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.
A very long time ago, I emerged blinking from a failed marriage and reconnected with the London folk scene, where I got to know (among many others) the astonishing poet and guitarist David Russell. Almost as long ago I did quite a few benefit gigs for the Survivors’ Poetry group, allied with the Campaign Against Psychiatric Oppression, and contributed a couple of poems to two anthologies published by Survivors’ Press.
More recently, having dipped several toes into the Cornish poetry scene, I wondered what had happened to the group and to the Survivors’ Press. As far as I can tell, the Press isn’t doing anything these days. Sadly, quite a few of the people I knew from that time (Frank Bangay, Razz, Peter Campbell…) have died, but the group is still putting on regular poetry events. In fact, there’s one tomorrow night (29th December 2022) on Zoom, featuring Wendy Young, Jackie Juno, and the same “all-round experimentalist” Dave Russell. That sounds well worth checking out anyway, but I’m rather pleased to have reconnected with Dave, who has sent me a couple of YouTube links that you may find interesting:
For the January-April edition, I’m standing in for Nigel Morson, who has done an excellent job keeping the Kernow/Cornwall column going since the death of the much-missed Mike Walford. It was rather a last-minute substitution, so the deadline for that edition has already passed, I’m afraid. (Hit the post, as it were…)
It’s not certain yet that I’ll be doing the column for the next edition (May-August) – after all, I’ve already retired from FolkLife once (I was the Shropshire correspondent), and I’m already doing some editing for the magazine. But if you care to send me any information on events in Cornwall for the May edition (via the Contact Form linked above), I’ll do my best to ensure that it reaches the editor if I’m not already drafting the column. (Actually, I’ll be drafting the column over the whole four months before the deadline, which is 20th March.
Do check out the links above, though: through me is not the only way (let alone the most efficient) to get news to the magazine!
I’ve never been to the Wadebridge Folk Club, as I wouldn’t be able to get back from Wadebridge by public transport afterwards. However, I know lots of people will be glad to know that the club, having been unable to run during lockdown and subsequently without a venue, is now due to reopen at a new venue: specifically, the Barn at Pentireglaze Cafe, which is down a right turn (Brown signposted) off the New Polzeath Road @ PL27 6QY.
The first meeting will be on Thursday 19th Jan at 7pm. Neal Jolly tells us that there will be hot drinks available. I’m not sure if there’ll be alcohol: Neal will be checking on that. He says that “The barn also has a log burner, chairs, tables etc and a sofa (First come first settled!)”
There will be a cost (£5) to cover the hire of the building and to build a fund to be able to pay for the occasional guest performer.
While the slide player on the poster looks to be playing something like a Telecaster, the event will be purely acoustic “to encourage a listening audience, and yet offering a sort of stagey area, rather than a sing around. ”
“Spoken word performance will be very much welcome as well as singing and playing.”