Friday, August 20, 2010

"Ship Of Fools" by Robert Plant

Birthday wishes go out today to Robert Plant, founding member of Led Zeppelin and a successful recording artist in his own right; Ship of Fools originally appeared on his 1988 solo album Now and Zen, and was co-written with keyboard player Phil Johnstone.

The phrase 'ship of fools' is an ancient one which dates to at least the 1490s and is depicted both in a well-known German woodcut entitled Narrenschiff as well as a painting by Hieronymous Bosch, representing the relationship between Earth (the ship) and the humanity (or fools) piloting it. It would be just like Robert Plant to draw the inspiration for the song from such a source, as he's pretty deep that way.

Katherine Anne Porter's most famous novel*, published in 1962, bears the same name, and updates the allegory to the modern day, with an ocean liner bearing an international passenger list and the folly of World War II representing the eternal struggle humanity has had with self-destruction; the book was sold (reportedly for $400,000) and adapted by Abby Mann into a 1965 film, which was directed by Stanley Kramer and starred Vivien Leigh** at the head of an all-star cast.

*Also her only novel.
**In her last film role.
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