ABOUT ME

John Pole is my name

England is my nation 

All the world’s my home 

And storytelling is my occupation!

For a long time now I have been telling stories, not necessarily in this order:

as a storyteller – telling mostly traditional tales,

working as a Punch and Judy man – telling the traditional story of Punch with puppets

and writing and singing my own songs, some of which tell … traditional stories.

Here are the lyrics and my own recordings of 50 of my songs, written between 1961 and 2018.

Some have been sung in folk clubs for years, some were published in song magazines, some recorded on LPs and CDs, and performances of a few can be found on the Internet and on YouTube. I have listed all the recordings I am aware of.

You will find the lyrics here, some with notes which explain their origin or put them into context, since many of the political ones are almost historical.

This selection is a mixed bunch. Besides the political songs there are comic songs, a fair few songs based on traditional stories and some free translations.  A number are written in Broad London dialect and are less likely to work in other accents.

You can hear me sing each song on the sound file but (I warn you)  I sing unaccompanied and am very much a folk-club ‘floor-singer’.

I always mention where I have stolen a tune (usually traditional) but  most of the tunes are my own, though musician friends have set some of my songs to their own tunes.

My recordings are in the nature of demos for anyone who wants to sing the songs. If you find a tune of your own or an accompaniment for a song of mine, I’d love to hear it: use my tune as a working tune and contact me. If you want to record one of these songs, let me know…

As Punch says, ‘That’s the way to do it!’

johnpole1934@yahoo.co.uk

LYRICS

Click song title to view lyrics

1. ALL-DAY BREAKFAST

Nice young couple called Dave and Daph  ran a very handy little transport caff
Sign outside said  loud and clear  ‘All-day breakfast all day here!’

1. Door flies open one day fellow bellows at Daph
‘Is this the all-day breakfast all-day caff?’
‘Quite right mister’ she replies wi’ pride
And this is what he orders once he gets inside
‘I’m having
Bacon and eggs and beans and sausage and two fried slice
Mushrooms and tomatoes and black pudding twice
Plus o’ course a drop o’ your  thick brown sauce
Large tea three sugars really hot and strong
If I’m having all-day breakfast
I’ll tell you this for starters I’ll have your guts for garters
If I ain’t having it the whole day long!’

2. Geezer he’s a big ’un well hard and six foot tall
Fair few foot around his middle and all
Bird turns up and she’s a big gel too
Gives him a kiss and a cuddle and then she reads the me-and-you
‘I’m having
Bacon and eggs and beans and sausage and two fried slice
Mushrooms and tomatoes and black pudding twice
Plus o’ course a drop o’ your thick brown sauce
Large tea three sugars  really hot and strong
If we’re having all-day breakfast
Once we’ve started eating we’ll take a lot of beating
We’re having it the whole day long!

 3. Dave dishes up the order Daph serves it  piping hot
Couple grab their eating irons and scoff the blooming lot!
‘Seconds now I reckon’ she says to him and then
He says ‘Keep it coming  darling  we’ll have ev’rything again!
We’re having
More bacon and eggs and beans and sausage and two fried slice
More mushrooms and tomatoes and black pudding twice
More o’ course o’ your thick brown sauce
More teas  three sugars really hot and strong
If we’re having all-day breakfast
Your notice spells it out like there isn’t a shadow o’ doubt right?
We’re having it the whole day long!

4. Soon as it comes they’re at it shoving breakfast down their necks
They grunt and groan so loud it sounds  better than sex!
‘Will that be all?’  Daph asks ’em ‘No  it won’t’ says he
‘Breakfast won’t be over till we’ve had enough you see
Till we’ve had
Enough bacon and eggs and beans and sausage and two fried slice
Enough mushrooms and tomatoes and black pudding twice
Enough o’ course o’ your thick brown sauce
Enough tea  three sugars   really hot and strong
If we’re having all-day breakfast
Don’t you savvy English? We’ve started so we’ll finish
We’re having it the whole day long!

5. Wi’ six good breakfasts in ’em they finally grind to a stop
Caff so quiet you can hear a plastic teaspoon drop
One minute stuffed to bursting they sit there wreathed in smiles
Next there’s an explosion you can hear for miles and miles!
They’ve had
Too much bacon  and eggs and beans and sausage and two fried slice
Too much mushrooms and tomatoes and black pudding twice
Too much o’ course o’ your thick brown sauce
Too many large teas three sugars really hot and strong
They’d been having all-day breakfast
They’d had it six times over some fragments fell in Dover
They’d been having it the whole day long!’

6. Spontaneous combustion of a very special kind
Had blown ’em both to kingdom-come left not a lot behind
Now punters come in coach-loads good news for Dave and Daph!
But there’s no more all-day breakfasts at the Big Bang Caff
’Cos there’s
No more bacon and eggs and beans and sausage and two fried slice,
No more mushrooms and tomatoes and black pudding (twice),
No more o’course  no more o’your thick brown sauce,
No more large teas (three sugars)  really hot and strong –
Dave and Daph’ll serve you breakfast –
(Fry-up me? I us’lly have yoghurt fruit and muesli!)
But it mustn’t take the whole day you mustn’t go the whole way
You mustn’t take the whole day long! 

1990

2. ANOTHER COUNTRY

Tune based on MacCaffery

1. A country there once used to be
Whose people thought that they were free
Free to speak out by night or day
To work or strike to move or stay
But is it still the land I knew?
Consider what its rulers do
Or could it be another country? 

2. They try to stop a legal strike
Not organised the way they like
Wage war it seems to ‘keep the peace’
Besiege the workplace with police
Mounted police with staves and shields
Chase unarmed men across green fields
Or could it be another country? 

3. They stifle truth they trumpet lies
They praise glib blacklegs to the skies
They pick their judges fill the dock
With men who want the right to work
Convicting them of so-called crimes
Unknown since medieval times
Or could it be another country? 

4. They send in more police in loads
They tap the phones they block the roads
Suppress the facts distort omit
Refuse the strikers benefit
Let strikers’ fam’lies go without
Arrest men for an angry shout
Or could it be another country? 

5. They bribe they bully and they spy
Intimidate evade and lie
Wielding the truncheon of the Law
They use the State to beat the poor
Lauding the stalwart bravery
Of Polish Solidarity
Of course that WAS another country!                              

1985

During the British coal miners’ strike of 1984-85 against the Thatcher government’s plans to close 20 coal pits, police and strikers clashed. The strike failed and coal was later privatised. At the time the British government supported Solidarnosc (‘Solidarity’) a trade union which opposed the Polish Communist regime and finally overthrew it. The title refers to a phrase in the hymn ‘I vow to thee, my country’, C.Spring-Rice, 1918

3. ANTI-CAROL

1. It weren’t no picnic it weren’t no picture postcard

It was cold as taters in the mould
When the couple come looking for a room
Cold-shouldered they were
When the landlord looked at her
And seen the baby in her womb
Cold comfort they got
Was there a room? There was not
The town was crowded for a start
And it was cold cold cold cold cold
Cold as a beggar boy’s heart

2. It could have been in Grozny Darfur Myanmar Fallujah Aleppo

So long since it happened I’m wrong
It happened yesterday and now more and more
Well somebody said
He could rent ’em a shed
Kipping down on the floor
Just concrete and iron
And a blanket to lie on
They’d been walking all day
And their home was such a long long long long
Long way away

3. They never heard no angels just the old p’lice siren

When light come fumbling through the night
Her waters broke the kid begun to come
Is there a doctor? No fear
Only poor people here
What would you pay him with chum?
There was ice on the floor
She sweated he swore
He saw the head of their child
And then together him and her
Helped it into the world

4.  There weren’t no cattle watching only a rat and twenty cockroach

The kid cried his dad soon had him washed and dried
When his mother woke she give him the breast
He shared his parents’ love and he
Was heir to their poverty
It was all they possessed
But soon the whisper got round
There’s loads of soldiers in town
With orders ‘Search and Destroy’
They didn’t wait to get wasted they left the town a bit hasty
The man his wife and their boy boy boy boy boy
Young wife and new baby boy

5. He was theirs they made him out of love and hope and suff’ring

God’s son? No just a kid just one
More like millions born to slave starve and die
Or p’r’aps when he grows
And sees how the world goes
He’ll help to change it by and by
Let’s hope the soldiers don’t hang
This new son of man
Like they done one before
Will he bring peace or a gun? When his kingdom does come
It’ll belong to the poor poor poor poor poor
The homeless and poor

1972

‘Taters in the mould’  is ‘cold’ in London rhyming slang. The cities listed at the beginning of verse 2 can be varied according to current events.

Published in New City Songster vol. 7, 1972

Recorded by Frankie Armstrong – Out of Love, Hope and Suffering Bay Records BAY 206 LP, 1973 and on Encouragement, Fellside Records FECD 208, 2008

Frankie comments: ‘I think John’s ability to catch the London vernacular of the 70s and create powerful poetry is extraordinary. This tale is timeless, being about the most widely known refugee family in history, or mythology, depending on your interpretation.’

4. BLAIR PEACH

Tune Oranges and Lemons

He rose up and he fell down
On an April day in Southall town

1. ‘Who killed Blair Peach?’
Say the bells of Shoreditch

2. ‘No information’
Says the data bank at Hendon

3.  ‘Twelve months of silence’
Say the transit-van sirens

4. ‘He cared for kids well’
Says the Phoenix School bell

5. ‘He was their friend’
Say the bells of Mile End

6. ‘We saw him fall’
Say the bells of Southall

7. ‘He fought for freedom’
Say the bells of New Zealand

8.  ‘He was one of our leaders’
Say the East London teachers

9.  ‘Who killed Blair Peach?’
Say the bells of Shoreditch

10.  ‘He shouldn’t have been there’
Says a minister who doesn’t care

11.  ‘You can’t see our report’
Say the Met police to the court

12.  ‘No officer will confess’
Says Commander John Cass

13.  ‘It was misadventure surely?’
Says the magistrate to the jury

14.  ‘What about our evidence?’
Say passers-by and residents

15.  ‘Verdict Misadventure’
Say the jury to the coroner

16.  ‘Who struck that blow?’
Says the great bell of Bow

17. ‘We can’t say who’
Say six men in blue

18.  ‘There are more deaths to come’
Says the National Front drum

19. (Spoken) Here comes a Nazi who wishes you dead
Here comes a copper to bash in your head

      COSH! COSH! COSH!

       LAST   MAN’S –  DEAD!

1980

Blair Peach was killed on 23rd April 1979 during anti-racism protests in Southall against the neo-Nazi National Front.

Published (anonymously) in New City Songster vol. 16, 1980: the words are chanted to the sing-song tune of the children’s game ‘Oranges and Lemons’ ending in a mock execution.

 

5. BOHELLAND

1. Bohelland was a proud house
A proud house and tall
But now where once Bohelland stood
There stands no stone at all

2. Bohelland and his lady
Spent money up and down
On many a hound and many a horse
And many a fine silk gown

3. But their son run away for a soldier
And their daughter married low
They lost more money than they had
Far more than they could owe

4. Bohelland and his old wife
They lived in debt and danger
One night there come a traveller knocking at the gate
A swarthy bearded stranger

5. ‘Who knocks at Bohelland?
Who knocks here so late?
You may be some enemy
Knocking at my gate!’

6. ‘I am no man’s enemy
I’m a sailor home from sea
Walking to my parents’ house
Across this wild countree

7. ‘Black-dark bitter cold old night outside
It’s food I need and shelter
Summat to eat and a place to sleep
So open up or answer!’

8. ‘What can you pay for your lodging here?’
‘Why all you ask and more’
‘Come in come in young sailor man
Sit down I’ll shut the door’

9. Food and drink and a fire he got
And some fine old tales he told ’em
He paid for his lodgings with silver money
And nine bright stones he showed ’em

10. ‘I took these nine bright diamonds
From an Indian black as tar
And I’ll give ’em to me mother and father
Though rich very rich they are’

11. The fire was out and the moon was up
Before they went to bed
‘What are them diamonds worth?’ says she
‘Why more than ever we had!’

12. The stranger he slept easy
And the diamonds shone upon the floor
But the old man’s knife was hard and sharp
And he never woke up no more

13. They took them nine bright diamonds
Stripped his pockets of silver
With his shirt and his beard all black with blood
They covered his corpse over

14. Very next morning early
Their married daughter come
‘Did you see my brother when he called last night?
Did you know your own son John?’

1972

From a Cornish version of this tale told world-wide: see R.Hunt, Popular Romances and Traditions of the West of England, 1865

6. BONFIRE NIGHT

1. I shall remember the fifth of November
When you told me that you loved me  but you did not
It was like treason and that’s the reason
I’ll never forgive you for I never forgot
That you were so cold-hearted  though your blood was hot
On Bonfire Night

2. On Bonfire Night on Bonfire Night
Dusk exploded into blinding light
Rockets screamed up above houses and cars
And silently flowered into clouds of stars
A funfair blared and in the middle of the park
An unlit bonfire waited in the dark

3. That fifth of November  you seemed so tender
Talking to me of the future  and the life we’d share
You told me softly  how much you loved me
Sparklers danced briefly in the smoky night air
But your voice was drowned out by the noisy fair
On Bonfire Night 

4. On Bonfire Night on Bonfire Night
They had taken broken timber from the building site
And on the very top on a packing case
Sat a stuffed straw figure with a mask for a face
And as soon as they set it alight I knew
That the figure was me and the fire was you

5. That night in November I had to surrender
I was young and I was foolish dumb with desire
Your lips besieged me your arms received me
We kissed under cold trees by the crackling fire
The straw figure fell forward as the flames climbed higher
On Bonfire Night 

6. On Bonfire Night on Bonfire Night
We made love by candlelight
But I woke next morning in the bed alone
And I heard you talking on the telephone
To someone who was wondering where were you
And then you whispered that you loved her too

7. On the sixth of November only ashes and embers
Of the fire and the wonder of the night before
Now there was nothing left of our loving
I cried out you struck me I knew I meant no more
Than the burnt-out fireworks  as you slammed the door
On Bonfire Night   

8. On Bonfire Night on Bonfire Night
They had taken broken timber from the building site
And on the very top on a packing case
Sat a stuffed straw figure with a mask for a face
And as soon as they set it alight I knew
That the figure was me and the fire was you

9.  I shall remember the fifth of November
When you told me that you loved me but you did not
It was like treason  and that’s the reason
I’ll never forgive you for I never forgot
That you were so cold hearted though your blood was hot
On Bonfire Night

1997

7. CAN WE PAY FOR THE DOCTOR?

1. When my mother was a girl her mother had a book
Called What to Do till the Doctor Comes
And when anyone was ill she would always have a look
And do what she could in the mean-time
But if there was any doubt she would call the doctor out
And worry while she waited for his knock to come
Then when he stepped in the door she would worry even more
How much is it costing us this time ?

Can we pay for the doctor ? Can we pay for the nurse ?
Can we pay for the med’cine and the hospital
If it gets any worse ?
Why should my family’s heath depend
On how many pennies are in my purse ?

2. When Mum had us kids herself they’d set up National Health
So if we were sick it was not the same
As when Gran had had to slave and very nearly starve
To save up the money for the treatment
Now it didn’t all depend on what cash you had to spend
Though she might have to wait before the doctor came
Ev’ryone had paid their share and the National Health was there
To do all it could for the patient

No more Can we pay for the doctor ? etc

3. Since we’ve had kids of our own just locally there’s been
Two hospitals gone quite a shock to Mum
Staff do the best they can but ev’ryone has seen
How young ones and old folk are suff’ring
Now Mum’s been getting gip from this rotten dodgy hip
It’s twelve months she’s been waiting for the op to come
‘By the time it does’ she sighs ‘it’ll all be privatised
Once again we shall all be asking

Can we pay for the doctor ? etc

2000

Set up in 1948, the British National Health Service, ‘comprehensive, universal and free at the point of delivery’, is still being cut and threatened with creeping privatisation.

8. CAPTAIN REYNOLDS

1. All the young fellows loved Lady Mary
High time she chose one to marry
Never a one pleased her at all
Till Captain Reynolds paid a call

2. He was a dashing red-haired stranger
Eyes as bright as a flashing razor
She said ‘Captain Reynolds I’ll be your wife!’
He said ‘Mary I’ll love you all your life!’

3. He said he had a house with a high-fenced garden
Gates of iron and walls of marble
It stood alone in a wood somewhere
But he never once took Mary there

4. The night before they were to marry
Them and their friends were making merry
They spoke of dreams Mary shook and cried
‘Let me tell you a dream I dreamt last night

5. ‘I was walking in a wood where I’ve never been
Looking at a house I’ve never seen
The sun shone hot but the air struck cold
On the open door were the words BE BOLD!

6. ‘I dreamt I entered a handsome hall
Saw a fox’s mask upon the wall
And written over the stairs in letters of gold
BE BOLD BE BOLD BE NOT TOO BOLD!

7. ‘ But you must remember’ Mary said
‘This was all a dream inside my head
It is not so and it was not so
And God forbid it should be so!

8. ‘I dreamt I climbed those stairs and found
An oaken door with iron bound
It was locked I knocked no-one replied
But I heard a stir in the yard outside

9. ‘Then in my dream it seemed’ she said
‘Above the door these words I read
BE BOLD BE BOLD BE NOT TOO BOLD
LEST YOUR HEART’S BLOOD SHOULD RUN COLD!’

10. Captain Reynolds’ face grew hard and pale
And he broke in as she told her tale
‘Your dream cannot be true I know
It is not so and it was not so!’

11. She said ‘Into that hall a young man ran
I saw an axe flash in his hand
I hid behind a barrel beneath the stair
He was dragging a young girl by the hair

12. ‘She fought and she tore as he pulled her past
She seized the newel-post and held it fast
He up with his axe she would not let go
He cut her hand off with one blow

13. ‘The blood sprung up and the blood run down
It stained the lace upon my gown
That young girl’s screams rung around and around
Her hand lay by me on the ground

14. ‘And still she bled and still she cried
As he carried her up the door swung wide
And before it shut I saw inside
Six dead women each dressed as a bride’

15. In a silence like a fall of snow
‘No! said Captain Reynolds ‘No!
It is not so and it was not so
And God forbid it should be so!’

16. ‘O Captain Reynolds’ Mary cried
‘That was no dream I dreamt last night
I saw you drag her by the hair
Up that cold and cruel stair

17. ‘O Captain Reynolds Captain Reynolds my love
I believe you’ve lost your left-hand glove
Why here it is take it back again
Spotted and marked with a dark dark stain

18. ‘For I found your house with the high-fenced garden
Gates of iron and walls of marble
It is so and it was so
And here’s her hand I have to show!’

19. She flung the dead girl’s dead hand down
Not one soul spoke nor made a sound
They gathered round him one and all
And cut him into pieces small

20. Faraway across the dark
Last night I heard a vixen bark
She barked so long and she barked so late
She must have lost the fox her mate

1972

From a version of the ‘Robber Bridegroom’ story told in many countries: see John Jacobs, English Fairy Tales, 1890. My song Mr Fox is based on another version.

Published in New City Songster vol. 7, 1972

9. COME SATURDAY

1. Come Saturday he’d call round to visit me
We’d sit on the sofa holding hands just so
Ma would ask him would he care to stay for tea ?
Sweet sweet Saturdays so long ago!
We’d gaze into the garden from the sitting room
And say ‘We’ll be married when the roses bloom!

2. Some Saturdays we’d go walking him and me
Stroll off up the Common p’raps to see my Nan
‘Name the day girl’ she’d say with a wink you see
‘Now you’ve got yourself a nice young man !’
We’d peer at all the pictures in her cosy room
And whisper ‘We’ll be married when the roses bloom!’

3. Ev’ry Saturday rain or shine he’d bring me flow’rs
Always early he was he was never late
We’d laugh and lark about for hours and hours
Kiss goodnight across the garden gate
When I waved out the window of me own small room
He’d sing out ‘We’ll be married when the roses bloom!’

4. But one Saturday well he didn’t come to call
Sent me round a letter ‘Darling just to say
I’m not well dear must have caught a cold and all
Hope we’ll see each other Saturday
Please come and see me sweetheart in me little room
And remember ‘We’ll be married when the roses bloom!’

5. That Saturday I popped round to visit him
Paler than his pillow as he lay in bed
Woke at once when I went in to sit with him
Smiled he did and very softly said
‘One day you’ll be me bride and I shall be your groom
And we’ll be married when the roses bloom!’

6. Come Saturday he’d call round to visit me
We’d sit on the sofa holding hands just so
Ma would ask him would he care to stay for tea ?
Sweet sweet Saturdays so long ago!
I can still see the roses from the sitting room
The day he was buried they were all in bloom!

2006

10. GET IT DOWN YOU

Sitting in a caff I was the other day
Greasy spoon and not a smart café
I ordered ham salad and a pot of tea
But they plonked a plate o’ something hot in front of me
Steak and kidney pudding! Straight I shouted ‘Miss!
Some mistake I never ordered this!’
I walked up to the counter and I said to the cook
‘I ordered ham salad!’ Well he give me a look

1. He had a bald bullet head and an hairy barrel chest
Tattoos trainers shorts and a vest
I said ‘I don’t want no steak and kidney pud!’
He said ‘Get it down you do you good!
Sticks to your ribs the way a good pud should
Get it down you do you good!

2. ‘Back in Sherwood Forest all the Merry Men
Moaned about the venison “Not that again!”
“Get stuck in!” said Friar Tuck and Robin Hood
Get it down you do you good
It’s all the grub that we can get you can’t eat wood
So get it down you do you good!”

3. ‘If the Borgias asked you in for a drink you’d go
They might put something extra in it for you though
Host proposes toast you drink it understood?
Get it down you do you good!
Could be your last drink on earth it really could
But Get it down you do you good!

4. ‘By cutting some customers down to size
Sweeney Todd supplied the meat for crunchy pies
It gave the meal some man-appeal o’ course it would
Get it down you do you good!’
His pies went down a treat so did the neighbourhood
Get it down you do you good!

5. I won’t forget the look the cook gave me that day
I won’t forget the seven words he had to say
I said ‘I don’t want no steak and kidney pud!’
He said ‘Get it down you do you good!
Sticks to your ribs the way a good pud should
Get it down you do you good! 
So I got it down me and it
Done
Me
Good!

(‘Get it down you!’)

2005

11. GRAB A POT AND A PAN

Tune Paddy Lay Back

1. If you’re pizza’d off and fancy having pasta (pasta!)
And you’d appreciate a tasty sauce (tasty sauce!)
Here’s a recipe that isn’t hard to master (hard to master!)
If you do exactly what I say of course

Grab a pot and a pan (a pot and a pan!)
As big as you can (as big as you can!)
Fill the pot with salted water set it to boil (set it to boil!)
Carefully coat the bottom of the pan with (pan with!)
PLENTY OF EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL!

2. Heat the oil and quickly cut up an onion (onion!)
Dice a clove or two of garlic maybe more (maybe more!)
Chop lots and lots of fresh and tinned tomatoes (tomatoes!)
Add ketchup tomato paste basil and thyme galore

Grab the pot not the pan (the pot not the pan!)
As quick as you can (as quick as you can!)
And that pot of salted water get it to boil (get it to boil!)
While in the pan you fry the onions and the garlic (the garlic)
In PLENTY OF EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL!

3. Next select your favourite pasta weigh out plenty (plenty!)
Spaghetti or maybe linguine whatever you’ve got (ever you’ve got!)
Boil it up in the pot till it’s properly cooked al dente (al dente!)
Strain it add butter or oil but do keep it hot (do keep it hot!)

Then into the pan (into the pan!)
As quick as you can (as quick as you can!)
You pour the tomatoes etcet’ra and get ’em to boil (get ’em to boil!)
With the onions and the garlic thyme and basil (the basil!)
And PLENTY OF EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL!

4. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper (pepper!)
A drop of red vino is good it’ll do you no harm (do you no harm!)
Add the sauce to the pasta I can’t think of anything better (thing better!)
And serve it up singing this shanty it works like a charm

Grab a pot and a pan (a pot and a pan!)
As big as you can (as big as you can!)
Fill the pot with salted water set it to boil (set it to boil!)
Carefully coat the bottom of the pan with (pan with )
PLENTY OF EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL!
PLENTY OF EXTRA VIRGIN Olive oil needs no urgin’!
PLENTY OF EXTRA VIRGIN Chuck a magnificent splurge in
PLENTY OF EXTRA VIRGIN The sauce and the pasta are mergin’!
PLENTY OF EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL!

1990

12. I KNEW YOU

1. Loving’s a strange thing now we are together
It isn’t easy to remember not having each other
Strangest of all as I recall
Strangest by far
Is that the very first time I saw you
As if I’d been waiting for you
I heard something inside me whisper
‘Oh there you are !’

Because I knew you I knew you
And at that moment when we met
Although we hadn’t even spoken yet
I swear it’s true
As soon as I looked into your eyes
I saw someone I could recognise
And I knew I knew you

Something in me needed you
Something in you needed me too
As if already you knew me
As if already I knew you

2. Once thought I’d lose you thought our love was broken
Afraid that your heart had been stolen but I was mistaken
You suffered so I’ll never know
How much my dear
But when my sorrows all crowded round me
You dried your own tears and found me
Held me close in your arms and murmured
‘My love I’m here!’

And now I know too I know too
I know for certain and for sure
Our love is deep and strong and will endure
Our whole lives through
Though at times we may be far apart
You know me and I know you by heart
As all true lovers do

Something in me needed you
Something in you needed me too
As if already you knew me,
As if already I knew you

1994

13. JACK THE LAD

1. Where’s Jack the Lad then? Snuffed it ain’t he?
His old lady just found him dead
Grey as the pavement and smelling sour
So much methadone so much methadone
So much methadone inside his head

2. There’s loads o’ methadone in his cough mixture see?
The empty bottle lies on the floor
It wasn’t for no cough ’cause he was fighting fit
He never done no drugs he never done no drugs
He never done no drugs at all before

3. Now Jack the Lad was a bit of a tearaway
He done approved school for thieving money
But he died safe at home next room to his old dear
She loved him all along she loved him all along
She loved him all along now ain’t that funny?

4. Jack and his mates went up West one Saturday
Wi’ bent prescriptions they bought the stuff
If you can drink it the lot the bottleful
You’ll blow your mimd all right you’ll blow your mind all right
You’ll blow your mind all right that’s sure enough

5. So Jack the Lad he bought some med’cine too
Like Mike and Gray and Len they knew the scene
Just for a laugh like and he could do wi’ some
What a load o’ laughs and that what a load o’ laughs and that
What a load o’ laughs and that his life had been!

6. He took the med’cine home and lay down on the bed
He shook the mixture well and swigged it all
He twitched and shivered and went out like a light
His mind went deaf and blind his mind went deaf and blind
His mind went deaf and blind behind a wall

7. He was unconscious dead to the world like
Up come his dinner and all his tea
Stuck in his gullet and slowly choked him
He never moved a muscle he never moved a muscle
He never moved a muscle to spew it free

8. It wasn’t methadone killed Jack the Lad you know
Just the obstruction that made him choke
It’s not a hard drug like proper heroin
It was just accident it was just accident
It was just accident he died poor bloke

1968

Based on the death of a South London teenager in the 1960s.

Published in New City Songster vol. 3, 1970

Recorded by Frankie Armstrong – Songs and Ballads Topic Records LP
12TS273, 1975. Jan Hammarlund made and recorded a Swedish version,
‘Micke Malung’, on Innan tåget är på väg Silence Records SRS 4649,
1978

14. JUGGERNAUT

1. As I was driving me motor
Through the night
All of a sudden I saw
This terrible sight

2. All of a sudden I heard
This horrible sound
As if the world was a wagon
And it was changing down

3. As if the world was a wagon
And it was changing gear
It was a juggernaut lorry
Grinding near

4. Now the cab o’ that lorry
Was set so high
I couldn’t see half the stars
That were studding the sky

5. Its engine roared so loud
Nearly made me deaf
Its fumes were so thick and so foul
I couldn’t catch me breath

6. Where the juggernaut come from
I couldn’t tell
First thing I thought was
It had come from hell

7. Now the load it carried
Was all the wealth o’ the world
All the coal and the iron and the oil
Earth ever held

8. All the rice and the wheat and the meat
All the wood and the stone
All the cotton and the rubber and the flax
Men have ever grown

9. This juggernaut never stops
Come peace come war
For the fuel that drives it on
Is the blood o’ the poor

10. The blood of all poor people
Since time begun
Keeps that juggernaut going
For Mammon and Son

11. It’s polluting the atmosphere
With hunger and need
It’s painted and polished with pride
And greased with greed

12. I looked into that wagon’s cab
And what d’you think I see?
The mug o’ the driver
And the mug was me !

1971

Published in New City Songster vol. 10, 1974

15. LATE ONE NIGHT LAST WEEK

Tune Miles Wootton’s Hippies and the Beatniks (The Raggle-Taggle Gipsies)

1. Late one night last week Edward Jones rang home
On the brand-new iPhone he had bin to get
But his wife Sue said ‘I’m leaving you Ted
And I’m looking for a lover on the Internet!’

2. Well Ted made a dive for the four-wheel drive
And sped back home his features grim and set
On her desktop screen a message glowed green
‘I’m looking for a lover on the Internet!’

3. He cursored up and he cursored down
To locate a place where the singles met
And late next day in a cyber-café
He came on Sue about to use the Internet

4. He said ‘What makes you leave the house and the car
The Peter Jones account and ev’rything you get
The firm’s dinner-dance and the time-share in France
To go looking for a lover on the Internet?’

5. She said ‘Oh what care I for the house and the car?
You haven’t a clue what I’m into yet
I hate the dinner-dance and you can have my share of France
I’m looking for a lover on the Internet!’

6. ‘A private eye I know has you on video
For he snapped you with that scrubber with a squint my pet!
So delete that smile I’m erasing your file
And I’m looking for a lover on the Internet!’

7. ‘I’ve moved a large amount from the joint account
And that’ll very likely drive you into debt
I did it in a twink through computer link
And I’m looking for a lover on the Internet!’

8. ‘I have fine software and I take great care
Of my mouse which is black as any printer-jet
I long for a frisk with a good hard disk
So I’m looking for a lover on the Internet!’

9. ‘I have posted my address on the Net oh yes!
And I’ve e-mailed my photo to a ginger vet
If we click on I shall soon be up and gone
Away with my lover from the Internet!’

1996

16. LIBERATION

Tune US Marine Hymn

1. Well they flew us halfway round the world
Why? To liberate Iraq!
Though a whole bunch of our buddies now
Will not be flying back
We changed regimes and jailed Saddam
But the killing still drags on
And Iraqis keep on asking us
‘Where’s the peace you promised gone?’

2. Reconstructing Iraq slowly
And liberating more and more
The top brass and the guys in suits
Make the big bucks out of war
The whole damn world sent millions
To repair the damage done
But Iraqis keep on asking us
‘Where have all the dollars gone?’

3. So we bombed all those civilians
Operation Shock and Awe ?
So we have suspects tortured overseas
Where it ain’t against the law ?
So we rough Iraqis up in jail ?
Shucks it’s just a bit of fun !
Goddam Iraqis keep on asking us
‘Where has all the justice gone?’

4. Well they flew us halfway round the world
Why? To liberate Iraq!
Though a whole bunch of our buddies now
Will not be flying back
We changed regimes and jailed Saddam
Yet the killing still drags on
And Iraqis keep on asking us
‘Where have all the dollars
All the justice
All the peace you promised gone?’

2007

In 2003 US troops, with UK and other allied forces, invaded Iraq to find
and destroy weapons of mass destruction allegedly held by Saddam
Hussein: none were found. Some 4000 US soldiers and 400,000 Iraqi
civilians died before US forces withdrew in 2011.

17. MERLIN AND TRINALI

1. Dark iron he could turn to silver
Bright silver turn to yellow gold
A wizard as wise in the world and its ways
And as tall as all the tales that have ever been told !

2. Who was he who was he?
Mighty was his power and fame
Who was he who was he?
Merlin Merlin was his name !

3. Tales and tidings came to Merlin
Of a strong and a strange enchantress
As fierce and as fair as frost and fire
Wild as wintry wind the queen of air and darkness !

4. Who was she who was she?
Sea-dark her hair her green eyes starry
Who was she who was she?
The moon-with of the wood Trinali!

5. Her words could turn men to worms and serpents asses and swine
She never cared a penny for them left them all to peak and pine
Lord Merlin swore to seek her out and shame her
Into some quite other creature he took oath that he would change her

6. By the sun he swore and the wand he bore
He would transform that witch or die
By the ring she wore and by the moon she swore
She would change him or destroy him by and by

7. Crying ‘Down with the master magician! Listen who will it be
Who will win and prove the wiser witch or wizard? We shall see!’
And she vowed aloud to find and vanquish Merlin
Crying ‘I’ll bewitch the wizard into some strange shape I’ll turn him!’

8. See the vixen scent her quarry
See the falcon sight his prey
So the witch sought the wizard the wizard the witch
Just as light follows night in its flight and the dark the day

9. Away went she away went he
Through shady wood and shining meadow
Away went he away went she
He in sunshine she in shadow

10. One evening where the meadows meet the greenwood
Soft rain fell a wind began to rise
She met a trav’ller as straight as a tree
And in the glade he met a lady with all Eden in her eyes

11. She and he he and she
The moon had risen but the sun not set
He and she she and he
Under the apple-tree they met

12. Faint and far-off lightning flickered
Treetops swayed and whispered in the darkness
The sun set the rain passed in the moonlight they paused
Still they stood the wood-doves stirred above them in the branches

13. He and she she and he
Beneath the tree both had taken shelter
She and he he and she
The rain had touched each leaf with silver

14. He spoke to her very lovingly and suddenly she
Was falling deep in love with Merlin and so with her was he
Soon they’d said ‘I love you’ to each other
Soon they were sitting under one cloak kissing close together

15. Once he knew she loved him soon he
Knew he loved her and then both knew
She and he he and she
The more they looked the more love grew

16. ‘Stay with me stranger and lie beside me do not say no!’
‘Lady I can stay no longer now I cannot linger so!’
Then Merlin murmured softly ‘I am sorry
But listen lady let me tell you why it is I cannot tarry

17. ‘I seek a sorceress I swore to punish’
‘And I seek a sorcerer too’ she cried
‘But do not go my love !’ He said ‘My dear don’t leave!
Tell me who is he?’ ‘Why Merlin sir!’ she sighed

18. ‘It is him you see! Who are you?’ said he
‘Add one to one these two things tally
Who are you?’ said he ‘It is him you see!
Lady speak your name!’ She spoke ‘Trinali!’

19. An oath by any witch or wizard
By the sun or by the moon on high
All they have sworn by the the moon or the sun
Fulfil it they will or fail they must do it or die

20. ‘Do you see my dear’ said she
‘How love has brought this curse upon us?’
‘Indeed’ said he ‘but can’t you see
How love can lift this burden from us?’

21. Merlin spoke to dark Trinali
‘This riddle has a nice and easy answer
Lie with me while we may I’ll be you you’ll be me
We’ll be at once at one entwined like dance and dancer’

22. ‘Come lie with me my love ’ said she
‘I shall change you use your might on me’
‘Come vie with me my dear’ said he
‘Change me no spell shall take you from me!’

23. Night flies and dies when the day breaks day fades into dim night
Does the light embrace the darkness or the dark embrace the light?
Darkness embraces day day enters darkness
So did the witch the wizard the enchanter the enchantress

24. He and she she and he
The witch of the night and the wizard of the day
She and he he and she
Under the apple tree they lay

25.Which is the face of the penny when it’s spinning around
The lady by the sea or the king without his crown?
When two lovers lie in love together
Which of them is the beloved which of them the lover?

26. Love’s a powerful magician
Combining twining two in one
Joining woman and man beneath the pale silver moon
Or by the brighter light of her brother the golden sun

27. Some say she some say he
Conquered the other and won the glory
Some say he some say she
Some say Merlin some Trinali !

1997

From a Welsh Gipsy tale: see Charles Leland, The Gipsies, 1882

18. MOVING TARGET

1. Stand up and shout aloud for justice
Call out that all should have their rights
And you become a moving target
A silhouette in someone’s sights
They have got your name and number
The documents are all prepared
One day you go to work as usual
The next you may have disappeared

And like a giant iron spider
The mechanical grab swoops down
Grubbing up the growing things
Tearing up the ground

2. A simple people live far from cities
At one with a wild and a quiet land
Their hills are broken their forests felled
New mines are needed new roads are planned
Loud towns arise dust dims the sunlight
Wild things and their wild hunters die
Their language mocked at garbled and forgotten
A huddle of beggars watch cars buzz by

And like a giant iron spider
The mechanical grab swoops down
Grubbing up the growing things
Tearing up the ground

3. Young lovers lie in love together
Wives meet their husbands babies cry
Down distant roads long tanks come crawling
Like sharks dark missiles nose the sky
Faces on screens mouth fiery slogans
Strong voices speak of standing fast
Lovers part at night bright rooms stand empty
Then all the sirens sound at last

And like a giant iron spider
The mechanical grab swoops down
Grubbing up the growing things
Tearing up the ground

4. It scars the minds of prisoner and jailer
It smashes the singing guitarist’s hands
Poisons the forests and their quiet people
Drives the hunters from the silent lands
It kills and cripples it wrecks and ruins
It grinds frail freedom into dust
May the foul machine soon fail and fall
Fail and fall for fall it must

1979

19. MR FOX

1. Outside Mr Fox’s garden
Three maids playing with a golden ball
Jenny threw it up and Susan caught it
Mary bounced it over the wall

The wall is high Mr Fox has a little red eye

2. In she run to fetch it back again
The garden gate stood open wide
Suddenly it was locked and bolted
Mr Fox stood just inside

The wall is high the grasses shiver and the tall trees sigh

3. He said ‘I’ll keep your golden ball Miss Mary
I shall have it and here you’ll stay
You’ll keep my house and be my servant
Never stir out for a year and a day’

The wall is high his smile is cruel and his eyes are sly

4. Spring and summer passed like shadows
She watched the green leaves fade and fall
She walked alone in the empty garden
And Mr Fox said nothing at all

The wall is high never a soul come near nor by

5. Three strange things he did forbid her
‘Never you touch my iron box
Never go in the thirteenth bedroom
Nor near the bed’ said Mr Fox

‘The wall is high Mary don’t you ask me why’

6. Mary she rose up one morning,
Found that iron box on a shelf
But of all the rooms at Mr Fox’s
Bedrooms there were only twelve

The wall is high Mary don’t you peep nor pry

7. One day Mr Fox went walking
In that box she found a key
It fitted a lock she’d never unfastened
And when she opened it what did she see ?

The wall is high the lock said ‘Stop’ and the key said ‘Fly’

8. In Mr Fox’s thirteenth bedroom
A naked sword hung on the wall
In a silver bowl on the bed’s black counterpane
Mary saw her golden ball

The wall is high the bed said ‘Come’ and the sword said ‘Die’

9. In she run to fetch it back again
To snatch it off the great black bed
Out jumped Mr Fox and leapt at her
His teeth flashed white and his eyes shone red

The wall is high

1964

From a story in Violet Alford’s Introduction to English Folklore, 1952: see also my song Captain Reynolds, another ‘Robber Bridegroom’ tale. The first verse is sometimes repeated at the end, with Mary’s name replaced by another variant of Mary – e.g. Molly or Dolly.

The tune is my own here. All other singers use Terry Yarnell’s*.

Published in New City Songster vol 6, 1971 and Sing Out, 1985

Recorded by Frankie Armstrong – I Heard a Woman Singing Flying Fish Records FLY 332 LP, 1984; Fuse Records C389 LP, 1985; Flying Fish Records CDFLY 332, 1998

Bread and Roses – Mr Fox’s Garden Dragon Records DRGN911 LP, 1991
Terry Yarnell* – A Bonny Bunch Tradition Bearers LTCD1005, 2001
Sue Brown and Lorraine Irwing – The 13th Bedroom RootBeat Records RBRCD14, 2012

Lucy Ward sings it on YouTube, 2010

20. NOTHING BETWEEN US NOW

1. I was walkin’ along some side street see down Brockley
When I heard this woman singin’ something softly
She was thinkin’ about the husband she had done without
Since the day he went away and then he never come back
Singin’ to him she was a little too late because
Last thing he ever done for her was leave her flat
And these are the words she was singin’ I can hear ’em now

2. ‘Can’t hardly believe you ever loved me did yer?
Though yer mates all say yer swore yer’d have me din’t yer?
Well you had me too and I loved you
Thought you was happy with me
Din’t we get married and din’t I carry
Them two kids of ours you give me?
We made ’em between us is that nothing between us now?

3. ‘Not a lot between us that Sat’dy night I met yer
‘Cept for the bird come with yer yer soon had to ditch her
Never said much true didn’t have to me and you
We done all right without it
‘Cos I fancied you and you fancied me too
And that was all there was about it
Are them days all over? No never they’re between us now!

4. ‘Nothing much between us first night we slept together
Naked and achin’ to be one another’s lovers forever
If you’d been honest you wouldn’ ha’ promised
Now there’s a new head on your piller
She don’t know you yet the way I do
Time she does it’ll likely kill her
Your bird come between us is that nothing between us now?

5. ‘Not much love lost between us precious little left like
We ain’t together no more but the wounds’ll never heal till death right?
‘Cos there’s things been said and there’s things been done
P’raps you could have hit me harder
Now there’s an empty half a bed and yer clothes all gone
And two kids with no father
And you writ me a letter sayin’ ‘Nothing between us now’!

6. ‘Yer’ve walked out the door for good and all then ain’t yer?
Left yer wife and yer past and yer kids and their future behind yer
Now one week in four your cheque comes through the door
It’s the least you can get away with
Rolled up so small can’t hardly see it at all
Are we just things you play with?
Hatin’ and hurtin’ that’s what’s between us now

7. ‘Was it the kids come between us? Didn’t half make you jealous
I really believe yer’d rather I’d been out with other fellers
But it was you took off to a new job up North
Where you went and met and fell in love with someone
You’ve been three years gone I’ve had to soldier on
But I’m learnin’ to be me own woman
So how can you tell me there’s nothing between us now?
How can you tell me there’s nothing between us now?’

1977

The first time I sang this in public a man said, ‘You must know my mate. He lives
in Brockley and that’s just how he treats his wife.’

Published in My Song Is My Own 100 Women’s Songs edited by Kathy
Henderson, Frankie Armstrong and Sandra Kerr, 1979 and in Sam Richards and
Tish Stubbs, The English Folksinger, 1979

Recorded by Sandra Kerr – My Song Is My Own Songs From Women Plane
Label TPL 0001 LP, 1979 and Frankie Armstrong – I Heard a Woman Singing
Flying Fish Records FLY 332 LP, 1984, Fuse Records CF389 LP, 1985 and
Flying Fish Records CDFLY 332, 1998

21. ON THEIR SOLITARY WAY

1. At an odd street’s end
In the failing light
Hand in weary hand
On a winter’s night
I’ve seen them wander
Pale girl and dark boy
Past my cold window
On their solitary way

2. They have no friend
In the tall city
Only the wind
No hate no pity
Still they cling together
They can never go back now
They have only each other
On their solitary way

3. By its broken stalk
She holds a dead rose
Clutched against her frock
And sings as she goes
Of a beautiful garden
Sad words to a sweet air
Her song fades as they go on
Their solitary way

4. Where are they bound?
What are they searching for?
They will never find
That long-forgotten door
Back into Eden
Pale girl and dark boy
Eve it is and Adam
On their solitary way

1961

22. ONE OF THE QUEEN’S OLD SOLDIERS

1. ‘I bunked off school never held a proper job down
Dad said the mob’d make a man out o’ me
Put on khaki fought the Iraqis
Now I’m back a shattered shadow’s all I’ll ever be!
We thrashed Saddam but the fightin’ didn’t end then
Had a mate eighteen just a great big kid
Roadside bomb ripped him to bits in front o’ me
Scraped his brains off the wall I did’
Says an ex-soldier of the Queen
One o’ the Queen’s old soldiers

2. ‘Threw sweets to a kid as we drove past her
Half-hour later they had hung her strung her up to die
Little gel no bigger than me brother’s back in Battersea
Swingin’ like a broken doll against the sky
Hot dusty night and we’re huntin’ down insurgents
I shoot two then someone crosses the street
Bang! An old woman falls tomatoes in her basket
Bright blue slippers on her poor dead feet’
Says a sad soldier of the Queen
One o’ the Queen’s old soldiers.

3. ‘I blanked out all the horror and the sorrow
Hard man me hard men never cried
But I was lost in the valley of the shadow of death
And the sorrow and the horror were there inside
Soldiered on then I’m hearin’ dead voices
Seein’ dead faces awake or sleepin’
I’m seein’ blood where there’s no blood
In a silent room only I hear shriekin’
 Like a mad soldier of the Queen,
One o’ the Queen’s old soldiers’

4. ‘I’d been a hard case now I was a nutcase
They flew me home but it wasn’t like before
Wife couldn’t take it done a runner with the baby
Two more lives messed up by war
Goodbye little Billy tell your mother that I love her
Goodbye to me mates and to flamin’ Basra
Now I sit and sink Special on a bench up the Common
Kippin’ in the car park under ASDA
  Like a homeless soldier of the Queen,
One o’ the Queen’s old soldiers’

5. ‘A car backfires and I’m flat on the floorboards
Certain I’m some Iraqi gunman’s target
Hear a loud shout and I’m takin’ cover
Behind the checkout at the supermarket
Guy Fawkes Night blows me mind wide open
Ignites the nightmares in me brain
Fireworks flash me back to Iraq see?
And I’m crouched in a burnin’ truck again
Like a broken soldier of the Queen
One o’ the Queen’s old soldiers

6. “Combat stress” the army medics call it
They done their best but it’s with me still
They may combat it but I can’t beat it
Keeps givin’ me grief p’raps it always will
So I reckon I’ll never make Chelsea Pensioner
“Not quite the type” as they’ll explain
Reckon I might do Death’s job for him
Pills or the rope should end the pain’
  Says a lost soldier of the Queen,
One o’ the Queen’s old soldiers

7. ‘I’m the ghost o’ the man I once was
I’m a ghost but I’m not dead
For me the war will never be over
It’s still goin’ on inside my head
I bunked off school never held a proper job down
Dad said the mob’d make a man out o’ me
Put on khaki killed some Iraqis
Now I’m back a shattered shadow’s all I’ll ever be!’
  Says an ex-soldier of the Queen 
One o’ the Queen’s old soldiers

2006

Based on the experiences of British soldiers in the Iraq War (2003-11), some of
whom suffered, and still do, from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The title
echoes both Old Soldiers of the Queen from Thomas D’Urfey’s Pills To Purge
Melancholy vol. 5, 1714 and Leslie Stuart’s Soldiers of the Queen, 1898

23. PETE SEEGER

1. Pete Seeger’s laid to rest
He died among the folks that he loved best
But North South East and West
We all loved his songs and their Weaver
They’re still sung in the street in the street Pete
Still sung in the street Pete Seeger!

2. He loved the people’s songs
Played and sang them loud and strong
Had to sing out against the people’s wrongs
For a fairer world and a freer
So they put on the heat put the heat on Pete
Put the heat on Pete Seeger!

He was a man with a five-string banjo
And a radical tale to tell
He sang out about peace and justice
In a voice like Freedom’s bell

3. ‘Mr Seeger on the first of May
At that peace rally did you sing that day ?’
‘You’ve no right to ask me I refuse to say
I’ll answer no more questions either!’
They couldn’t defeat defeat Pete
They couldn’t defeat Pete Seeger!

4. He was blacklisted though his records all banned
No TV no radio but Pete still sang
To the college students all over the land
Taught them as much as any teacher
And they lined up to meet to hear and meet Pete
To hear and meet Pete Seeger!

He was a man with a five-string banjo
And a radical tale to tell
He sang out about peace and justice
In a voice like Freedom’s bell

5. Pete Seeger’s days are done
Where have all the flowers gone?
But the songs he made they echo on
For his were the songs of a seer
They were songs that speak they still speak Pete
They still speak Pete Seeger!

6. If there’s a Heaven and he knocks at the door
They’ll say ‘You must be the fella Joe Hill’s waiting for
Paul and Huddy Lee and Woody and a good few more
Nina Simone and Victor Jara too are eager
Eager to greet to greet Pete
Eager to greet Pete Seeger!’

He was a man with a five-string banjo
And a radical tale to tell
He sang out about peace and justice
In a voice like Freedom’s bell

7. We’re still waist-deep in wars now new cities burn
When will they ever learn?
Isn’t it time to Turn turn turn
As Pete cried like a preacher?
Are we too deep? Are we too deep Pete?
Are we too deep Pete Seeger?

8. He warned against the cruel war machine
Worked hard to keep this green earth green
And to keep the living waters clear and clean
Though the world is growing bleaker
We have work to complete to complete for Pete
To complete for Pete Seeger

He was a man with a five-string banjo
And a radical tale to tell
He sang out about peace and justice
In a voice like Freedom’s bell

9. He was a beacon burning bright
Sending signals through the night
A flame of hope and a warning light
He was a sailor a singer a Weaver
Of songs to keep for us to keep Pete
So many songs to keep Pete Seeger!

10. The songs Pete Seeger left behind
For the rainbow family of humankind
Still sing in the heart and ring in the mind
And the Hudson’s running cleaner
Thanks to sweet thanks to sweet Pete
Thanks to sweet Pete Seeger!

He was a man with a five-string banjo
And a radical tale to tell
He sang out about peace and justice
In a voice like Freedom
A voice like Freedom
A voice like Freedom’s bell!

2014

24. PHOTOGRAPHS

1. Photographs photographs look at this woman
Posed for the album or snapped on a mobile
First a young bride then a mother of children
In a land where true peace is no more than a promise

Green grow the cedars of Lebanon
Is it salaam or is it shalom?

2. A wedding a wedding a ring on her finger
A rush of new faces new names and new feelings
Her hand in her man’s hand the prayers and the promises
The fear and the joy as they step out together

Green grow the cedars of Lebanon
Is it salaam or is it shalom?

3. A family a family one boy then another
The gains and the losses the pain and the loving
Sharing a new life a life full of promise
Building together a new house to live in

Green grow the cedars of Lebanon
Is it salaam or is it shalom?

4. A baby a baby a new baby daughter
The house nearly ready then suddenly danger
Drives them to seek safety with the boys and the baby
Thirteen days old now and ‘Promise’ they call her

Green grow the cedars of Lebanon
Is it salaam or is it shalom?

5. Visitors visitors speeding towards them
Carrying gifts that they never expected
Crossing the Promised Land’s border that evening
As they left their friends it was past the boys’ bedtime

Green grow the cedars of Lebanon
Is it salaam or is it shalom?

6. A target a target a promising target
A five-storey block in an enemy suburb
Two missiles launched and a hundred lives shattered
Smoke choked them if concrete and steel had not crushed them

Green grow the cedars of Lebanon
Is it salaam or is it shalom?

7. They found her they found her the ring on her finger
Her arms clutched her baby her young sons clung to her
Her husband her comrade her dear love beside her
All their promise over all murdered together

Green grow the cedars of Lebanon
Is it salaam or is it shalom?

2006

When Israeli planes bombed Beirut in August 2006, Selwa Wehbe, her husband and three children were killed. They had fled there to escape bombing raids in South Lebanon which the Israelis launched in response to attacks by Hezbollah. See Guardian newspaper, 15th August 2006.

25. PLEASE MRS HUBBARD

1. Please Mrs Hubbard you must understand
These new rules are the law of the land
I’ve got to apply them it’s what I’m paid to do
Yes I know your cupboard is bare
And you’ve got three kids and it isn’t fair
But the social fund has nothing to spare
For you

And there’s a hard glass wall between you and me !

2. Do you get Family Credit ? You do ?
Your husband’s low wage and the children too
But now the whole of your Housing Benefit’s gone
And now the kids’ school meals aren’t free any more
You’re rather worse off than before
Though the rules were changed to help the poor
Get on

There’s a hard glass wall between you and me!

3. Look Mrs Hubbard I have told you once
You get nothing from the social fund this month
So reapply next month find the kid a second-hand bed
Your social worker has spoken on the phone
And as you haven’t got adequate funds of your own
I’m authorised to offer you a loan
Instead

But there’s a hard glass wall between you and me!

4. Apply to a charity try one or two
They might have something for someone like you
The Salvation Army clear houses when people have died
You can’t claim the benefits you used to get
You won’t have a loan you’re already in debt
You need help Mrs Hubbard so please forget
Your pride

Though there’s a hard glass wall between you and me!

5. Since fewer claims such as yours have been paid
Look what savings the government’s made
The wealthier wealth-creators pay far less tax
The government gives them the right to choose
They’re free to win and you’re free to lose
When it comes to benefits we’re told to use
The axe

And there’s a hard glass wall between you and me

6. One minister thought he’d abolished you
But there are lots more Mrs Hubbards in the queue
Faces lined with the signs of worry need and fear
He couldn’t say what poverty was at all
He’d never stood in front of this hard glass wall
Knowing he’d never need to pay a call
Down here

Where there’s a hard glass wall between you and me!
And we call it ‘Social Security’

1988

In the 1980s benefit claimants, usually those applying for emergency payments, would sometimes physically attack DSS (Department of Social Security) officials dealing with their claims. The Thatcher government had cut housing and other benefits. To protect staff, reinforced glass partitions were installed in DSS offices.

26. PORKY PIES

Heard a bird talkin’ to her bloke one night
He got an earful of her all right
She weren’t half angry with him!
She went for him like a good ‘un
While he stood there like a pudden
Here’s the seein’-off she give him

1. Got a lot to tell you dear
One word in your shell-like ear
Suddenly it’s come to me I realise
You are more than just a pair o’ big brown eyes
You deserve to win a medal or a prize
Just for tellin’ porkies
No more talkie-talkies
You’ve been tellin’ porky pies!

2. You’ve been tellin’ porky pies
Proper whoppers rotten lies
Though them porky pies you told were meant to last
All the sell-by dates on them are gone and past
Once I sussed you out I started learnin’ fast
You’ve been tellin’ porkies
Gimme back me door-keys!
You’ve been tellin’ porky pies!

3. You you rat forgot to lie once
When you told me your name
You changed that three times in two months:
Like the bloomin’ weather never the same!

4. When I saw through your disguise
It was not a nice surprise
Used to reckon I could trust you that’s a laugh!
Didn’t know you’d led me up the garden path
Caught you sharin’ someone else’s bubble-bath
You’d been tellin’ porkies
You’d been up to naughties!
You’d been tellin’ porky pies!

5. Used to think you quite a prize
Ain’t it funny how time flies?
Once you promised you would always love me true
All them porky pies o’ yours have left me blue
Now I hear you’re tellin’ ’em to someone new
You’ve been tellin’ porkies
Time you went for walkies!
You’ve been tellin’ porky pies!

6. When you said ‘Let’s marry in May’
I was glad to agree
I saw red when come the great day
I heard you’d up and done a runner on me!

7. You’ve been tellin’ porky pies,
Porkies of gi-normous size
Dunno how I swallowed ’em I must confess
Now I’m piggin’ sick o’ them and you oh yes!
I’ll tell you just where you can stick ’em can’t you guess?
You’ve been tellin’ porkies
Big as Sunday Sporties
No more talkie-talkies!
Gimme back me door-keys!
You’d been up to naughties!
Time you went for walkies!
You’ve been tellin’ porky pies!

1985

27. PUNCH AND JUDY

1. I am the showman  and on me back
I carry me actors in me pack
A puppet showman that’s me yours truly
And the stars of my show are Punch and Judy!
‘That’s the way to do it’ says Punchinella
Hump-back and hook-nose he’s a comical fella!

2. And the first comes up is old Punch hisself
‘Ladies and gents’ he says ‘here’s your good health!’
He carries his big stick wherever he goes
It’s thick and strong and as long as his nose!
‘That’s the way to do it’ says Punchinella
Big stick and long nose symbolic old fella!

3. Next up comes Judy Punch’s old lady
Saying ‘I’m off out now Punch so mind the baby!’
‘Oh no I won’t’ says Punch ‘Yes you will’ says Judy
‘Cop hold o’ your kid my lad none o’ your old moody!’
‘That’s the way to do it’ says Punchinella
Cock-sure but hen-pecked pathetic old fella!

4. Kid keeps howlin’ old Punch he thumps it
It bawls he belts it into bed he dumps it
It cries he calms it down it bites his finger
Punch ups and bungs it through the bloomin’ winder!
‘That’s the way to do it’ says Punchinella
‘That’ll learn the bleedin’ brat to yell and beller!’

5. Here’s Mrs Judy now come back again
Not knowin’ Punch has done the nipper in
‘Where’s baby  Punch?’ she says ‘Gone  gone to sleep!’ says he
‘Don’t you know where your own son is? You make me weep’ says she
‘That’s the way to do it’ says Punchinella
‘I threw it out the winder’ he has to tell her!

6. She cries her heart out ‘Where’s my li’l son gone?’
Says Punch ‘There’s plenty more where that one come from!’
With a stick she bangs and beats him something lovely
He gets it clubs her kills her kicks her ugly
‘That’s the way to do it’says Punchinella
‘Why keep a wife you hate if you can kill her?’

7. Up jumps a copper all dressed in blue
Saying  ‘Mr Punch I am arrestin’ you
I’ve got a warrant to take you up for what you done!’
‘And I’ve got a warrant ‘ says Punch ‘to knock you down!’
‘That’s the way to do it’ says Punchinella
Kickin’ him arse over head straight down the cellar

8. The law soon catches him again and in a while
Before Judge Black-Cap he’s standin’ trial
‘Killed wife and child?’ he says ‘You guilty wretch!
Take Punch away and hang him  Mr Ketch!’
‘That’s the way to do it’ says Punchinella
‘Hang ’em all  but don’t hang me!’ he cries in terror

9. ‘See this-here noose?’ says Jack ‘Poke your head through!’
Old Punch lets on he dunno what to do
‘In here Mr Ketch?’ he  says ‘Or p’raps in there?’
‘Hang about’ the hangman says‘I’ll show you where’
‘That’s the way to do it’ says Punchinella
Stringin’ up the hangman he’s a swingin’ old fella!

10. ‘Jack Ketch is dead’  he cries  ‘Hoorah  hooray  I’m free
Don’t care if the Devil hisself should come and call on me!
Jack Ketch is dead ‘ he says  ‘Old Punch’ll do them all!’
Up pops Old Nick hisself    tail  horns and hooves and all!
‘That’s the way to do it’ says Punchinella
‘Hang about I’m your best friend we’re birds of a feather!’

11. The Devil darts at Punch but he ain’t havin’ it
Nick gets hisself a stick but Punch keeps grabbin’ it
He aims a mighty swipe at Satan’s nut an’
The Devil’s out for the count as dead as mutton
‘That’s the way to do it’ says Punchinella
He’s beat the Devil hisself heroic old fella!

12. The show is over now me dolls need mendin’
But Punch and Punch’s play are never-endin’
In ev’ry soul alive there’s a Punch and a Judy
In you and you sir you ma’am too and me yours truly!
‘That’s the way to do it’ says Punchinella
The Punch and Judy game goes on forever!

1971

I have been a Punch and Judy man myself since 1974. This song tells some of the story of the traditional puppet show. ‘That’s the way to do it!’ is squeaked in a falsetto voice like the one the showman uses for Punch himself by holding a piece of pewter, the ‘schwazzle’, in his mouth.

Published in New City Songster vol. 7, 1972 and in Sam Richards and Tish Stubbs, The English Folksinger, 1979

28. ROBBING THE POOR

1. Now ladies and gentlemen
I think we’ve all agreed
How ladies and gentlemen
This government’s policies have got to proceed
We’ll cut down on help for the filthy poor
But still allow the filthy rich perks galore
Which side are we on? We know which!
The poor are poor because they’re stupid and lazy you see
So we’re slashing lots of services they get free
We’re robbing the poor we’ve done it before
We’re robbing them to help the rich!

2. And ladies and gentlemen
National Health what to do?
You’ll understand ladies and gentlemen
We have plans in hand for it quite a few
We’re cutting treatment offered on the NHS
And we’re gradually privatising it all oh yes!
We’ll slip it through without a hitch!
Once it’s private there’ll be money in it large amounts
Then it’ll be the profit not the patient that counts
We’re robbing the poor shut the surgery door!
We’re robbing them to help the rich!

We’re all in this together
But the rich are more together than the poor
For whatever the financial weather
We look after our investments keep them safe off-shore

3. Without games ladies and gentlemen
The country’d go to the devil
But all the same ladies and gentlemen
The playing-fields needn’t be too terribly level
Of course we’re keen to get the kids to play more sport
But the scheme cost a packet we’re withdrawing support
(We could sell off ev’ry state school pitch!)
Yes our Paralympians did their very best yet
Now we’re cutting the allowance the disabled get
We’re robbing the poor (who’s keeping the score?)
We’re robbing them to help the rich!

4. So ladies and gentlemen
Hedge your funds and chillax
Though ladies and gentlemen
Keep quietly evading paying income tax!
We’ll cut the cash that’s handed to the poor and needy
Free it up for use by the rich and greedy
How the Left will bleat and bitch!
Both feet in the trough by and by we’ll be
Running the Pig Society!
We’re robbing the poor that’s what they are for!
We’re robbing them to help the rich!

We’ve got some bright ideas
And this demands an intellectual leap
Find us half a million volunteers
And all the services we can’t sell off they’ll run dirt cheap!

5. You see ladies and gentlemen
It’s for our country’s good
That we ladies and gentlemen
Are cutting public spending we’d cut more if we could!
We’ll price the poor out of college degrees
Cut legal aid housing aid cut what we please
It’s an ideological itch!
Maybe the rich created this economic mess
Well the poor have got to suffer for it none the less!

We’re robbing the poor as in days of yore!
We’re robbing them to help ourselves that’s us!
We’re robbing them to help the rich
We’re robbing the poor to help the rich!

2012

David Cameron, Coalition and later Tory prime minister from 2011 to 2016, a
master of ‘chillaxing’, advocated a ‘Big Society’ based on voluntary community
groups, but later imposed harsh austerity measures to cut government spending: the
rich got richer and the poor got poorer.

29. SEE IT COME DOWN

1. In the house where I was born
First home I knew
There’s corrugated iron blindin’ all the winders
In the garden Dad made round the lawn
Where green grass grew
There’s muck and rubble and mud half-bricks and cinders
For the developers have come to town
And soon I’ll see it see it come down
See it come down

2. My old Mum they’ve moved her to
A high-rise flat
Where she misses her mates and hopes we’ll see her Sunday
She lives alone with a lovely view
An’ a clean door-mat
Afraid that death’ll catch her nappin’ one day
The lady with the meals on wheels the one friend she’s found
Though she cares for the old place she’ll never see it come down
See it come down

3. Clouds o’ dust like smoke around the demolition site
Where I drive my crane
It’s swingin’ the big steel ball that smashes walls in
Winch it back careful till the cable’s tight
An’ let it swing again
There’s a little more no-man’s-land as each brick falls in
A car-park an’ then an office-block well I’ve cleared the ground
An’ now I’ve seen it seen it come down
Seen it come down

4. We was all one like where we lived
I wish we was now
We had debts an’ dole an’ kids but we did have neighbours
Where the street was they want to build
Some tombstone tower
Like a monster concrete money-box for strangers
Ev’ry last square foot of it worth hundred pound
Some day we’ll see that come tumblin’ down
See it come down !

1973

Published in Sam Richards and Tish Stubbs, The English Folksinger, 1979

Recorded by Sam Richards and Tish Stubbs – The English Folksinger Transatlantic Records MTRA 2011 LP, 1979
Roy Bailey and Leon Rosselson – If I Knew Who the Enemy Was … Fuse Records
CF284 LP, 1979; Roy Bailey – What You Do with What You’ve Got Fuse Records
CFCD 399, 1992 and Band of Hope – Rhythm & Reds Musikfolk MFCD512, 1994
 Jack Warshaw and Sandra Kerr on Long Time Gone  Combine 88576746247 CD, 2011 and MP3, 2015 (see www.jackwarshaw.com)

30. SMALL CHANGE

The cries of London echo down
The centuries but London town
Hasn’t heard ‘Sweet lavender’
Or ‘Chimney sweep’ for many a year
Today we hear you all know why
Another and a sadder cry

1. Crouched in a corner of the Underground
She holds out an empty plastic cup
The kind you throw away
People push past her blindly homeward bound
She has no home she does not look up
Or watch them go away
But chants the phrase which nowadays
Hardly seems strange
‘Any change please any change please any change ?’

2. She won’t get much change out of anyone
London’s a hard town hardest of all
Here in the heart of it
She doesn’t sing or dance she is no fun
She’s just something sitting by the wall
Almost a part of it
And now her cry to passers-by
Is drowned out by the trains
‘Any change please any change please any change ?’

When midnight and the last train’s gone
The station staff will move her on
While London sleeps like thousands more
In some cold stair-well or shop door
She’ll doss down like a small stray cat
In her one-bedroom cardboard flat

3. She has seen change orphaned when very small
Uncared for she found herself in care
Her home her mother gone
Sent to a Home which was no home at all
Then once she’d begun to settle there
Moved to another one
Time limped by she learnt how not to cry
The damage remains
‘Any change please any change please any change ?’

4. All change at sixteen ‘You can’t stay in care’
They found her a room a bed a shelf
And a youth-training scheme
Lost in a loud crowd unsure unaware
Assessed tested soon she sacked herself
And never made the team
Dropped out moved on ‘Dole? You get none’
The DSS explains
‘Any change please any change please any change ?’

No home no dole she muddles through
Survive that’s all that she can do
And now she just about survives
On fifties twenties tens and fives 
Perhaps one day she’s going to be
Part of the Big Society?

5. Small change from minds slammed tight like tube-train doors
And eyes staring fixedly ahead
As if she wasn’t there
Don’t they know that since someone changed the laws
She’s had to sleep rough and beg for bread ?
Is she beyond repair?
Hoarsely she calls to the tiled walls
Once you come within range
‘Any please any change please any change ?’

6. No change from this bland man with his bright smile
Nor the woman who passed by before
Her eyes cold steely blue
They offer nothing self-help’s more their style
She sprawls in thin blankets on the floor
What is there she can do
But chant the phrase which nowadays
Hardly seems strange
‘Any change please any change please any change ?’

1992, 1998

There were very few beggars in mid-20th century London until Margaret Thatcher became prime minister in 1979. The DSS was the Department of Social Security and the ‘Big Society’ was ‘a concept whereby a significant amount of responsibility for the running of a society is devolved to local communities and volunteers’. ‘While London sleeps’ quotes Harry Dacre’s music-hall song on the same theme, While London’s Fast Asleep, 1896

Recorded by Frankie Armstrong – The Garden Of Love Fellside Recordings FECD144, 1999

31. SORROW AND LOVE

1. There was a farmer in the North Country
Had lovely daughters one two three
One night he rapped the supper table
‘Now then’ he said ‘attend to me !’

2. ‘Tomorrow morning I’ll rise early
And I’ll be on my way before you’ve brushed your hair
But tell me what you lack and if I can bring it back
I’ll buy you each a present at Michaelmas Fair !’

3. ‘Silk please’ said Lizzie ‘as blue as summer
Sewn all over with silver stars!’
‘Satin ’ said Mary ‘as green as springtime
All embroidered with golden flowers!’

4. ‘Blue silk for Lizzie green satin for Mary
Silver stars gold flowers well I’ve money enough
And Susan too what’ll I buy you ?’
‘Father get me a pennyworth of sorrow and love!’

5. Late late next day as the light was fading
He drove his old pony home from the fair
A smart young gentleman overtook him
Reining in a handsome chestnut mare

6. ‘Why so sad and slow ?’ he asked the farmer
‘Are you out of pocket ?’ ‘Sir I’ve money enough
But I’ve bought one daughter silk and I’ve bought her sister satin
And  I cannot find my youngest any sorrow and love !’

7. They rode on together and he told his story
‘Why here are all your daughters waiting at the gate !
I’ll bring you some sorrow and love Miss Susan
At the crossroads tomorrow on the stroke of eight’

8. The mare reared up and he pulled her double bridle back
He swung her round and at a gallop rode off
Her sisters had their presents but Susan had a promise
And she dreamt all night about sorrow and love

9. She dreamt all night it was day already
Woke fell asleep again dreamt she was late
Woke dressed in haste ran to meet him at the crossroads
Heard the church clock striking eight

10. ‘Too late’ he cried ‘too late by seconds !
‘Too late for a pennyworth of sorrow and love!’
Jumped from the saddle took her hand as if to kiss it
And bit the very tip of her finger off

11. Three drops of blood stained his white shirtfront
Back into the saddle he leapt and then
‘My name’ he cried ‘it is Squire King Kaley
I’ll make you my wife if you  find me again !’

12. Up she rose as pale as paper
Clinging to his stirrup with a soundless cry
Lost her grip and fell then watched him ride off
Her bitten finger bleeding tears in her eye

13. He vanished like the wind but she up and followed after him
Stumbling on without stop or stay
Inquiring ev’rywhere for Squire King Kaley
She was far from home by the dusk of day

14. She had no money nor no warm clothing
Her rings she traded for a bit of bread and meat
Her gown and slippers for a servant’s overall
And a pair of wooden pattens for her little white feet

15. Nine days and nights she strayed distracted
Always unsure which path to take
Till ragged and starved she met with a  stranger
On the windy shore of a frozen lake

16. Across the bright ice on an island
She saw a white house by the waterside
‘O tell me please whose house is that sir ?’
‘Why Squire King Kaley’s’ he replied

17. ‘Can I cross the ice ?’ ‘Aye with iron shoes on
You can have ’em now if you can pay’
She bought the iron shoes with her mother’s necklace
And  over the ice she made her way

18. Over the ice in pain she laboured
Iron bruised her feet wind chilled her blood
Till  tired almost to death and shivering
At Squire King Kaley’s gate she stood

19. She asked for work said the housekeeper lady
‘Work in the kitchen say I sent you there
Don’t put on airs  miss ! I forbid you
To wash your face or to dress your hair!’

20. He’d fallen sick had Squire King Kaley
‘My shirt is stained with blood’ he said
‘If any woman can wash these marks off
She’ll be the one that I shall wed’

21. The lady tried three times and better
Then the other servants all to no avail
Susan said she’d try they mocked her with the cry
‘Filthy little beggar you’re bound to fail !’

22. Susan scrubbed the shirt in running water
Which in a trice ran clear and clean
Hung it up to dry in wind and sunshine
Spotless as ever it had been

23. The lady saw and snatched it from her
Saying ‘Never let me see your face no more !’
And into the bitter winter weather
She thrust her weeping through the door

24. The stains had gone up got the squire
As well as ever from his bed
‘Find me the maid who washed the blood off
For she’s the woman I shall wed!’

25. Outside the house sat Susan shivering
In the squire’s chamber the lady cried
‘I have washed the bloodstains off your shirt sir !’
But Squire King Kaley knew she lied

26. He sent for Susan and when she entered
She found him whole and healed at last
Then he arose and knelt before her
But she drew him to her and held him fast

27. ‘Sorrow and love’ she said ‘I longed for
Sorrow I know now more than enough
You have given me a power of sorrow
Now let us find joy in the power of love’

2001

From a tale told in 1914 by Gus Gray in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, to T.W.
Thompson. He noted it in the Brotherton Collection, Leeds, notebook 2, pp.
2-16: see the Penguin Book of English Folktales, edited by Neil Philip, 1992

32. SUPER NUCLEAR SHELTER

Tune If It Wasn’t for the ’Ouses In Between

1. If you saw our nuclear shelter ‘What a super one!’ you’d say
‘Self-sufficient safe secluded and secure!’
But be sure you know the password or you might be turned away
By our computer-operated door
Central heating air conditioning and all the rest you know
And when electric-current levels fall
We boost them with our generator pow’red by dynamo
Off the kiddies’ little treadmill in the hall!

Oh it really is a super nuclear shelter
To the North there lie the ashes of Wood Green
And though the viewing slits are narrow
You might see some bits of Harrow
If it wasn’t for the firestorms in between!

2. Oh we’re snug as bugs in rugs down here my family and I
In our tight cocoon of concrete wrapped in steel
We’re radiation-proof of course completely warm and dry
And the box-sets that we’re watching still appeal
But the picture often flickers flutters stutters blurs and streaks
There’s a patch of damp around the vacuum-lock
The walls are showing hairline cracks the ceiling sighs and creaks
And when little missiles fall we feel the shock

But it really is a super nuclear shelter
And Southwards part of Croydon can be seen
If you got up very early
You could see what’s left of Purley
If it wasn’t for the brick-dust in between!

3. Yes we’re well away from ev’ryone twelve feet below the ground
Though we do our very best to keep in touch
We transmit our call-sign constantly but haven’t heard a sound
Except one voice that croaked ‘Goodbye!’ in Dutch
The kids of course are missing school we teach them all we can
And I’ve built them a whole Lego model town
But Peter will not play toy soldiers like a little man
And Jane insists on singing ‘All Fall Down!’

Still it really is a super nuclear shelter
Due East is just where Hackney must have been 
You could see what two small bombs did
All the way from Bow to Wanstead
If it wasn’t for the fallout in between!

4. We’re safe here and here we’re staying till the missile raids have stopped
We’re safer here than houses used to be
There’ve been people wand’ring out there ever since the first one dropped
And they seem to want all we’ve got here for free!
We watch ’em on closed-circuit when they shamble up and shout
The remote-control machine-gun does the rest
So they’ll be dead when it’s quite safe for us to venture out
And show that we’ve survived and stood the test

Yes it really is a super nuclear shelter
To the West is the great crater that was Sheen
And oh that nauseous feeling!
You’d see the last tree left in Ealing
If it wasn’t for the fire storms
If it wasn’t for the brick-dust
If it wasn’t for the fall-out
If it wasn’t for the corpses in between!

1981

At the height of the Cold War in the 1980s some private nuclear shelters were built in back gardens. One surviving example has become a listed building.

Gus Elen’s music-hall song If It Wasn’t for the ’Ouses In Between by Edgar Bateman and George LeBrunn, 1899 has the line ‘It really is a very pretty garden’.

Broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Week Ending, March 1981

Published in New City Songster vol. 20a, 1985

33. SYMBOLS

1. Besieged on a bare and rocky height
The last of the rebels stand and fight
Calling on the Lord to save his chosen people
They cheat defeat by embracing death
And die defying with their last breath
The iron legions of the mighty Roman eagle

This is the tale the old books tell
Of MASADA

2. From Warsaw’s ghetto more rebels rise
Guns in their hands and hope in their eyes
To free their people from a world of pain and loss
Their pistols speak machine guns reply
And briefly they battle then bravely die
Fighting the swastika the Nazis’ crooked cross

This is the tale the old films tell
Of WARSAW

3. A child of the ghetto see her stand
A grandmother in the Promised Land
The radio warns of danger but the weather’s fine
A sudden explosion splits the street
Her torn corpse bleeds at her daughter’s feet
Blood red as the red in the flag of Palestine

This is the tale news programmes tell
Of HAMAS

4. Now others exiled dispossessed
Boxed in like cattle marooned oppressed
See their children killed their city wrecked invaded
Where broken bricks and bodies sprawl
The invaders’ tanks roar past and all
Bear the sign the rebels wore the Star of David

This is the tale phone-cameras tell
Of GAZA

2010

70 CE: at Masada Jewish Zealot rebels chose mass suicide to avoid capture by the
occupying Romans.

1943: Jewish resistance groups rose against the occupying Nazis’ plan to deport the
entire population of the Warsaw Ghetto, defiantly displaying both Polish and Zionist
flags: they fought for months until wiped out.

Since 2002 Palestinian militants have frequently attacked Israeli targets and Israeli
forces have bombed and briefly invaded the Gaza Strip.

2010: an old Jewish lady, a Holocaust survivor visiting Israel, was killed by a
missile fired by Hamas from Palestine.

34. THE BOMBS

1. Did you watch the document’ry on the box last night
About the day they dropped the Bomb ?
Made me feel so rough I had to turn it off
Went to bed but couldn’t sleep for long
Couldn’t stop thinking of the people I love
Grown-ups and kids and all
And oh what will happen to my darlings
When the war comes and the big bombs
Begin to fall ?

2. Couldn’t help thinking of the love of my life
Lying dying in a desert of ash
Her fine eyes dead in her lovely head
And her body scarred red by the flash
Couldn’t stop rememb’ring our two dear kids
When they were just babies and small
Oh what will happen to my darlings
When the war comes and the big bombs
Begin to fall?

3. I saw the three people I’ll always love
Lying by me on the bed
Their bodies raw and the skin stripped off
While the grey dust mushroomed overhead
The ashes of the shattered town
Towered up like one black wall
Oh what will happen to my darlings
When the war comes and the big bombs
Begin to fall?

1983

From a phrase in G.B.Edwards’ memorable novel set in Guernsey, The Book of
Ebenezer Le Page, 1981

35. THE GREEN LADIES

1. ‘I’m off to find me fortune father
Like Lucy and Phoebe done before me
Have you got a bit of bread and a bottle o’ water
For me to take on my long journey?’

2. ‘Here take your loaf and your bottle o’ water
Like I give both your sisters Dinah
First Lucy left then Phoebe followed
Never heard word nor news from either

3. ‘ Fare you well Dinah!’ ‘Fare you well father!
I’ll seek service with some gentry’
She walked a little way then late that day
She met an old traveller cold and hungry

4. He stepped up and said ‘Where you going girl?’
‘Seeking service’ she give answer
‘I’ll tell you where to find your fortune
For a crust o’ bread and a sup o’ cold water’

5. ‘Here take me bread and me bottle o’ water
Where shall I find me fortune tell me?’
‘Knock at the house with the green door girl
With the clock that’s stopped and the high dark chimney’

6. Knock-knock-knock the green door opened
A tall green lady come to answer
‘Do you need any help in the house now missis?
Have you got a maid?’ she asked her

7. ‘What can you do?’ ‘Why bake and brew
Make a stew whatever you bid me’
‘You’ll do’ says she ‘but don’t you never
Look in that clock nor up that chimney!’

8. She cooked and cleaned and she fetched and carried
She baked their bread and she drew their water
And away they rode on great black cats
The green lady and her green daughter

9. And she looked in the long-case clock and found
Two headless women’s bodies
And up the chimney black with blood
Both Lucy’s head and Phoebe’s

10. Fast as ever she could run
She up with her sisters’ heads and bodies
Out the house and down the garden
Crying ‘Hide me!’ to the berry-bushes

11. Home come them two green ladies
Saw blood by the clock and soot by the chimney
‘Come you here Dinah where are you hiding?
Nobody heard for the house stood empty

12. Down them steps on two black cats
Rode them two green ladies
Axes shining on their shoulders
Anger in their faces

13. ‘Where’s that girl gone?’ The berry-bushes wouldn’t say
They chopped and chopped one bush give a quiver
‘That way this way I don’t know which way!’
The next said ‘Straight across the river!’

14. Straight down to the river they rode
The green lady and her green daughter
They stopped they stumbled in they tumbled
Drifted and drowned in the swift brown water

15. Dinah saw ’em drown then she laid down
The heads and the bodies of her dead sisters
Their dead eyes began to open
Their dead lips began to whisper

16. ‘O feed our mouths with the bread of love
For we have had nothing but the crust of pain
Wash our wounds with the water of life
And we’ll be healed and whole again!’

17. ‘Where will I get them?’ Dinah wondered
When who stepped up but the poor old traveller
In one hand the loaf she’d given him
In the other her bottle o’ sweet well water

18. ‘You and your sisters all met me girl
But you give me all that you had on you
There’s love in the loaf and life in the water
So take you back what I got from you!

19. And she fed their mouths with the bread of love
And they forgot the taste of pain
She washed their wounds with the water of life
And they rose healed and whole again

20. Up rose Lucy up rose Phoebe
Says Dinah ‘We’ll be home tomorrow
Home where our old father’s waiting
Singing how joy comes after sorrow!

1978

From a story called ‘The Green Lady’ told by ‘an old Norfolk lady, 95
years of age, who had heard it told “a score o’ times” in her youth.’
See A Dictionary of British Folk-Tales: Part A, Folk Narratives, 1970,
edited by Katharine Briggs, who notes‘This story is probably imperfect:
the two sisters were probably restored to life.’ I have used this hint.

36. THE LILY

1. The lily is a fine flower
There’s one grows in my garden
But though her roots are white as milk
Her blooms are blood-red scarlet
It’s a fine flower the lily!

2. Where’d you get that lily
The scarlet one you know ?
Where’d you get that lily-flower ?
I stole her long ago
It’s a fine flower the lily!

3. As I rode high on a haywain
I looked across some big stone wall
I saw a lawn and a bank of flowers
Scarlet lilies sweet and tall
It’s a fine flower the lily!

4. As I rode by on that haywain
The dusk was just a-falling
Thinks I I’ll have some lily roots
Tonight I’ll come a-calling
It’s a fine flower the lily!

5. Come twelve I’d climbed that big stone wall
And softly I dropped over
The moon was bright the air was warm
The night was full of summer
It’s a fine flower the lily!

6. I brushed past someone in the dark
A young voice said ‘Who’s there ?’
A young girl in a thin white frock
Said ‘What are you doing here ?’
It’s a fine flower the lily!

7. ‘What are you doing here ?’ she said
‘Hush don’t answer loudly!’
I looked at her a little and said
‘I come for the lily’
It’s a fine flower the lily!

8. ‘What’ll you do if they find you
Trespassing past midnight ?
What’ll they say if they find us
Together in the moonlight ?
It’s a fine flower the lily!

9. ‘My parents they may hear us
Or watch us from their window
Oh hush your voice and make no noise
And step into the shadow’
It’s a fine flower the lily!

10. So in the shadow of that wall
She walked and whispered with me
What happened then old man old man ?
She give me the lily
It’s a fine flower the lily!

11. The lily is a fine flower
There’s one grows in my garden
But though her roots are white as milk
Her blooms are blood-red scarlet
It’s a fine flower the lily!

1969

From ‘The Lily’, the first in H.E.Bates’ collection of stories My Uncle Silas, 1939

Published in New City Songster vol. 4 & 5, 1970

Recorded by Dónal Maguire – Gilded Chains and Sordid Affluence Rossendale
Records MUSCD005, 2002

37. THE LOVER’S DREAM

1. Last night I dreamt a dream so deep
My love and I we lay together
I dreamt that in this dream of mine
It seemed that in my arms I held her

2. When I awoke I lay alone
My love was gone the dream was over
In came a lady white as white
Colder far than snow in winter

3. ‘Where did you come in my love?
My life how came you in my chamber?
All the doors are bolted fast
The windows closed there is no entry!’
‘Lover I am not your love
I am Death and God has sent me’

4.‘Death so strict and so hard-hearted
Let me live but one day longer’
‘One day more you cannot have
In one hour your life is over’

5. He puts on his shoes so fast
Puts his clothes on even faster
Off he goes along the street
Knocks at the house of his true lover

6.‘Open the door and let me in
Let me in my dearest dear!’
‘How can I let you in my love?
My parents they may see or hear
My father has not gone to court
He’s not asleep nor is my mother’

7. ‘If you don’t let me in tonight
You’ll not see me again love ever
Death is hard upon my heels
With you there might be life my treasure’

8.‘Stand beneath my window-sill
Beneath the room where I embroider
I’ll throw you down a silken rope
For you to climb up to my chamber’

9.The fine silk rope it frays and breaks
Here comes Death says to the lover
‘Let us go now come with me
It is time the hour is over’

2007

A version of the Spanish ballad El enamorado y la Muerte, said to derive from
a poem by Juan del Encina (1468-1529). See Ramón Menéndez Pidal, Flor
nueva de romances viejos, 1928

38. THE NEW SAMARITAN

Tune the balladThe Bitter Withy

1. There once was a rich Samaritan
And he was a good neighbour indeed
When many passed by on the other side
He helped poor souls in need

2. He helped a young woman with a babe in arms
Its father had up and gone
He gave her a little bit of money each week
So she could cope alone

3. And he helped a man who was lame in the legs
And a woman who could not see
‘For you have as much right to a decent life
As anyone else’ said he

4. The Samaritan was ill for a long long time
And then to his pensioners’ joy
They were visited by his very own son
A handsome smiling boy

5. ‘I am the New Samaritan’
He cried to a chorus of cheers
‘And I’m checking how much has been spent on you
These many costly years!’

6. Then he took some money from the mother of the child
Whose father had up and gone
Saying ‘This won’t hurt if you go and get work’
Though he knew there was little or none

7. ‘If a man’ he said ‘deserts his girl
And she raises his child on her own
Henceforth she will have to fend for herself
For the benefit’s up and gone’

8. He struck away the crutch that the crippled man used
Took the stick from the blind woman’s hand
Saying ‘I must make sure that you do need help
Can you really not see or stand?’

9. Saying ‘You look lame and you seem blind
But I could take your money away
Or give it all back or cut it to the bone
But which I shall not say!’

10. ‘I am the New Samaritan
And when my work’s complete
All those excluded will be included
But I never give to beggars in the street’

11. Now was it a nightmare or a dream
Or will it turn out to be true
This tale of the New Samaritan
Who wants to make ev’rything new?

1998

Tony Blair, youngest Labour prime minister at 43, held office from 1997 until 2007.
He termed his party ‘New Labour’. Much of his legislation was progressive and his
government secured the Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement, but he cut welfare
benefits for single mothers and the disabled and said he ‘did not give money to
beggars.’

39. THE ROBIN AND THE CROW

1. One autumn morning as I was walking
Bright dew was sparkling on ev’ry blade of grass
I heard a black crow murmur ‘Farewell to summer
Old man remember all things must pass’

Up hopped the robin with his sharp little song
‘There’s another summer coming and life goes on!’

‘Is that so?’ said the crow

2. ‘See the dandelion he stands defiant
In his ragged yellow splendour spring and summer through
When autumn’s harsh winds blow * he wanes and weakens so
He has a head as white as snow old man like you’

Up piped the robin with his sharp little song
‘There’s another summer coming and life goes on!’

‘How so?’ said the crow

3. ‘The dandelion’s white locks go flying
Blown high aloft and far away by the swift wind
They fall and fade and bury the seeds they carry
Where fresh dandelions so many will flow’r come spring’

So spoke the robin with his sharp little song
‘There’s another summer coming and life goes on!

‘Off I go’ said the crow

4. One autumn morning as I was walking
Bright dew was sparkling on ev’ry blade of grass
I heard a black crow murmur ‘Farewell to summer
Old man remember all things must pass’

Up hopped the robin with his sharp little song
‘There’s another summer coming and life goes on!’

2007

* OR ‘As the weeks come and go…’

40. THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER

Tune Streets of Laredo

1. As I walked down Parliament Street to Westminster
As I walked past the Cenotaph one misty day
The Unknown Soldier tapped me on the shoulder
With fingers as cold as the wet Flanders clay

2. He said ‘Poppies look pretty and pensions come handy
But a whole life’s much better than one shattered half
To tell some bloke’s widow “He died for his country”
Is comfort as cold as the stone Cenotaph

3. ‘The red poppy flow’rs that you wear in November
In mem’ry of men killed in this or that war
Serve only to help you forget to remember
It’s time we decided to soldier no more.

4. ‘Me I was killed by a spear-thrust at Agincourt
A sabre at Waterloo a shell on the Somme
I was drowned at Dunkirk killed by cold in Korea
And now I’ve been smashed by some Arab lad’s bomb

5. ‘I am a stand-in for all missing soldiers
For the poor sods “known only to God” as they say
And for all the lost millions of unknown civilians
That we killed and war killed and still kills today

6. ‘They say they don’t know me but they feel they owe me
Some glory because I died carrying a gun
And ev’ry November we forget to remember
That ev’ry day war will kill some mother’s son

7. ‘Oh blow no more trumpets and roll no more drumbeats
March no more slow marches, fire no more salutes
War isn’t some glorious “Send ’em victorious”
It’s a stinking dead body with worms in its boots

8. ‘I want thirteen gen’rals to carry my coffin
Thirteen politicians to sing my death song
They may crawl on their knees over barbed wire and shrapnel
The dead won’t forgive them for what they did wrong

9. ‘Our Glorious Dead say the words on the Cenotaph
Their bodies are broken their beauty is fled
They were burnt bombed and shot to save civilisation
It may have been glorious they’re certainly dead’

1969

41. THOSE ROADSIDE FLOWERS

1. Those roadside flowers tied to the traffic-lights
Say somebody’s died here somebody’s gone
Another statistic another accident
To somebody’s daughter somebody’s son
And oh the cruel sunshine and the cruel rain
Have spoilt the flow’rs inside their cellophane
And the road roars by

2. Those roadside flowers remind us of accidents
Don’t know who those flow’rs were for or who they were from
It wasn’t by accident that our son our soldier boy
Was killed in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb
And now the light of the sun and the sound of the rain
Will never awaken him from his bed again
And the road roars by

3.The roadside bomb that killed our handsome lad
Was made by an Afghan lad another mother’s son
His kids were killed on the road killed in error by remote control
Another accident in a war that can never be won
And oh the burning sun and the drenching rain
Can’t wipe away the blood and the grief and the pain
And the road roars by

4. Those roadside flowers tied to the traffic-lights
Say somebody’s died here somebody’s gone
Another statistic another accident
To somebody’s daughter somebody’s son
And oh the cruel sunshine and the cruel rain
Have spoilt the flow’rs inside their cellophane
And the road roars by

2013

42. THREE LITTLE SISTERS

1. Three little sisters playing in the garden
Bang! Bang! A door slams no it’s a gun
‘Danger! Invasion! The enemy’s attacking us!
Indoors! Quick girls!’ In they run

2. In they run but the shelling’s getting nearer
Buildings crack and topple and fall
A tank comes nosing through the dust-clouds
Jolts to a halt as it smashes the wall

3. Smashes the wall and occupies the garden
Women shriek and megaphones shout
‘Out of that house now!’ The gun-turret swivels
Two of the tank crew clamber out

4. Out come the family the girls with white flags
The soldiers eat chocolate the children stare
Their father tries to talk to the tank crew
But they don’t listen they don’t care

5. They don’t care now another young soldier
Stands in the tank turret clutching a gun
He picks his targets pulls the trigger
There’s a blast of bullets and the thing is done

6. The thing’s done and the three little sisters
(Two five and seven their father said)
Topple and fall like broken flowers
Three little girls one crippled two dead

7. Dead are their deaths war or murder?
That’s what guns and hatred do
Three little sisters playing in the garden
They were seven and five and two

8. Fear in the air black smoke on the skyline
A lifetime ago or yesterday ?
Was it in Gaza or the Warsaw Ghetto
That three little girls went out to play?

2011

On 7th January 2009 during Israeli attacks on Hamas militants in Gaza, three young
daughters of Khaled Abed Rabbo were shot by an Israeli soldier outside their house
in Jabalya: Souad (7) and Amal (2) died, Samar (4) was crippled for life. See Human
Rights Watch report White Flag Deaths: Killing of Palestinian Civilians, 2009

43. TIMBEREN HILL

Steps and stairs ‘apples and pears’ carry me to and from my bed
Though the name my Cornish granny gave them lingers in my head
‘The wooden hill to Bedfordshire’ some call them still I know
But ‘Timberen Hill’ my grandmother called them many years ago

1. When I was a child and small
When shadows began to fall
When shadows began to fall and the world was still
I had to say goodnight to the bright firelight
For it was time for me to climb
Over Timberen Hill

Timberen Hill was steep but I’d climb those stairs to sleep
All night in my cot till another new day came round
And sun wind or rain would rouse me again
And I’d climb down

2. When I was a boy growing fast
When the long day was closing at last
When the long day was closing at last and I’d played my fill
I had to finish my war with the boy next door
Say goodnight to my friend and bravely ascend
That mountain Timberen Hill

Once Timberen Hill was scaled I’d sleep till the dark sky paled
And the ship I’d sailed all night had drifted aground
Then I’d yawn and I’d rise and unbutton my eyes
And I’d climb down

3. When my girl and I fell in love
We were closer than hand and glove
We were closer than hand and glove and as lovers will
When we were alone and our time was our own
Night or day we’d steal away
Over Timberen Hill

Timberen Hill was high but up those stairs we’d fly
To lie entwined in our love and the joy we’d found
Then we’d wake with a start for we’d have to part
And we’d climb down

4. When we were young husband and wife
And our loving had made a new life
When our loving had made a new life I waited until
She turned and said ‘Help me up to bed
For now it’s time for me to climb
Over Timberen Hill

Up Timberen Hill our child was born and we wept and smiled
She took the breast and then she slept sweet and sound
And when they’d had some rest and they were both dressed
We all came down

5. Now our grandson stands in the hall
And up those stairs he’ll crawl
Up those stairs he’ll crawl with great care and skill
Up he’ll go steady and slow
One step at a time a mighty climb
Over Timberen Hill

Timberen Hill is steep but he’ll get to the top and he’ll sleep
All night in his cot till another new day comes round
And sun wind or rain will rouse him again
And he’ll climb down

6. When I am grey-haired and grow old
One day when it is cold
One day when it is cold and the wind blows chill
I shall say goodbye to the earth and sky
And leave a farewell kiss for the ones I’ll miss
Over Timberen Hill

Timberen Hill will seem high but I shall climb up by and by
And I shall sleep deep I’ll be outward bound
And when my dream’s done and a new day’s come
They’ll carry me down

1995

44. UNDER THE LEAVES OF LIFE

1. Under the leaves of life two lovers play
Lost in each other’s arms one golden day
Deep in the valley of love they lie under the hill
Larks sing high in the sky and the trees stand still

2. Thousands of miles away on some cold machine
Symbols flicker and fade on an echoing screen
Then a message is passed and an instant order
‘Pre-emptive strike across the border!’

3. And calm intelligent men who love their wives
Aim death and terror and pain at a million lives
A cloud of poisonous fire consumes the sky
Under a leafless stump two lovers lie

1972

The title is stolen from a religious ballad though the song is not religious.

Published in New City Songster vol.17, 1981

45. WHERE SEVEN WINDS MEET

1. Londoners love them
Parks and gardens open spaces
Heaths and commons great and small
Green in all the greyest places
London if it weren’t for them
Would be incomplete
Take Clapham Common say
Where seven winds meet

2. It’s like an island
In a sea of bricks and mortar
Step ashore you’re on green grass
Under tall trees by bright water
Traffic noises ebb and flow
From the busy street
But kites fly silently
Where seven winds meet

Acres of grass and trees and open air
It’s a great big village green
For all the people from the houses in between
To share

3. How high that kite flies
Up it soars far far above us
Strains the string until it sings
Leaps aloft dips drifts and hovers
Though wild winter brings great gales
Rain and snow and sleet
In summer bright kites climb
Where seven winds meet

4. All summer grass grows
Leafy trees cast long green shadows
Tins and bins glint in the sun
Playing-fields pretend they’re meadows
Across blue skies fly
Flocks of parakeet
Green as the trees below
Where seven winds meet

Acres of grass and trees and open air
It’s a great big village green
For all the people from the houses in between
To share

5. The whole year round there
Someone’s always meeting someone
Dogs and children lovers friends
Find each other on the Common
In the play-park on the swings
Kids kick up their feet
As if to touch the sky
Where seven winds meet

6. Around the bandstand
Lofty trees stand in a circle
By the café dogs confer
Buggies glide and scooters hurtle
Toddlers laugh their granny smiles
Life can still be sweet
Dry leaves fade new buds form
Where seven winds meet

Acres of grass and trees and open air
It’s a great big village green
For all the people from the houses in between
To share

7. Weekends or weekdays
Exercise and sport hold sway there
Dogs take owners out for walks
Ev’ry game that’s played they play there
Round the Long Pond sleek and trim
Sails a tiny fleet
Of swift white model yachts
Where seven winds meet

8. Anglers and heron
Fish the Mount Pond’s peaceful waters
Unaware of passers-by
Sweating joggers earnest walkers
Ducks dive in two swans take flight
Hear their white wings beat!
Up up into blue air
Where seven winds meet

Acres of grass and trees and open air
It’s a great big village green
For all the people from the houses in between
To share

9. In white midwinter
While the kids are building snowmen
Ducks parade on frozen ponds
Snow and silence cloak the Common
One day on the snow has gone
Winter’s in retreat
Spring’s coming summer too
Where seven winds meet

10. Breezes from Tooting
Brixton Battersea and Balham
Camberwell and Streatham too
Even Chelsea meet in Clapham
In the bright brisk winter cold
And in summer heat
It’s an uncommon place
Where seven winds meet

Acres of grass and trees and open air
It’s a great big village green
For all the people from the houses in between
To share

2015

I lived for nearly 50 years in Battersea, near Clapham Common, and this is a kind of
farewell in its praise.

46. WHODUNIT

1. The gardener calling for work that morning
Noticed her open kitchen door
Papers bags and shopping still where she’d dropped them
On the table-top and on the floor
And her car was missing friends who’d been ringing
Her house heard nothing phone disconnected
The police were alerted and the facts reported
And a search was started foul play suspected
An accident ? Maybe something more
The year was nineteen eighty-four

2. Dogs came across her corpse sprawled in a lonely copse
And her abandoned car in a ditch nearby
Poor murdered lady she was almost eighty
I wonder how she came to die
Sounds like a myst’ry by Agatha Christie
But it’s the victim who was like Miss Marple
Always asking questions making sharp connections
Did she ask too many Miss Hilda Murrell ?
Who was it thought she’d gone too far
Early in nineteen eighty-four ?

3. She’d run a nursery just outside Shrewsbury
Where she grew roses fine and rare
After her retirement her chief enjoyment
Was the green environment and the open air
She’d been preparing for the public hearing
On the new nuclear plant at Sizewell
And had written a paper warning of its dangers
To all life and nature it seemed suicidal
She didn’t know what was in store
That spring of nineteen eighty-four

4. She had a nephew in the Royal Navy
Served at Naval Ops HQ through the Falklands War
Had he let his aunt know secrets of the Belgrano
Which others can’t know for thirty years or more ?
If he had told her she could have leaked to CND
A team was sent to see swiftly and surely
Her telephone was tapped her every move was mapped
They dropped in while she shopped she got home early
It was a most hush-hush affair
That day in nineteen eighty-four

5. And as she stepped indoors she heard strange sounds upstairs
Found some intruders there searching her desk
They started questioning pressuring threatening
She didn’t know anything what happened next ?
She cried out they grabbed her she fought someone stabbed her
Down the stairs he dragged her seized her keys from the door
With her slumped beside him wounded maybe dying
He drove off wildly in her small car
Driving as if there was a war
That afternoon in ’eighty-four

6. Back through the town he drove six miles outside he slowed,
Slewed the car off the road left it where it lay
Then lugged his bleeding load into the shadowy wood
Dumped it she’d soon be dead and slipped away
Police forces sought him but never caught him
Had his masters taught him how to lie low
And arranged the break-in ? Was her death was of their making
Did they help him escaping ? They’ll never say so
She lay there like a broken flow’r
Two nights in nineteen eighty-four

7. Was it cold killed her ? Cold and the Cold War
That ugly old war poisoning us still
When blind democracy and bland hypocrisy
Gave brute authority licence to kill?
Sounds like a myst’ry by Agatha Christie
It’s fact it’s hist’ry in a mist and a muddle
Despite their reticence about the evidence
Did British Intelligence kill Hilda Murrell?
Do such things happen any more ?
They did in nineteen eighty-four

1994

From the account in Judith Cook, Unlawful Killing: the Murder of Hilda Murrell,
1994: see also Graham Smith, Death of a Rose Grower: Who Killed Hilda
Murrell ?, 1985 and Robert Green, A Thorn in Their Side: The Hilda Murrell Murder, 2013

47. WOLVERDALE

1. Out of Darkwood Forest there flew three swans
White wings in the night
They alighted on the waters of Wolvermere
Where they floated in the faint moon light

2. When dawn broke over those dim grey waters
No swans were there swimming any more
But three young women were in Wolvermere swimming
And they were not there before

3. Down through the hills came three king’s sons
Three brothers joining on a journey
Where did they sleep? Why in Wolverdale woods
Where they all woke bright and early

4. And the first to awake was Wayland Smith
The youngest one of the three
For he heard laughter laughter from the lake
And he rose and he ran to see

5. He saw what he saw and he soon ran back
Ran back to his brothers to say
‘There are three young women in Wolvermere swimming
As naked as the dawn of day!

6. ‘Three cloaks I found made of feathers white as snow
And I hid them in a hollow tree
Then I watched behind a willow at the water’s edge
And I saw them swimming all three

7. ‘They speed through the water as they sport and play
Swifter than swallows through the air
Their skin shines whiter than a wild swan’s wings
And golden gleams their hair!’

8. Like hounds after hares they hastened to the lake
Where the swan maids were sitting in the sun
And long before the fall of dark
Their hearts and hands were won

9. The day grew shorter and the shadows longer
The sun slipped away
That summer night beneath the stars
Three loving couples lay

10. Egill the eldest Owlrune chose
Strongfinn slim Swanwhite
And Herevor wound dark Wayland Smith
In her white arms all night

11. Seven years passed but the swan-wives pined
For the swan-life they once knew
In the eighth they found their feather-cloaks
In the ninth away they flew

12. Home came the brothers from hunting in the woods
Hunting the deer that day
Three swans circled in the sky above
Then wheeled and flew away

13. Home to a silent house they came
Where welcome there was none
Only ashes in an empty hearth
For the three swan-wives had gone

14. East seeking Owlrune Egill marched
And searched for her in vain
Then south after Swanwhite Strongfinn strode
Neither brother came back again

15. Wayland never heard word of them
Of his brothers or his bride
Herevor nevermore held him close
Nor lay down by his side

16. He fed the hungry fire with coals
And all day through worked on
Forging a ring from the red red gold
For Herevor who had gone

17. In his hot dark smithy Wayland hammered at grief
Sorrow had struck like a stone
Fashioning ring after ring of bright gold
Wayland waited alone

18. There were wolves grey wolves in Wolverdale
Where Wayland’s smithy lay
But worse than wolves were watching him
They had picked him for their prey

2010

Based on the Old Norse Vǫlundarkviða, translated by W.H.Auden and P.B.Taylor as‘The Lay of Wayland’ in The Elder Edda, 1967

48. WOOTTON BASSETT or REPATRIATION

Tune Down in Yon Forest

1. In Wootton Bassett I heard the church bell
In Afghanistan poppy-fields gleam in the sun
Then all traffic was halted and deep silence fell
And like ev’ry war this war can never be won

2. I saw cars black as grief is drive slowly past
In Afghanistan poppy-fields gleam in the sun
They were carrying soldiers home at last
And like ev’ry war this war can never be won

3. Each car had one passenger safe in the back
In Afghanistan poppy-fields gleam in the sun
A cold coffin wrapped up in a Union Jack
And like ev’ry war this war can never be won

4. Blown up in Kandahar shot in Helmand
In Afghanistan poppy-fields gleam in the sun
Then flown home to be met by a milit’ry band
And like ev’ry war this war can never be won

5. Silent crowds lined the High Street to see them pass by
In Afghanistan poppy-fields gleam in the sun
And a pale child stood wond’ring why Dad had to die
And like ev’ry war this war can never be won

6. Heaped with bright flow’rs the dark cars left the street
In Afghanistan poppy-fields gleam in the sun
I saw ghost soldiers following on silent feet
And like ev’ry war this war can never be won

7. They said ‘Yes mourn for us but there’s thousands or more
In Afghanistan poppy-fields gleam in the sun
Being killed in their homeland by this cruel war’
And like ev’ry war this war can never be won

8. ‘For each fighter on either side killed there today
In Afghanistan poppy-fields gleam in the sun
There’s an unarmed civilian who got in the way’
And like ev’ry war this war can never be won

9. Then it seemed that I saw the whole High Street was filled
In Afghanistan poppy-fields gleam in the sun
With the corpses of ev’ryone this war has killed
And like ev’ry war this war can never be won

10. They were children and parents and husbands and wives
In Afghanistan poppy-fields gleam in the sun
Until NATO or Taliban cut short their lives
And like ev’ry war this war can never be won

11. I smelt death in the petrol fumes death in the air
In Afghanistan poppy-fields gleam in the sun
I heard dead voices call I saw dead faces stare
And like ev’ry war this war can never be won

12. In the blink of an eye ghosts and corpses were gone
In Afghanistan poppy-fields gleam in the sun
All the traffic moved off all the mourners moved on
And like ev’ry war this war can never be won

13. In Wootton Bassett I heard the church bell
In Afghanistan poppy-fields gleam in the sun
All the traffic was halted and deep silence fell
And like ev’ry war this war can never be won

2012

Between 2007 and 2011, 167 corteges passed through the Wiltshire town
en route to a hospital in Oxford, bearing the bodies of 355 British service
personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and ‘repatriated’. Royal British
Legion members decided to show their respect to the corteges:
townspeople followed their example and later thousands of mourners
travelled to attend the ceremony. Hundreds of thousands of civilians
died in Afghanistan.

49. YOUNG LORD OLIVER

A version of the Spanish ballad Conde Olinos

Tune The Grey Cock

1. It’s all for love that this young Lord Oliver
Rode out so early along the bay
And then he walked his white horse to water
Beside the sea on Midsummer Day

2. And while his horse drinks this young Lord Oliver
He sings a song so sweet and clear
The birds of the air all stop and listen
Enchanted by the sound they hear

3. ‘Drink little horse drink’ he sings ‘God keep you
As safe from harm as you can be
From fire and flood and from hurt and hunger
And all the terrors of land and sea!’

4. The trav’ller hears it as he is trav’lling
And clean forgets where he is bound
The steersman finds that the ship he’s steering
Has passed the harbour and turned around

5. The queen hears too in her tall tall tower
Saying ‘Daughter wake up you sleep too long!
Rise up and you’ll hear the mermaid singing
Oh listen to her lovely song!’

6.‘Oh mother mother that’s not the mermaid
Singing so sweetly down by the sea
That is the voice of my young Lord Oliver
And he is pining for love of me!’

7. ‘If that’s the voice of your young Lord Oliver
My curse upon his song say I
He is of no blood he shall not have you
I shall give orders he must die!’

8. ‘Mother if you kill my young Lord Oliver
Bury us in one grave!’ she cried
They found and bound him he died at midnight
And when the first cocks crew she died

9. They buried her the queen’s own daughter
Where the high holy altar stood
They buried him some three steps below her
For he was not of royal blood

10. Out of her grave grew a snow-white rose-tree
And out of his a milk-white thorn
They twined and twisted their boughs together
As if to make two into one

11. And if their branches touched one another
They’d kiss and whisper as lovers do
But if they could not reach each other
They’d not cease grieving the whole night through

12. ‘Uproot those two trees!’ the jealous queen cried
‘Take a sharp axe and cut them down!’
The lad who did it could not stop weeping
When he was told what he had done

13. But out of her grave there rose a heron
And out of his a goshawk grey
Both hawk and heron sped off together
And side by side they flew away

2015

A version of of the Spanish ballad Conde Olinos (Conde Niño or Amor más
poderoso que la muerte) : see Ramón Menéndez Pidal, Flor nueva de romances
viejos, 1928. The tune is that of The Grey Cock, a ballad on the similar theme of
‘Love Stronger than Death’.

50. ZENNOR

1. In Zennor when a cuckoo sings
Folk often think of the time long past
When the pleasant weather that the cuckoo brings
Made some silly men wish they could make it last
(Saying) ‘When the cuckoo comes ’tis summer
When he’s gone the summer’s over
If we made him stay in Zennor
Summertime might last forever!’

2. Next bird they heard they traced the sound
And gathered round it one and all
Jacky Turner murmured ‘Now the place is found
We must first surround it with a big high wall!
Trap the cuckoo see and it’ll be all over
He’ll stay here and so will summer
If we make him stay in Zennor
Summertime might last forever!’

3. They looked the cuckoo silent now
On an oak tree bough sat fast asleep
It shook them ‘Look we’ll have to try somehow
To build the wall all round him on stockinged feet !
So don’t disturb the bird now brother
Lay each stone as light’s a feather
Once he’s fenced in penned in Zennor
Summertime might last forever!’

4. Soon a tall stone wall was rising round
The tree they’d found and the cuckoo bird
They thought they’d caught him and were climbing down
From the wall built round him when the cuckoo stirred
He woke and thought ‘Well did you ever ?
This wall’s high but I’ll fly over!
They’re not keeping me in Zennor
Summertime can’t last forever!’

5. When the cuckoo looked through the oak tree leaves
He could only see a little patch of blue
But up he flew cuckoo-ing that he’d broken free
And as he took his leave of them he called ‘Cuckoo!’
‘Cuckoo!’ he called ‘Now that joke’s over
I’m southward bound and so is summer
Next year I’ll come back here to Zennor
But summertime can’t last forever!’

6. When the men of Zennor saw the cuckoo go
There were some cried woe and some who swore
‘How the devil did we ever lose the cuckoo though ?
He’d ha’ stayed you know if we’d laid one course more !’
But if there’d been no end to summer
There’d have been no autumn there’d have been no winter
No spring no rain no change no weather
No nothing ought to last forever!

1971, 1990

From a tale told about the Cornish village and nearby Towednack: see R.Hunt, Popular Romances and Traditions of the West of England, 1865. Similar stories are told about many villages all over England: see J.E.Edwards, The Myth of the Pent Cuckoo, 1913

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