This is essentially the version released on Cold Iron, but with a little trimming and remastering. I may use it for the refurbished and expanded Tears of Morning album that will accompany the book, rather than the older non-Nashville version.
The guitar is my Baby Taylor, Nashville-strung and tuned to the Nashville version of DADGAD.
When M’Lord returned to his sheets of silk
And his gentle lady of musk and milk
The minstrels sang in the gallery
Their songs of slaughter and chivalry
The rafters roared with laughter and boasting
Beakers were raised and drained in toasting
The heroes of Crécy and Azincourt
Or the madness of some holy war
The hawk is at rest on the gauntlet once more
Savage of eye, and bloody of claw
Famine and fever are all the yield
Of the burnt-out barns and wasted fields
The sun grins coldly through the trees
The children shiver, the widows grieve
And beg their bread at the monastery door
Tell me then: who won the war?
I’ve taken a couple of passes at this setting of a Housman poem (from Last Poems). After I posted a version on one of my blogs, I came across an alternative version I’d forgotten. I didn’t like the vocal much (I never do, but I particularly didn’t like this one), but I did like the synth and guitars, so I did a little splicing and remixing (or is that slicing and dicing?). Coming back to it for a book and album project, I did some more radical slicing and dicing, and I like it much better now.
To be honest, I’m not altogether sure I feel positively about the poem, still less the ‘war to end all wars’, but the poem does have a certain power, without the naked imperialism of Kipling at his worst.
This 1917 poem refers to the British Expeditionary Force, which German propagandists referred to as ‘mercenaries’ because at the outbreak of war, Britain’s army consisted of professional soldiers rather than conscripts or the later volunteers of ‘Kitchener’s Army‘. The BEF was practically wiped out by 1916.
A poem by Hugh MacDiarmid, ‘Another Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries’ takes a very different view, regarding the BEF as “professional murderers”. I’m not sure how I feel about that one, either. Armies may commit atrocities, but its governments that set the context.
These, in the day when heaven was falling,
The hour when earth’s foundations fled,
Followed their mercenary calling,
And took their wages, and are dead.
Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
They stood, and earth’s foundations stay;
What God abandoned, these defended,
And saved the sum of things for pay.
The unbelievably talented and hardworking Sarah McQuaid is about to go on tour again, though her first gig is nearby at the Acorn Theatre, Penzance (20th January). After a number of gigs in the UK and Ireland, she heads off for some gigs in the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark.
Information from John Tremaine, editor of Folk In Cornwall:
There will be a session at Lostwithiel Social Club, Fore Street, PL22 0BL on Friday 13th January from 8pm – this session is now scheduled regularly for the 2nd Friday in each month.
A new session has been organised at the New Inn, Tywardreath (PL24 2QP) for next Sunday the 15th January from about 7pm. This will be a “Slow and Easy” type tunes session. If successful it is hoped to run every 2 weeks.