Saturday, April 20, 2013

Songs of Renown: Mark Knopfler Kingdom of Gold

The song Kingdom of Gold appears on Mark Knopfler's seventh solo album, the double CD set titled Privateering (released in 2012).

Knopfler's song is in the great tradition of a Celtic ballad; the beauty of the melody and Celtic instrumentation is contrasted with the violence and destruction portrayed in the lyrics.

Despite its haunting Celtic acoustic instrumentation- guitar, fiddle, pipe, drone, accordion, and whistle- Kingdom of Gold is a searing indictment of the masters of corporate capitalism.

Knopfler calls them 'the high priests of money, the 'gods of the bought and sold' and 'the turbulent raiders' who in the name of profit and power plunder and destroy from their towers on high.

Knopfler's lyrics use the analogy of the weaponry of earlier times- packs of dogs and ravens, axes, arrows, looting and burning camps- to evoke the terror and devastation wreaked by these lords of corporate capitalism. As Knopfler sees it these 'gods of the bought and sold' deploy new symbols, new weaponry- what he calls 'ribbons of numbers, circle and spin on their mystical scroll'.

But the destruction they leave in their wake is the central narrative that underpins Knopfler's remarkable song, which for me is the best track on what is arguably his best solo album.


Kingdom of Gold
By Mark Knopfler

The high priest of money looks down on the river
The dawn coming up on his kingdom of gold
When the rim of the sun sends an arrow of silver
He prays to the gods of the bought and the sold

He turns to his symbols, his ribbons of numbers
They circle and spin on their mystical scroll
He looks for a sign while the city still slumbers
And the ribbons and the river forever unroll


In his kingdom of gold, his kingdom of gold
Kingdom of gold, his kingdom of gold
Kingdom of gold


On the horizon an enemy haven
Sends traces of smoke high up into the sky
A pack of dog jackals and a rabble of ravens
Who'll come for his fortress, his castle on high


In his kingdom of gold, kingdom of gold
Kingdom of gold, his kingdom of gold
Kingdom of gold

His axes and armour will conquer these devils

The turbulent raiders will falter and fall
Their leaders be taken, their camps burned and levelled
They'll hang in the wind from his citadel walls
In his kingdom of gold, kingdom of gold
Kingdom of gold, kingdom of gold
Kingdom of gold

4 comments:

Grown said...

To me this song is clearly about 9/11, the arrow of silver represents the planes, the ribbons of numbers is a reference to wall street, and the castle in highs stands for the WTC

Peter Bezemek said...

Your interpretation of the song's lyrics does not make sense, please read them more carefully. "High priest of money" PRAYS to the " gods of the bought and the sold", but HE is attacked by the enemy "Who'll come for his fortress, his castle on high", but he destroys them "The turbulent raiders will falter and fall
Their leaders be taken, their camps burned and levelled
They'll hang in the wind from his citadel walls".

Grown said...

His fortress could be "the twin toweers"; the traces of smoke high up in the sky makes sense when you think about 9/11

Anonymous said...

But why tho? I know Knopfler has written some great songs about American phenomenas and events even though he is British himself, but I find it very unlikely he would write about 9/11. His songs are mostly and quite uniquely tales or metaphores of something not so popular or widely discussed. 9/11 would be a pretty dull subject for British songwriter as it is very discussed matter already. So is capitalism of course but it's much more universal subject and I find that in this song the point is the combination of something universal and something very spesific, traditional Celtic elements.