Ellis Island
by Michael Mark & Tom Chapin
1992 HCD Music & The Last Music Co. (ASCAP)

I took the little that I owned
And packed a worn valise
Left the Old World to the mercies
Of the secret police.
For seven months I worked my way
Until I came at last
To the seaport town where I finally turned
My back upon the past.

November's dark Atlantic seas
Turn rough and bitter cold.
Fourteen days across the water
I was sick down in the hold.
Then the word was passed
And out we tumbled
On deck, I strained to see
The great green lady of the harbor
Reaching up her hand to me.

I heard the anchor splash
And there we were,
So close, so far away
And all that night I watched the lights
Reflect in New York Bay.
The rich folk got off early
But they made the steerage wait
For the barge that finally took us
To the place called "America's Gate."
Ellis Island. I haven't come here
Looking for your Promised Land.
I don't believe your streets are paved with gold.
But I know there's work. I know there's land.
I know you need an able-bodied man.

Inside all was madness
In that crowded Great Stone Hall.
When I reached the desk I was trembling,
A uniform was all I saw.
"Do you have money?
Is your family here?
And are they residents?
Have you ever been involved
In the overthrow of a government?"

The questions came, I tried to answer,
"Yes. I think so. No."
I felt faint. I began to sweat.
My tongue felt thick and slow.
A doctor checks my skin, my eyes.
What else are they gonna do?
Then he stamps my papers and I think,
"My God! I made it through!"
Ellis Island. I haven't come here
Looking for your Promised Land.
I don't believe your streets are paved with gold.
But I know there's work. I know there's land.
I know you need an able-bodied man.

Took a ferry to New Jersey
And I stood there all alone
Amid the throngs of people
Heading places yet unknown.
Sixteen tracks all pointed west
And I will choose the one;
I'm 26 years old
And now my life has just begun.
Ellis Island. I haven't come here
Looking for your Promised Land.
I don't believe your streets are paved with gold.
But I know there's work. I know there's land.
I know you need an able-bodied man.


This song appears on Tom Chapin's So Nice To Come Home CD.

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