Category Archives: Love songs and out-of-love songs

Woods in Moonlight – demo

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

The Nightingale (A La Claire Fontaine) [demo]


Commercial release on Bandcamp here. 

After The Wedding (À la claire fontaine)

[Possibly a jongleur song from the 15th or 16th century: translation (C) by David A. Harley. ]

The tune used here is well known – I think it may be the one in the Penguin Book of Canadian Folksongs.

As I walked from my love’s wedding
By the spring where we once lay
From the top of a mighty oak tree
A songbird sang to me

It’s been so long that I’ve loved you
I never will love again

Sing, happy nightingale,
Sing, for your heart is light
Sing out your notes so merry
But all that I can do is cry

My love has wed another
Though I was not to blame
I gave to him my love too freely
Now someone wiser bears his name

Oh, how I wish that the rosebud
Still flourished on the vine
And that my false true lover
Still returned this love of mine

Il y a longtemps que je t’aime
Jamais je ne t’oublierai

I’ve always liked one particular tune to a French song (also widely found in Belgium and Canada), but the words as I’ve seen them have always seemed problematical to me, with the lover whining that he was unjustly discarded for being reluctant to give his lady a spray of roses. Hard to be too sympathetic… When I found some older versions where the protagonist was clearly female and the spray of roses symbolizes her maidenhead, it made more sense, though it also makes it more difficult for me to sing it convincingly myself. (I may attempt a male version that is nearer to the original sense, but that could be challenging.)  This is a rather free translation, picking up a possible interpretation that the lady lost out by giving in too easy, and then being too ‘easy’ to marry.

C’est de mon ami Pierre, qui ne veut plus m’aimer,
Pour un bouton de rose, que j’ai trop tôt donné.

Other versions suggest that she was dropped because she _didn’t_ give in. As well as making my chosen subtext a little clearer, I’ve compressed the story by dropping a couple of very common lines referring to the protagonist bathing, as that doesn’t seem to translate well. The song is often seen as a children’s song, but this approach might be considered a bit too explicit for that.

And yes, vining roses are a thing: they’re climbing roses trained to grow along fences and trellises.

One of the versions I used as a basis for this translation is on this French Wikipedia page: À la claire fontaine — Wikipédia (

The Chuck Berry-Beri (revisited) – demo

A revisited arrangement. Still needs some work, but not far off, I think.

The Chuck Berry-Beri (spelling optional)
Words & Music by David A. Harley

I don’t feel very much like dancing
No song worth singing but the blues
I used to feel like some kind of sex bomb
Till you absconded with the fuse
I think I need a holiday
So I’m out here on a midnight cruise
I’ve got the Chuck Berry-beri
Got to get a shot of rhythm and blues

I guess there’s no time left for loving
Looking into your backyard
Dissatisfaction guaranteed
But back to you was just a step too far
The waves are blowing higher
And we were shaking at the end of the cruise
It’s a fascinating rhythm
But I need a shot of rhythm and blues

I thought I saw your nightlight flicker
But I don’t think there’s anyone at home
Maybe I’ll call you from the middle of nowhere
While I’m stranded by the side of the road
I still need a holiday
But I can’t afford another midnight cruise
Still I can’t break the habit
I need another shot of rhythm and blues

David Harley

Adventures in Video – Young Hunting (trad2mad version)


This is an unaccompanied version of ‘Young Hunting'(Child 68) I found when I was still at school in the 1960s, though I’ve undoubtedly changed it since. I didn’t have a tune for it, so I cobbled one together. Unfortunately, I don’t remember where I found the words, though I’ve come across a fairly similar American text (unattributed) since.

I don’t always sing it unaccompanied, though.

Light down, light down my own true love
And stay with me the night
For I have a bed and a fireside too
And a candle that burns so bright.

I can’t light down and I won’t light down
Nor spend the night with thee
For I have a love and a true true love
Would think so ill of me

But he’s bent down from his saddle
To kiss her snowy white cheek
She’s stolen the dagger from out of his belt
And plunged it into him so deep

She’s taken him by his long yellow hair
And the maid’s taken him by the feet
They’ve plunged him into that deep doleful well
Full 20 fathoms deep

And as she’s turned her round to go home
She’s heard some pretty bird sing
Go home, go home you cruel girl
And weep and mourn for him

Fly down, fly down you pretty bird
Fly down and go home with me
And your cage will be made of the glittering gold
And the perch of the best ivory

I can’t fly down and I won’t fly down
And I’ll not go home with thee
For you have slain your own true love
And I’m feared you’ll murder me

I wish I had my bent horn bow
And drawn with a silken string
I surely would shoot that cruel bird
As sits in the briars and sings

I wish you had your bent horn bow
And drawn with a silken string
I surely would fly from vine to vine
And always you’d hear me sing

Audio capture:


David Harley