"
Roger from Mokena, IlPerhaps the "greatest train song ever written", said the late Johnnie Cash. I agree.
In Gary Numan's "Cars," the message is that cars lead to a mechanical society devoid of personal interaction. This didn't stop automakers from using it in commercials. Both Nissan and Oldsmobile have used it in ads.
A key line in "Africa" is "I seek to cure what's deep inside, frightened of this thing that I've become," which is about drifting away from what you really want in life. Toto keyboard player David Paich, who wrote the song, felt his work was consuming him.