I wasn’t particularly planning to do any more Housman settings, but this one suddenly demanded my attention. It does require more work – some guitar, at least – but I think the melody is mostly there. And if you’re going to set Housman, I suppose you have to consider the ‘Land of lost content’. And having (half) done this one, there are two or three more I think I’d still like to put music to. We’ll see.
‘A Shropshire Lad’ XL
Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?
That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.
You might call this a sketch for the end of summer… Definitely not intended as the final version. By way of an experiment, the guitar here is tuned to ‘B Standard’, like a baritone guitar.
Sometimes your words at midnight stream through my memory
But your face is growing dimmer: I don’t know how it can be
That you’re gone from my life, yet you still haunt my dreams
And daybreak finds me wondering just what it all could mean
Walking through the woods in moonlight, there are no words left to say I stumble blindly through the shadow as the long years slip away And only now I realize that it’s too late to count the cost And I can only write those words to make my peace with those I’ve lost
So many nights lost, lamenting all the days
Opportunity knocked, but that same night it ran away
Your voice in my ear, your breath upon my skin
Closer than sweat, warmer than sin
Another morning broken, and reconstruction fails
Once more my train of thought has gone completely off the rails
But soon the world will turn without us, and new days won’t be broken
By the words we should have said or the ones best left unspoken
I’ve posted a guitar-accompanied version of Tennyson’s poem before, but it suddenly occurred to me in the middle of the night that it might sound nice with a free-reed accompaniment. Since I don’t play concertina etc., I had to fake it with a Yamaha keyboard.
Songs of love, lust and obsession. Come to think of it, that probably accounts for my entire output.
All vocals and instruments by David A. Harley. Words and music for all songs by David A. Harley except ‘Quirks and Crotchets’, for which Alan Doyle wrote the tune, and ‘Back in the Day’, for which Alison Pittaway wrote the lyrics. Cover photograph by Jude Harley.
I had some things to say, but you took me by surprise
I can’t believe the words you said, or the look in your eyes
You don’t want me in your life, you said “Go and don’t come back”
You told me you don’t give a damn and I wish I’d said that
I thought that we could talk, but you beat me to the punch
I thought you were really something else, turns out you’re just out to lunch
You said “Don’t talk, just walk, don’t stand around, get off my back”
You said “I just don’t want to know” and I wish I’d said that
It’s too late to change your mind now your back’s against the wall
Now all I want from you is the chance to see you crawl
But I’ll take you at your word, and I never will look back
Turns out that I don’t give a damn – don’t you wish you’d said that?