Part of this popped up as a poem on social media this morning. (I expect it often does, but I just happened to notice it on Facebook.)
I often think I ought to learn it, but I probably won’t, for all the reasons described in the song/poem, not to mention an increasingly unreliable memory. Anyway, this is a version performed by the Weavers at Carnegie Hall during a reunion concert (probably in 1980).
And here’s a thread on Mudcat about the origins of the poem, set to music by Pete Seeger, who used these lines as a chorus:
How do I know my youth is all spent?
My get up and go has got up and went
But in spite of it all, I’m able to grin
And think of the places my get up has been.
The thread includes a couple of versions of the poem/lyric. According to a poster to that thread, it was written by Homer A. Shiveley in the 1930s and published in the local newspaper in West Union, Ohio.
Alas, my get up and go seems to want to go several times a night…
However, this is rather more country than country blues.
A trace of your scent still lingers on my pillow
And raises echoes in my memory
And I believe you’re missing me almost as much as I miss you
But I wish to God that you were here with me
The sun will surely rise on another soft blue morning
And lying in your arms is where I’ll be
With sweet dreams still in my eyes, I’ll wake and kiss your hair
But it’s a long cold night while you’re not here with me
This guitar once played for keeps, but since you changed my life
This guitar just plays for you, if that’s OK?
This guitar rang bells for losers, but there’ll be no more songs of losing
Though this guitar just plays the blues while you’re away
I suppose it’s appropriate to go back to this given the part of the country I now live in. 🙂
A setting of the poem by Rudyard Kipling. I have in mind a guitar accompaniment I’m not quite comfortable with yet, but this version is unaccompanied with some harmonies. The words and a few notes are available from this page. I believe Peter Bellamy used to sing a version set to ‘The White Cockade’, which I guess would readily lend itself to a more chorus-y version. In the 70s, I remember hearing a version to a different tune sung in Berkshire that used the second verse as a chorus.
Words by A.E. Housman, tune and arrangement by David Harley, 2015. All rights reserved.
One of my Housman settings. However, this one isn’t from A Shropshire Lad. Every so often, a tune just pops into my head and demands to be written. Strange how often that’s happened when reading Housman… I don’t own a lute (and haven’t tried to play one in decades), so I used my classic. I do love the lute, though I long ago gave up trying to play anything by Dowland.
Version with harmony vocal (demo for collaborative venture, but I might develop that.)
And an emastered version:
The poem was apparently written by a very young Housman (15) for a play, as a song to be sung by Lady Jane Grey while in prison awaiting execution. It somewhat resembles a lyric by Louisa McCartney Crawford (1790–1858) set to music by George Arthur Barker as part of a sequence of Songs of Mary Queen of Scots – The Captivity opens with the line ‘Breathe, breathe my Lute that melting strain My soul delights to hear’. Clearly there are parallels in the context of the two lyrics. There again, filtering thoughts about one’s l poems to or about one’s lute is almost de rigeur for poets: consider ‘My Lute Awake’ and ‘The Lover’s Lute cannot be blamed though it sing of his Lady’s Unkindness’ by Thomas Wyatt, and even ‘Thou Art My Lute’ by Paul Lawrence Dunbar. (However, I am not currently considering an ode to my Strat.)
Breathe, my lute, beneath my fingers
One regretful breath,
One lament for life that lingers
Round the doors of death.
For the frost has killed the rose,
And our summer dies in snows,
And our morning once for all
Gathers to the evenfall.
Hush, my lute, return to sleeping,
Sing no songs again.
For the reaper stays his reaping
On the darkened plain;
And the day has drained its cup,
And the twilight cometh up;
Song and sorrow all that are
Slumber at the even-star.
Tryout for something by Blind Lemon Jefferson (also known as ‘See that my grave is kept clean’) that I’ve known for decades (probably about five of them…) but never sung in public, that I remember. It started off as an instrumental version but… well, the voices made me do it.
Funny how slide seems to lend itself so well with songs about death.
Ironically enough, given its title, an instrumental version of a 19th century hymn. I’ve been playing it a lot since I started playing serious slide guitar again. When I play it live, I sometimes go into ‘Twelve Gates to the City’, but more often I go into something far less spiritual. 🙂 I should probably spend some more time on the recording – there’s more extraneous noise on this version than I like – but it’s going in the right direction.
The hymn has its own Wikipedia page, including the first published lyrics and the verse added by Doris Plenn and sung by Pete Seeger. In fact, I first heard it on Seeger’s I Can See a New Day album, a compilation of live recordings released in 1964. The music is credited to Robert Lowrey, as published in his ‘Bright Jewels for the Sunday School’, published in 1869, but the source of the original lyrics is uncertain. The lyrics (apart from Plenn’s) included in the Wikipedia page are apparently as published in the New York Observer in 1868 under the title Always Rejoicing and attributed to ‘Pauline T.’
A song I’ve been working on, one way or another, for nearly 40 years…
I’ve actually written this song three times, though the tune has survived every iteration. The first version of the words disappeared during the break up with an ex-girlfriend in the mid-70s, the second with my first ex-wife. I like to say that I have an ex-rated musical career.
Words & Music by David Harley: copyright 1975, all rights reserved.
I don’t want to hear that the show must go on
I know that the world keeps on turning
But how can you ask me to rise with the lark
With this pain in my heart still burning?
Let me lie easy, let me lie late
Let me lie low, let the world wait
Let me lie easy, let me lie lie late
Please let me sleep till it’s over
The sheep’s in the meadow, the cow’s in the corn
The dogs call in vain for their master
Just give me a while to untangle my threads
And Little Boy Blue will come after
The summer’s near gone and the year’s on the wane
The harvest stands ripened and wasting
Just give me an hour to unscramble my head
And I promise I’ll not keep you waiting