Styx: Come Sail Away – Lyrics analysis – Angels, Holy Souls, Purgatory, Heaven

don bosco dream barque of peter

So, I’m a Catholic priest, and now, in 2020, 60 years old. When I was a senior in High School, 1978, Come Sail Away! by Styx was my favorite song. In analyzing the lyrics, I’m surely guilty of reading my own perspective into it all. Come along for the ride, or better: Come Sail Away! [My comments.]

I’m sailing away [Sorry, but I’m so very much wanting to go to heaven that this sailing away” thing instantly refers to death as described in the Funeral Preface: “Life is changed, not ended.]
Set an open course for the Virgin Sea [Because we’ve never been to that “Virgin Sea.” You recall in Luke 5:4 that Jesus commanded: “Duc in altum!” which we translate as: “Set out into the deep!”  But “in altum” refers to “into the heights” as opposed to “de profundis…” “out of the depths.” One of our fresh water lakes in the north woods of Minnesota – 120 feet deep at that point – was entirely clear as the air, so that one could easily see, in detail, the landscape, if you will, at the bottom of the lake. That would be like hovering over the edge of the roof of a short skyscraper. Fishermen on the freshwater sea of Galilee would have this experience of being in the skies over the depths, neither of which guarantees any earthly security. Even if we’re entirely with our Lord as His little flock, it’s still all very new to us going to the other side, as it were.]
‘Cause I’ve got to be free [Indeed. We have do not have the freedom not to be free of this world. We will die. We will move on. But there is more to this. In 1 Peter 2:24 we are told that to be free from sin we might live for righteousness. Saint Paul says that a dead person is absolved from sin (see Romans 6:6), you know, “‘Cause I’ve got to be free.”]
Free to face the life that’s ahead of me [Free for life. So, we’re headed in the right direction here, up to heaven, but there might be purgatory, right? We shall see. We can’t judge ourselves on such matters. We’ll see what the Lord has to say about this. But we must have the hope that we are facing life, and embrace that freely: “Free to face.”]
On board, I’m the captain [Speaking to the angels here. Our angel guardians enlighten us, guard us, rule us, guide us. Yes. But we have free will to assent to this, or not. We’re the captains in this most basic sense. If we follow the Lord we do so by grace, but He also uses our free will.]
So climb aboard
We’ll search for tomorrow
On every shore. And I’ll try – Oh Lord! I’ll try – to carry on [Speaking to the angels as he’s dying, as his entire life is flashing before his eyes. Is there any hope possible for the shores of his life? Do any growth in God’s love accompany him now? Many, many of even the greatest of saints were afflicted at the moment of death, Satan trying to make them despair, accusing them. But they cut through the mind games of Satan with the love of God, not their fallen-nothing-love for God, but God’s very love within them by grace.]
I look to the sea [this very moment of death, launching out into the depths, the heights.]
Reflections in the waves spark my memory [Do we sink like Peter upon the waves? Do we allow Jesus to catch us? See Matthew 14:30-31.]
Some happy some sad [So nostalgic! I’ve been nostalgic since I was a little, little kid. This is like an extended examination of conscience…]
I think of childhood friends and the dreams we had [Yep. All that.]
We live happily forever
So the story goes [How naive we all were!]
But somehow we missed out [By saving grace…]
On that pot of gold [bypassing the “treasures” of this world so that our souls are purified like gold in fire. And this is a statement of hope. This fellow is all about what lies ahead with real life. I love that.]
But we’ll try best that we can
To carry on [The hope that comes with God’s love would have us do this as we move from this life to the next.]

A gathering of angels appeared above my head [So, right at the moment of death…]
They sang to me this song of hope, and this is what they said [“A song of hope”. I love that. The angels have helped us through life, but….]
They said come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me now
Come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me

Come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me now
Come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me

I thought that they were angels, but to my surprise [Not angels! It’s the souls in Purgatory who by our prayers were freed and went on their way to heaven, eagerly awaiting the moment, as Jesus says, to welcome us into the eternal habitations, into heaven. We would think they are angels at first glance because the saints in heaven reflect the very glory of God.]
We climbed aboard their starship [the Holy Spirit], we headed for the skies [Duc in altum! This is a meditation which brings me great joy and great peace… and joy! We’re on our way to heaven!]
Singing come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me now
Come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me

Come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away, come sail away


So, say a prayer for the souls in purgatory. They will be the ones to greet you on the other side and welcome you into the eternal habitations. Hail Mary

8 Comments

Filed under Angels, Death, Song analysis

8 responses to “Styx: Come Sail Away – Lyrics analysis – Angels, Holy Souls, Purgatory, Heaven

  1. nancyv

    Tears of Joy! Thank you Father! I will pray (& sing) for the holy souls in Purgatory.

  2. Frances

    Beautiful

  3. Anne Maliborski

    Love this, Father — I bet Dennis DeYoung (and the holy angels in Purgatory) would agree with you. I played in the orchestras for Dennis’s concerts when he was on tour in Wisconsin and Illinois. “Come Sail Away” was of course, always the FINAL song. (Finale, like as in our lives on this earth!) The little electronic interlude before the band goes nuts prior to the “I thought that they were angels” part, was changed in the full orchestra version with the french horn section playing it in unison! Sweet! I’ll never forget those blessed moments.

  4. Renee Maines

    I’m the same age as you and I’ve always loved this song. Can’t wait until I can sail away too!

  5. Joisy Goil

    How naive we were… Indeed! I know I was. As I get older and see so many things that I would never in my wildest nightmares image could happen, I see that we were very naive. We should be grateful for that.

    We owe so much to the grownups (our parents, teachers, priests, grandparents, etc.) who helped us preserve our innocence for so long. How blessed we were.

    As we pray for those in purgatory let us not forget the human guardian angels who protected us. May they all rest i peace.

  6. Sandra Dent

    Another of your cohort Padre, I know of several folks that were inspired to join the Navy, because of that song. I did so enjoy reading your observations and commentary on the lyrics.

  7. sanfelipe007

    Thank you, Father! I always noticed this song in the background when it was on the airwaves, but chose to ignore it, tuning it out countless times, since I was listening “only” to classical music. Including this very moment, I have never listened to the entire song at all. So I have that first experience to, uh, experience.

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