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*2.20-THREE KING FISHERS (Donovan)

Donovan

LISTEN

Twelve king fisher birds shall you have.
Dive and swim in the ripples of your laugh.

        Oh, I dreamed you were a jewel
        Sitting on a golden crown on my head.
        My head (2x)

Look at the tiny oceans in my hand.
Waves of liquid colors touch the sand.

        [Chorus]

[Coda]


Half of Three King Fishers is the coda, one of the longest sitar solos in the history of classic era psychedelic music, and certainly one of the best. The sitar spins along continually varying improvisations while an acoustic guitar playing the bass creates a repetitive song structure behind it. Donovan's chorus melody in particular is a good fit for a folk sitar to work with (though the last choral line sighs away with the repetition of "my head"). Shawn Phillips has put in a lovely appearance here, conjuring up Persian harems. And Donovan's lyrics sustain the vision of Arabic poetry, the prideful prince wooing his beloved. The prince holds an ocean of liquid colors in his hand, the world dissolved, and is offering to share it. The dissolving of laughter into an ocean that can both become something king fishers dive into and a crown jewel is pretty. However I find the title Three King Fishers to be bothersome, since the difference in number with the actual lyric does not suggest anything to me, and the making of "fisher" into a plural in the title jars me as well, turning them into royal fishermen rather than birds.

It may or may not be relevant to the enjoyment of this song, but given Donovan’s penchant for medieval tales and Arthurian legends, I think it appropriate to mention that the poet may be wishing to evoke the Fisher King. In Arthurian legends (especially Parsifal), the King Fisher possesses the Holy Grail but has been struck with a wound to his groin that will not heal. Thus he symbolizes impotence, an inability to provide for the next generation though he holds a great position of power. Though admittedly, Donovan specifies he’s singing of birds here, the Arthurian legend lends to the lyric a tinge of tragic yearning.

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