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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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 Ruin

This is an account of building. decay, ruin, and building again. When the Baths fell into decay and the hot springs were drowned by the rising waters, centuries after the Romans had left, a beautiful Anglo Saxon poem lamented their desolation. That poem inspired this song.

RUIN

Cry the wild water!

Cry the deep drowning!

Cry the sunk spring!

Cry the sacked city!

 

Lost are our voices, raised to the high gods!

Wasted the sanctuary, Wasted the healing streams.

 

Silent is Sulis,

Silent Minerva

 

Silent is Sulis,

Silent Minerva

 

Cry the wild water!

Cry the deep drowning!

Cry the sunk spring!

Cry the sacked city!

 

Cry!

Cry!

Cry!

 

Written on Water: The Roman Songs

The next two songs are both about the Roman Baths. The secondary meaning of Written on Water is that our lives do not disappear without trace, but leave echoes in the time to come which continue to alter the world long after we are dead. The first one, Successa, is a tribute to a little girl her loving parents, who wrote the memorial stone tablet on which this song is based,  must have thought buried for ever.

SUCCESSA PETRONIA

To the spirits of the departed

and Successa Petronia,

who lived 3 years, 4 months, 9 days.

 

To the spirits of the departed

and Successa Petronia,

who lived 3 years, 4 months, 9 days.

 

Vettius Romulus and Victoria Sabina

set this to their dearest daughter.

 

To the spirits of the departed

and Successa Petronia,

who lived 3 years, 4 months, 9 days.

9 days.

 

The second, taken from the Curses tablets thrown into the springs for the attention of Sulis/ Minerva, strikes an altogether different kind of tone.

CURSES SONG

 

Hail Minerva!

Solinus calling!

I give your majesty, glory, divinity,

my bathing tunic and my cloak..

 

Hail Minerva!

Solinus calling!

Make the thief who stole all my things

bring them back now!

 

Hail Minerva!

Solinus calling!

I give your majesty, glory, divinity,

my bathing tunic and my cloak..

 

Hail Minerva!

Solinus calling!

Make the thief who stole all my things

bring them back now!

Or Minerva,

steal from him

all his sleep, and all his health,

Minerva of the hot spring!

 

Hail to thee, Sulis,

O mighty goddess,

I give you six silver coins,

But only, my Sulis, if you get them back from

Senicianus and Saturninus and Anniola,

Who took them from me,

Oh, Sulis of the hot spring!

 

Hail to thee, Sulis,

Mighty Minerva,

Please hear my prayer.

I have lost two gloves, mighty Minerva.

May those that stole them

Lose all their reason,

And both of their eyes.

 

Right all our wrongs, Sulis,

Restore our goods to us,

Punish the wicked!

Hail to thee, Sulis,

Hail to Minerva, Goddess of the hot springs!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written on Water Lyric 2: The Pagan Song

The lyrics for Written on Water are finished now, so I thought I would share them with you. Please don’t send them anywhere; they won’t be performed until June, when a 30 voice children’s choir accompanied by a small orchestra will sing them in the Abbey. The children are young, so the lyrics have to be simple. In the first, introductory lyric, we introduced the idea of the history of Bath as a sacred place – not just the Abbey – beginning with the hot springs; the fusion of fire and water. And the second song celebrates our Iron Age ancestors and their worship of the Water Goddess, eventually Sulis. (Of course, as with all of them, the music makes it.) The simplest form of religion; a child in the night crying for its mother.

PAGAN SONG

Mother!  Mother!  Hear us!  Hear us! Hear us!

Mother! Mother! Hear us! Hear us! Hear us!

O Mother! Mother! Mother! Hear us! Hear us! O Mother!

 

Fire in water, Water in fire!

Hear us as we sing to thee! Hear us as we dance!

Hear us as we sing to thee!

Fire in water, Water in fire!

 

Mother! Mother! Hear us! Hear us! Hear us!

O Mother! Mother! Mother! Hear us! Hear us! O Mother!

 

Bring the sun up when the night dies.

Bring the grass back when the snow melts.

Bring the sun up when the night dies.

Bring us life!

 

Fire in water, Water in fire!

 

Mother! Mother! Hear us! Hear us! Hear us!

O Mother! Mother! Mother! Hear us! Hear us! O Mother!

Mother! Mother! Hear us! Hear us! Hear us!

 

Mother!

Mother!