When the war came: Movement 6: Home.

This the shortest segment, as of course it would be. Again, the music here carries the emotion. And we get to know who the narrator is- for those of you who hadn’t already worked this out!

There is no more to say.

 

MOVEMENT SIX: HOME

SONG NINE: HOME

 SOLO : MARY

 

Please bring him back to me

Please bring him home.

 

Please bring him back to me

Please bring him home.

 

The train is on its way

Bringing back the men

So few of them..

 

The train is on its way

Bringing back the men

So few of them..

 

ALL GIRLS

 

Please bring him back to me

Please bring him home.

 

Please bring him back to me

Please bring him home.

 

The train is on its way

Bringing back the men

So few of them..

 

The train is on its way

Bringing back the men

So few of them..

 

SOLO : MARY

I see him climbing up the hill

 

ALL GIRLS

I see him climbing up the hill

 

SOLO: JOE

I see her standing on the hill

 

MARY

I see him break into a run

 

JOE

I see her break into a run

 

MARY

My Joe.

 

JOE

My Mary.

 

MARY AND JOE

You’re home/I’m home

 

NARRATOR

 

There were six of us in our village. Me and Fred and Billy, and their sisters, Dot and Phoebe. And my girl, Mary.

We all lived in our street, and played together in the back alley. Or out on the hills. Until the war came; and everything changed.

Dot came home. I came home to Mary.

We buried Phoebe here, in the churchyard. Fred and Billy .. well, we don’t know where they are but we put up a cross in the village square with their names, and Phoebe’s, on it.

There are crosses like that, with their own Freds, and Billies and Phoebes, soldiers, and nurses, and labourers, and drivers, and vets, and mechanics, and cooks- all sorts ..in towns and villages all over England.

And Scotland

And Ireland

And Wales

And France

And Italy

And Germany

And Belgium,

And Poland

And Portugal

And Greece

And Serbia

And Romania,

And Montenegro

And Bulgaria

And Austria-Hungary

And the Ottoman (Turkey) Empire

And Russia

And Canada

And the United States

And Cuba

And Panama

And Bolivia

And Peru

And Brazil

And Uruguay

And Ecuador

And Guatemala

And Nicaragua

And Costa Rica

And Haiti

And Honduras

And Australia

And New Zealand

And India

And South Africa

And Liberia

And Rhodesia

And German East Africa,

And German South-West Africa,

And Togoland

And Cameroon

And Japan

And Siam

And China

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When the War Came: Movement 5: War

What is completely missing in this segment, really, is the fighting. I simply couldn’t find a way to describe it. I wrote a poem about the mud, but we decided not to use it as a song: just too grim. Thousands of troops died choking in it.

It was always muddy

on the farm –

We used to squelch and slip and laugh

across the farm.

The dog would wag his tail in glee

and send mud

flying over me..

But this mud gets inside your teeth

sticks in your hair

is everywhere..

It sucks your boots from off your feet

it sucks the heart right out of you

If you don’t watch

your step

across the boards

and fall

it will suck your life

and all..

 

Instead, I stuck to my original idea, and wrote about how it felt to them; just a glimpse of how they experienced it.. The music in this bit is brilliant. The whole tone becomes terrifying and desolate.

I used the refrain of Mum, partly because I was still thinking of them as children; and partly because I know from all the research I did that when people are in agony or dying it is their mother they call for.

MOVEMENT FOUR: WAR

 

NARRATOR

 

Then, at last, the real war started. – for the girls waiting in the dressing stations down the line.

…and the boys sweating in the trenches

 

SONG SEVEN: THE SILENCE

ALL GIRLS

 

We stood there in the silence

Beside the smooth white beds

While the guns roared in the distance

And the shells screamed overhead

 

We stood there in the silence

Beside the smooth white beds

While the guns roared in the distance

And the shells screamed overhead

 

We stood there in the silence

Beside the smooth white beds

While the guns roared in the distance

And the shells screamed overhead

 

We stood there in the silence

Beside the smooth white beds

While the guns roared in the distance

And the shells screamed overhead

 

 

And then they started coming

All the blood and pain and dying

All the muddy sheets and crying

And we couldn’t really help them

Very much..

 

Just comfort them with

Words and eyes and touch ..

 

Just comfort them with

Words and eyes and touch ..

 

It wasn’t what we thought that

It would be, Mum.

 

It wasn’t what we thought that it would be.

 

It wasn’t what we thought that

It would be, Mum.

 

It wasn’t what we thought that it would be.

 

NARRATOR

 

It wasn’t what we thought that it would be, either. Mud and smoke and running; bullets stinging past you in the din …I never shot my rifle in the end. I was too scared to do anything but run, blind.

 

SONG EIGHT: BILLY’S GONE

 

ALL BOYS

Mum..

Mum…

Mum…

 

Billy’s gone,

Billy’s gone, mum.

 

Mum..

Mum…

Mum…

 

Billy’s gone,

Billy’s gone, mum.

 

And I can’t find Fred…

 

 

Mum..

Mum…

Mum…

 

Billy’s gone,

Billy’s gone, mum.

 

Mum..

Mum…

Mum…

 

Billy’s gone,

Billy’s gone, mum.

 

And I can’t find Fred…

 

 

And Dot and Phoebe

How do we know

Where they are,

Mum?

Where they are, Mum..

 

Mum..

Mum…

Mum…

 

Billy’s gone,

Billy’s gone, Mum.

And I can’t find Fred…

 

 

And Dot and Phoebe

How do we know

Where they are,

Mum?

Where they are,

Mum?

 

 

I can’t see anyone..

I can’t see anything..

 

Mum..

Mum..

Mum..

 

NARRATOR

 

And on it went for months and months and then years and years…

The first Christmas, we had a football match with the Jerries across the trenches.. We sang carols, gave each other presents.. For a bit, everything felt all right.

But after that, just cold and dirty and lonely and missing friends. And homesick. Not scared, really, except for moments in the fighting     . Just lasting till the next cigarette, and wishing for home. The worse thing was still the mud. We hated the mud more than anything.

 

SONG EIGHT : THERE’S A LONG, LONG TRAIL A’WINDING: (Stoddard King and Alonzo Elliott: 1914)

 

BOYS AND GIRLS

 

There’s a long, long trail a-winding

into the land of my dreams,

where the nightingales are singing

and a white moon beams:

 

There’s a long, long night of waiting

until my dreams all come true;

till the day when I’ll be going down

that long , long trail with you.

 

There’s a long, long trail a-winding

into the land of my dreams,

where the nightingales are singing

and a white moon beams:

 

There’s a long, long night of waiting

until my dreams all come true;

till the day when I’ll be going down

that long , long trail with you.

 

When the War came: Movement 4: Dispatches

There had to be a movement for letters home. Those heartbreaking letters from the line , often by people who had never written them before; from some who couldn’t write and had to dictate them. They used the stock phrases that were seen to be the polite way to write; they were heavily censored if they said anything real about where they were or what they were doing, and in any case, they were writing to family and loved ones at home who they didn’t want to worry.

At first the training in the camps and the good regular food and the fun of being all together to lads who had been used to long hours of work must have been relatively easy to be jaunty about; everything changed of course when they arrived in the trenches themselves and began to get a sense of the true nature of the nightmare they found themselves in.  It was in any case so far removed from any experience anyone at home would have had there were no words to express the truth.

The girls were trained as nurses with rigid discipline. And when they were moved, they were not always in dressing stations behind the lines; many of them were very close to the fighting. Their work was far from angelic: dirty, exhausting and very dangerous. Many of them died, as the men did, from the shelling; they also died, as the men did, from infections caught from their patients.

I tried to express the disjunct between what they said and how they increasingly felt by interspersing the letters they actually sent home with the other refrain – beginning ‘I’m thinking of you’, which expressed how they really felt under the bravado; but could not write.

They were so young. If your had your parents’ permission, you could sign up at 16; many, many lads lied about their age and went at 14, 15.

 

MOVEMENT FOUR: DISPATCHES

 

NARRATOR

 

It was all so exciting! First everything – first time on a train, first time on a ship, first time abroad- new people, new work.. new hills and trees and valleys.. new food, new words..

And all of us had our best friends to share it with – our pals, all together in the same regiment. All together against the foe.

So much to write home about.. but .. no Mum to wrap you up in red flannel if you caught a cold.. no little sister on your knee.. no sweetheart to walk out with.. no way to talk about being scared, or homesick.. in any case, that wouldn’t be what your Mum and Dad at home would want to hear..

 

 

 

SONG FIVE: DISPATCHES

 

BOYS AND GIRLS

 

I’m thinking of you

Every day.

It seems so odd

That you should be

So far away.

 

I hope

We’ll all come home

One day

It seems so odd

That we should be

So far away..

Far away

 

ALL BOYS

 

All very well here.

Bright and hot and sunny.

I can stick a bayonet

In a scarecrow dummy

I can strip a rifle down

Quick as shoot a bunny!

 

What a lark! What a lark! What a lark!

Thank you for the honey!

 

 

We are doing very well.

All the lads are happy

Drilling in the lovely sun

Getting really savvy

I am getting very strong

Learned to dig a lavvy!

 

What a lark! What a lark! What a lark!

Give my love to granny!

 

Boys and girls

 

I’m thinking of you

Every day.

It seems so odd

That you should be

So far away.

 

I hope

We’ll all come home

One day

It seems so odd

That we should be

So far away..

Far away

 

 

NARRATOR

 

The girls were learning too -they were dealing with a terror greater than they had ever known: Matron.

 

ALL GIRLS

 

Training here is very hard

Very scared of Matron

If your cap is crooked or

You haven’t ironed your apron

She will fry you with her eye

Until you’ve got it straightened

 

What a lark! What a lark! What a lark!

Thank you for the bacon!

 

NARRATOR

 

But then we moved to the front.. And things were different.. The letters still kept coming, but it was getting harder and harder to be cheerful… Joe and Mary wrote to each other, and said as much as they could-

 

Dearest Mary, I hope the cow is well now and your mother’s tooth is better. I keep seeing you on the hill where we always used to walk. I wish I was there with you..always, Your Joe.

 

and she replied:

 

My dearest Joe, I hope this finds you in the pink as it leaves me…The cow is better, thank you. And my mother’s tooth is out. I’m not much one for writing, dearest Joe. But I’ll be waiting for you on the hill, just like I promised. I’ll always wait for you, my dearest Joe. Your Mary.

 

 

BOYS AND GIRLS

 

I’m thinking of you

Every day.

It seems so odd

That you should be

So far away.

 

I hope

We’ll all come home

One day

It seems so odd

That we should be

So far away..

Far away

 

BOY SOLO

I’m sorry that

My writing

Is

So shaky

 

The paper’s always

Wet here

In

The trenches

 

I’m sorry that

My writing

Is

So shaky

 

The paper’s always

Wet here

In

The trenches

 

My pencil goes

Right through it

 

My pencil goes

Right through it

 

The noise is

Fairly loud here

 

The noise is

Fairly loud here

 

But I am

Very well

And

Keeping cheerful

 

But I am

Very well

And

Keeping cheerful

 

 

I’m sorry that

My writing

Is

So shaky

 

In the trenches..

In the trenches..

In the trenches..

 

When the War came.. Movement 3: Going to War

This is self-explanatory really. I wanted to capture the apprehension and fear and excitement which might have swept the village after war was declared; the rumours and the propaganda and the real fears; the u-boats were lurking around small ports… although not as far as I know to kidnap villagers..

.. and then I wanted to express how the romantic idea of war which persisted from their childhood fed into all this, together with the prospect of leaving home and having a real adventure; and finally I wanted to use the authentic songs of the time to show this little group of teenagers getting caught up in a nationwide frenzy of patriotism – but I have used the soldiers’ own satirical songs to temper this with the innate shrewd scepticism of the troops.

Shades of O What a Lovely War are inevitable here – the show that brought Jools and I together as collaborators in the first place. I love this music; Jools has had great fun with it and the kids will love singing it and the orchestra will love playing it and hopefully the audience will love listening to it. Things get much sadder quite fast after this, so we need a bit of a knees up at this point!

 

MOVEMENT THREE: GOING TO WAR

 

SONG THREE: WE MIGHT GO TO WAR!

BOYS AND GIRLS

 

Have you heard what they are saying?

Have you heard what they are saying?

Billy’s brother says that we might go to war!

 

And our Mam is looking worried

And our Dad is working, working

Day and night

To get the hay in..

Have you heard what they are saying?

 

Have you heard what they are saying?

Heard what everybody’s saying?

We might go to war.

 

They’ll be u-boats

In the harbour

And they’ll come ashore

In moonlight

And they’ll

Kidnap us

And kill us

‘Cause it’s war

 

Doreen says

Her hubby’s

Going –

Says he wants

To save

The country..

Milly says

The country’s

Saving him from her!

 

Have you heard what they are saying?

Have you heard what they are saying?

 

We’ll all starve

Because the army

Needs the harvest

For the soldiers…

No more cream

Or bread

Or butter..

‘Cause it’s war

 

The Germans

Just aren’t like us

They’ve got horns

And spikes

And helmets

And they growl

Instead of speaking

And they roar!

 

Have you heard what they are saying?

Have you heard what they are saying?

 

Joe’s Dad

has lost his horses

They said

they had to have them..

To pull

the guns in Flanders…

Poor Bess and Daisy May..

They are sending them to War!

 

Have you heard what they are saying?

Have you heard what they are saying?

 

Billy’s brother says that we might go to war!

 

And our Mam is looking worried

And our Dad is working, working

Day and night

To get the hay in..

Have you heard what they are saying?

 

Have you heard what they are saying?

Heard what everybody’s saying?

We might go to war.

 

 

NARRATOR

 

And then suddenly, it was more than saying. It was real. To us lads, it all sounded wonderful.

The girls weren’t so sure. But Dot and Phoebe decided that if we were going, they were going too.. neither of them fancied ambulance driving, so they both signed up as nurses. They liked the uniforms, and it was more glamorous and romantic. Their mums were happy, because they thought they’d be safe from the fighting, away back from the line.

Mary couldn’t come. Her mother was old and frail, and if she left, there was no-one to work the farm, with all the men gone. And no horses. It wouldn’t be right.

As Joe joined the line to sign up, for the first time, she wasn’t lining up behind him. Her face was white as she waved him goodbye.

But.. no one could be sad for long.. We were bubbling with excitement. A real war! And we were going to be in the thick of it!

 

SONG FOUR: WE’RE GOING TO WAR!      

ALL BOYS

 

We’re going to war! We’re going to war!

The army’s here and their drums are loud!

They march and march and they shake the ground!

Pound! Pound! Pound! Pound!

Everyone running to hear the sound!

 

We really are going to war!

 

We’re going to war! We’re going to war!

The army’s here and their drums are loud!

They march and march and they shake the ground!

Pound! Pound! Pound! Pound!

Everyone running to hear the sound!

 

We really are going to war!

 

No more living with dad and mum!

No more slaving to earn a crumb!

Shoulder to shoulder and chum by chum!

We’re all marching behind the drum!

 

We really are going to war!

 

OH, OH, OH, IT’S A LOVELY WAR! (ANON)

SCHOOLS 1 AND 2:

 

 

Oh, oh, oh, it’s a lovely war,

Who wouldn’t be a soldier, eh ?

Oh, it’s a shame to take the pay;

As soon as reveille is gone,

We feel just as heavy as lead,

But we never get up till the sergeant

Brings us breakfast up to bed.

 

Oh, oh, oh, it’s a lovely war,

What do we want with eggs and ham,

When we’ve got plum and apple jam?

Form fours, right turn,

How shall we spend the money we earn?

Oh, oh, oh, it’s a lovely war,

 

SONG FOUR: WE’RE GOING TO WAR!  

ALL BOYS

 

Like the heroes of Greece and Rome!

Like the cowboys we play at home!

Me and my pals against the foe!

All together and none alone!

 

We really are going to war!

 

We sail tomorrow across the sea!

Billy, Tommy and Fred and me!

We’re going to fight every last jerry!

We’ll kill them all and be home for tea!

 

We really are going to war!

 

PACK UP YOUR TROUBLES (FELIX POWELL)

 

SCHOOLS 3 AND 4

 

Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag,

And smile, smile, smile,

While you’ve a lucifer to light your fag,

Smile, boys, that’s the style.

What’s the use of worrying?

It never was worth while, so

Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag,

And smile, smile, smile.

 

SONG FOUR: WE’RE GOING TO WAR!  

ALL BOYS

 

We’ll stick together and none will fall

When we march back we’ll be strong and tall

Our mums will cry and the girls will call

We’ll be the heroes who saved us all!

 

We really are going to war!

 

ALL GIRLS

 

We’ll wait to catch them in case they fall!

We’ll wrap them warmly in sheet and shawl!

We’ll hold their hands when they cry and call!

We’ll be the heroes who nursed them all!

 

We really are going to war!

 

GOODBYE-EE (R.P.WESTON AND BERT LEE)

SCHOOLS 5 AND 6

 

Goodbye-ee, goodbye-ee,

Wipe the tear, baby dear, from your eye-ee,

Tho’ it’s hard to part I know,

I’ll be tickled to death to go.

Don’t cry-ee, don’t sigh-ee,

There’s a silver lining in the sky-ee,

Bonsoir, old thing, cheer-i-o, chin, chin,

Nah-poo, toodle-oo, goodbye-ee.

 

 

When the war came: Movement 2: Work

I didn’t want to paint a picture of pre-war England as too idyllic; I’m sure life in a small village like this was pretty tough. So this is a tough song. I hope it is realistic. I like the little sister’s head bobbing up and down among the uncut corn as she brings lunch.

Jools has brilliantly set it to a very lively folk-song kind of rhythm which works really well, stops it being too melancholy, and  provides a lovely contrast to the tender nostalgia of  Long Ago.

SONG TWO: LONG AGO: WORK

 

NARRATOR

 

Life at the mill was hard. But the pay was enough. And us lads were all together. We still managed to have a bit of a laugh here and there.

 

ALL BOYS

 

The sky is dark.

The dawn is sharpening the wind

My feet are clumsy; stiff with sleep.

 

I am so tired.

 

Inside the mill

We shiver out of coats and scarves

We start our work; our fingers yawn.

 

We are so tired.

 

Will I be here

Pushing this handle in the gloom

Will I be here

Through all the summer days to come?

 

The sky is dark.

The dawn is sharpening the wind

My feet are clumsy; stiff with sleep.

 

I am so tired.

 

NARRATOR

 

At least the girls were outside, in the sunshine. But their work was unrelenting too. Especially that summer – so long, so hot..

 

 ALL GIRLS

 

The sun is up.

My back is bending in the heat

My fingers pull the stubborn husks.

 

I am so tired.

 

I stretch my arms.

Across the field my sister bobs

The pasty warm inside her hand.

 

We are so tired.

 

We work until we cannot see the corn

We work until our hands are torn

 

The sun is up.

My back is bending in the heat

My fingers pull the stubborn husks.

 

I am so tired.

Boys and girls

 

The day’s work never seems to end

We are so tired.

 

NARRATOR

 

We thought that things would go on like this for ever.. that nothing would ever change.. that there would be no more to our world.. no wide horizons.. no surprises. We might get married.. have kids.. buy a cottage one day.. But always here, in the same village.

 We were happy enough with that, but..

It’s hard, when you’re young, not to want a bit of change. A bit of adventure…

 But then it came.

 It wasn’t what we thought that it would be.

 

SONG ONE: (reprise) LONG AGO

 

BOYS AND GIRLS

 

I can remember how it was

The day we heard.

When we heard that change was coming

Coming right here to the village

Come to take us and to break us

Long ago.

When the War Came

I’ve decided to publish in this blog the full narration and lyrics of the song cycle we are in the process of writing for the Schools project at Bath Abbey, as a serial. It is a half-hour piece, performed on June 12th at Bath Abbey, sung by the children of 6 schools, I think, and accompanied by members of the Bristol Ensemble. The narrator – hoorah! – is Jon Monie. This will be its only performance. All are welcome if you are around.

I took this momentous decision which affects the lives of so many people – at least six, as far as I know – because I like this piece and I am proud of it as a lyricist. And a dear friend of mine told me off yesterday for always seeing what I do as second in importance to the music.

The poems are of course transformed by the music into something much more moving and beautiful than they are alone; but they do have merit in themselves.. and after all, they are the story.

Sometimes when you are working with a composer, lyrics combust into music almost immediately; sometimes he grumbles a lot, tries to make you throw it out, says he will try and do something with it – as if he knows all too well the nature of that which he is polishing – and then eventually, capitulates, and it works. Two of the best songs in this – the Trenches song in Dispatches, and the last song – only exist because I fought for them. I’m glad I did. It feels important to stand up for my own vision of a piece.

This was a difficult commission; to write a song cycle for small children about WW1.

We have been immersed in this subject – first for The Cool Web, then for Demon Lover, (which has a long flashback to WW1) and now for this – since 2013. It’s been a long war. However, I am reliably informed that it will be over by Christmas.

Two things which became gradually clear to me led me to this treatment.

First, the understanding that what matters to me in war is love. The love and grief of Graves for his lost friend David became the core of the Web; Demon lover became – for me- about the betrayal of love. The horror of the vast mincing machine of war is in itself  important only by virtue of the importance of that which it destroys. How it does it is not what engages me.

Second: children. Children will be singing this. I wanted it to be about them. I did not want it to be more than they could bear; but I wanted it to be honest. Some of these children who are singing may have themselves experienced war; but most of them will not.

And when that thought connected to what became clear to me in reading endless first hand descriptions of how wounded soldiers call not for their sweethearts but for their mothers.. I knew how to do it.

So I have told the story of six children from a small village in England who go to war.

When we played it through to our choirmaster and our narrator , with Jools singing it at the piano, and I saw them so close to tears, I realised that it works. Its heart is in the right place, which is what matters.

So: Here is the first Movement:

 

WHEN THE WAR CAME

 

A SONG CYCLE FOR CHILDREN

JOOLS SCOTT AND SUE CURTIS

MOVEMENT ONE: HOW IT WAS

NARRATOR

There were six of us in our village. Joe and Fred and Billy, and their sisters, Dot and Phoebe. And Joe’s girl, Mary. Mary was always Joe’s girl, right from when we could walk. He would be running, and she would be tottering along behind him, trying to catch up. 

We all lived in our street, and played together in the back alley. Or out on the hills. I don’t think our parents knew where we were half the time.

 Joe was the leader of the gang, always out ahead, urging the others on.

SONG ONE: LONG AGO: CHILDHOOD

ALL BOYS

I can remember how it was..

So long ago

 

I can remember how it was..

So long ago

 

How days were fun and long and busy

How the bath at home was grimy

How I always was so hungry

Long ago.

 

NARRATOR

 

Fred was more of a dreamer, a quiet lad.. A good friend though. You needed him, he was there.

 

FRED

 

I can remember how it was

So long ago..

 

I can remember how it was..

So long ago

 

We six were all there together

Walking happy on a Sunday

Kicking feet on the church railing

Long ago

 

 

NARRATOR

 

Billy was a go-getter. Even at that age, he had an eye for the girls.. And they for him.

 

BILLY

 

I can remember how it was

So long ago

 

I can remember how it was..

So long ago

 

We were cheeky, young and easy;

Mad, impatient to be living..

And the girls all pink and giggly..

Long ago.

 

NARRATOR

 

The girls were just ‘the girls’ to us. We spent most of the time trying to get away from them.

 

ALL GIRLS

 

 

I can remember how it was

So long ago.

 

I can remember how it was..

So long ago

 

The boys were all so naughty

Calling names and pulling pigtails,

Throwing stones and chasing, teasing..

Long ago.

Long ago

Long ago

 

NARRATOR

 

We all had a bit of schooling, when the harvest didn’t need us. Learned about Kings and Queens, and Famous Battles, and Cowboys and Indians, and the Knights of the Round Table, and the Fall of Troy. All very romantic and exciting, and good for games on the hills, but just in old books; not real..

 

ALL GIRLS

 

I can remember how it was

So long ago.

 

I can remember how it was..

So long ago..

 

We thought it would last forever

Thought that change would never shake us

Never come and take and break us

Long ago.

 

 

NARRATOR

 

But then we turned fourteen; school was over, freedom was over; we were grown-ups and we had to work for our families; life began in earnest. It was the mill for the lads, and farm work for the girls.. none of us fancied service – we didn’t want to go away to a big house where no-one knew us …

 

ALL GIRLS

 

I can remember how it was

So long ago.

 

I can remember how it was..

So long ago..

 

All those days out in the sunshine

Turned to work and dirt and growing

Turned us into men and women..

Long ago..

Long ago

Long ago

Long ago

Long ago …

 

 

 

Written on Water: The Lantern of the West

1499

After the Saxon Abbey was a distant memory, and the first great Norman cathedral, built on the same spot, had also fallen without trace, our own Abbey was created because of the most famous dream in the history of Bath; the dream that began the Abbey we have today, and displayed itself in the ladders on the front, where the Angels toil ever upwards towards heaven – and, sometimes, plunge downwards to earth.. Bath Abbey – The Lantern of the West..

The Lantern of the West

By night,

Across the valleys and the hills,

streams the light;

 

By day,

sun pours through windows,

painting stone

sapphire,  emerald and gold ..

 

The Lantern of the West.

 

Inside

music rises to Heaven

painting the air

sapphire, emerald and gold..

 

The Lantern of the West.

The Lantern of the West.

 

Outside,

Angels climb stone ladders.

Like music,

Reaching

up to the Father..

 

Father! Father!

 

The Lantern of the West.

The Lantern of the West.

The Lantern of the West.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written on Water: St. Peter’s Fair

One thing the monasteries gave Bath is often forgotten; St Peter’s fair in 1106, the first street celebration in Bath with jugglers, musicians, fire swallowers, mummers, tightrope artists, food, drink and toy stalls, and of course, tourists, who thronged the streets around the Abbey in noisy celebration…and still do…

1106

ST PETER’S FAIR SONG

Piercing the darkness of the narrow streets,

One by one,

Candles glow.

 

Damp cobbles feel the slap of leather feet

Two by two,

People go.

 

Tall shadows dance as the torches pass

Ten by ten

Crowds grow

In city squares..

 

Piercing the darkness of the narrow streets,

One by one,

Candles glow.

 

Damp cobbles feel the slap of leather feet

Two by two,

People go.

 

Tall shadows dance as the torches pass

Ten by ten

Crowds grow

In city squares..

 

St Peter’s Fair is here!

The high time of the year!

St Peter’s Fair is here!

The high time of the year!

 

(Jugglers)

 

Catch the song I throw

High in the sky!

Catch the song I throw

Fly, song, fly!

 

(Musicians)

 

Dance to my fiddle!

Hop to my drum!

Leap to the high flute!

Come, gallants, come!

 

(Fire swallowers)

Fire! Fire!

Watch me drink it!

Fire! Fire!

Watch me sink it!

 

(Mummers)

See the King with crown and scarlet!

See the Lady faint in white!

See the villain slink and snigger!

See the Spring and Winter fight!    

 

St Peter’s Fair is here!

The high time of the year!

St Peter’s Fair is here!

The high time of the year!

 

(Tightrope artists)

Here I am!

Above your head!

See me dance!

On a thread!

 

Here I am!

Above your head!

See me dance!

On a thread!

 

(Food and Drink)                                                                 

Come buy, come buy,

Sizzling sausages! Steaming hot pies!

Come buy! Come buy!

 

Come buy, come buy,

Sizzling sausages! Steaming hot pies!

Come buy! Come buy!

 

 

 

Written on Water: The Monk’s Song

I have posted an earlier version of this before, but here is the finished one – not much changed, as I recall, in its proper place.

For most of the Middle Ages, monastic life of one kind or another flourished here, as the monks provided spiritual and physical comfort to the people of Bath. The hot springs were central to this care, being used by the monks both spiritually, in baptism, and medically, to alleviate pain and soothe suffering.

But, as time flowed on the monasteries fell into ruin both physical and spiritual, as did the monks.. and with their fall, one of the favourite villains of mediaeval literature makes his appearance..

MONKS’ SONG

I am a jolly monk,

And I live in a monastery,

I have a fine belly,

I live a fine life,

And no one is holier than me!

 

I eat the fattest meat

and I drink all the reddest wine

While out in the street

They have nothing to eat

And no-one is holier than me!

 

I sleep in a feather bed

And I sit by a roaring fire

While the children freeze

In the icy breeze

And no-one is holier than me!

 

I am a jolly monk,

And I live in a monastery,

I have a fine belly,

I live a fine life,

And no one is holier than me!

 

 

 

 

I am a jolly monk                                                                                                                             and I live in a monastery                                                                                                            I have a fine belly                                                                                                                               I live a fine life                                                                                                                            and no one is holier than me!

Written on Water: The Coronation of King Edgar

But…over the centuries the waters receded. The springs re-emerged, and out of the sodden wasteland rose another holy place . .this time sacred to a different God… the One God of the Christians..

Because those springs are so close to the River Avon, the border between Wessex and Mercia, Bath was a significant place in the middle ages at which it was important to have a great religious centre…and when the country was unified, how better to dissolve that border by crowning the first King of All England, Edgar, in the  Saxon Abbey in Bath?

And, after the Coronation, King Edgar, so legend has it, was transported up the flowing river in a ceremonial barge to Chester… which brought us back to the water again..

 

CORONATION MUSIC

 

A thousand candles flicker

A thousand voices lift;

The glory of a new beginning

Shines through stone.

 

Water ripples spreading..

The royal vessel slips its moorings,

slides into the current,

Takes the stream.

 

All hail, Edgar, King of all England!

All Hail, Edgar, King of all England!

All Hail, Edgar, King of all England!

All Hail, Edgar, King of all England!

 

The new king sits triumphant

The new crown on his curls,

Hand raised,

To the crowds who

Throng the shore.

 

All hail, Edgar, King of all England!

All Hail, Edgar, King of all England!

All Hail, Edgar, King of all England!

All Hail, Edgar, King of all England!

 

The great flotilla, surging

And dipping in his wake,

Rides the river;

Rides the river

To Chester!