Note: Arkansas is a landlocked state and has no coast.
The ship is Bill Clinton.
The song boasts a gorgeously lilting melody which I would be happy to play at my funeral, but the real attraction is the lyrics, which tell the unlikely tale of a group of shipbuilders who construct a ship "the exact dimensions and the shape" of the titular state. While this scenario is taken to absurdly literal lengths (including a surreal verse where the ship itself sings), the final verse is what really intrigues me. This verse states that, despite the cumbersome dimensions of the ship, the actual state of Arkansas is engulfed by water and the narrator suggests that the nautical replica be its replacement. This strikes me as a fascinating metaphor for cloning; if we have the technology to clone somebody one day, can we simply replace the old human with the new one? Are we to assume that the ship only replicates the shape of Arkansas on a scale of 1:1, or does it also clone the landscaping and living things of the state? Similarly, if cloning becomes an option, will the cloned human retain the same intelligence and experience as the original? Or will it simply be a blank slate, in need of having to be taught even the simplest task? If clones do have this blank mental slate, isn't it possible that we can scientifically solve a lot of mysteries involving nature versus nurture, once that most unreliable of variables, the human mind, becomes controlled? And if the ship is shaped like Arkansas and fits right into the frame of the surrounding states, will it be accepted as the old state? Will there be discrimination against cloned humans, as South Park predicted? Thoughts such as these are why They Might Be Giants fans are stereotyped as having very few friends. - Charlie
Ship of State
I think this is almost certainly a punning nod to Longfellow's poem "O Ship of State":
Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!
Sail on, O UNION, strong and great!
Humanity with all its fears,
With all the hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate!
We know what Master laid thy keel,
What Workmen wrought thy ribs of steel,
Who made each mast, and sail, and rope,
What anvils rang, what hammers beat,
In what a forge and what a heat
Were shaped the anchors of thy hope!
Fear not each sudden sound and shock,
’T is of the wave and not the rock;
’T is but the flapping of the sail,
And not a rent made by the gale!
In spite of rock and tempest’s roar,
In spite of false lights on the shore,
Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea!
Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee,
Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears,
Our faith triumphant o’er our fears,
Are all with thee,—are all with thee!
Arkansas may also be an allusion to Noah's Ark.
-- Wm Jas
This stunningly beautiful song gives a whole new meaning to the term "ship-shape"! --MisterMe 21:17, 12 April 2012 (EDT)