Category Archives: Songs

A Weaving Song

weaving on the loom

Here’s a little song I wrote a while back and recorded with a friend, a fine violinist, out in the fens. Its a fairly lo-fi recording I made myself, which I’ve only just discovered I still have,Its a song about the connections and textures of love and friendship. Its on soundcloud so I’ll post their player and then put the words below. If no player appears then just click on the song title.

silken patternings

A Weaving Song

The shawl you wear is soft and warm

and, cast about your shoulder,

it wraps around your beauty

as the autumn nights grow colder.

What cloth have we to clothe our souls

against a dark world’s weather?

O take these tangled threads with me,

we’ll weave that cloth together

side by side, by warp and weft

we’ll weave that cloth together

What threads have we between us love

to offer for the weaving?

Some bright with joy, some silver-grey

and some are dark with grieving,

some green and blue as earth and sea,

some soft as cloud and feather,

but side by side, by warp and weft

we’ll weave them all together

side by side, by warp and weft

we’ll weave that cloth together

 

we bring each other single threads

in joy or sorrow spun

and with a word, a glance,a touch,

our weaving has begun

was ever there a softer bond

or such a treasured tether

as is the one you weave with me

that binds us both together?

side by side, by warp and weft

we’ll weave that cloth together

Whatever colours fleck your thread

the same are seen in mine

but friendship interweaves them both

into a new design;

a common cloth that wraps us round

against the dark world’s weather,

as side by side, by warp and weft

we weave that cloth together

side by side, by warp and weft

we’ll weave that cloth together

The checkered cloth of nights and days

Is threaded through with gold,

it shines within the steadfast gaze

of love that can’t be told

The clothes you wear are soft as silk

and mine are tattered leather

but still our souls are clothed as one

in cloth we weave together

side by side, by warp and weft

we’ll weave that cloth together

single threads in joy or sorrow spun

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The Old Revolution

Three days of peace and music

In my last post I was reflecting a little on Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock. continuing in that vein I thought I’d post a little reflection in Ottava Rima about what went wrong with those dreams, prompted partly by a sense of hope and ferment in the air again. I think the real problem was that consciousness-changing insight somehow crumbled into consumerism. People felt that they could deal in and purchase bliss and joy, chemically manufactured, rather than letting it flower and fruit from deeply planted spiritual roots, but maybe next time it will be different. Anyway what follows is a kind of  ‘confession’ for a generation (not enirely and privately my own confession you understand, I was a little too young at the time for some of that stuff) but a confession of failure which can, I believe, be put right and begun again, but this time with prayer and meditation rather than easier and more delusory substances. Here it is ‘for what it’s worth’ (As Stephen stills would say)

As always you can hear it by clicking on the title or the play button.

Revolution

I fought in the old revolution” Leonard Cohen

When I turned teen in nineteen-sixty-nine
I heard of revolution in the air,
Or on the air, in fact on ‘Caroline’.
Lennon and Lenin had so much to share
A change would come and change would be benign,
A fairer world, and all the world a fair.
‘Here comes the sun’ we sang to blissed-out skies
And thought the bomber jets were butterflies.

We conjured faeries out of every flower
But something wicked slipped out with the weed
Stoned circles never yet spoke truth to power
And groovers were grasped soon enough by greed.
For, after Altamonte, our world turned sour
And self-consuming souls turned onto speed.
The times were out of joint,oh cursed spite!
We thought that one more joint would set them right!

Now revolution’s once more in the air
Will we repeat mistakes we made back then?
We took a lot of everything but care
And we were just consumers in the end.
My counsel is no counsel of despair
It may not be too late to try again!
Our trips could never switch an institution
But just one crank can start a revolution.

someone started this

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Dancing Through The Fire

CD cover for Dancing through the Fire

CD Cover for Dancing Through The Fire (thanks to Karen Wells for the design, and Lancia Smith for the photo)

My new CD Dancing Through The Fire should be out this summer and I have begun to play some of the songs on it at gigs. The title track has provoked quite a lot of comment, so I thought I’d make some brief remarks here, give you a sneak preview (or should that be prelisten?), if you havn’t heard it live, and post the lyrics for you to read.

I’ve always been a big fan of Joni Mitchell’s song Woodstock which I first heard sung by CSNY. I loved the lines “We are stardust, we are golden, we are caught in the devil’s bargain, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden” but at the same time it seemed a little simplistic and naive to think that we could simply wish ourselves back to Eden, that we could simply dream ‘the bomber jet planes turning into butterflies above our nation’ and it would just happen. Well it didnt ‘just happen’ and for all the good dreams of the Woodstock Nation, human evil and everything that is anti-Edenic seems as deeply entrenched as ever. However, not long after I heard Woodstock I began to read a great poem in which the poet also recogised that we needed to get back to the garden but with this difference; he recognised that we needed to grow, to be purged and changed, to be made ready for the garden again. He saw that we would have to go through hell and recognise it for what it is, that we would have to climb a holy mountain and pass through water and fire before we got back to the garden. He knew that we could only make that pilgrimge if we had grace, good friends, and the love of God in Christ as our companions. That poet was Dante, and at the end of his Purgatorio (the second book of his Divine Comedy) he describes how he was enabled by his love of Beatrice and the love of Christ shining through her, to dance through the last circle of fire and meet her again in the garden. Dante’s desription of that moment was also crucial for TS Eliot in his life journey and he wrote in Little Gidding

“From wrong to wrong the exapserated spirit proceeds, unless restored by that refining fire where you must move in measure like a dancer”

Here’s Botticelli’s beautiful image of that moment

I guess Joni Mitchell and Dante and Eliot were all in my mind when I decided to write my own song about life as an acompanied pilgrimage, through which we are trying to break free from ‘the devil’s bargain’ and ‘get back to the garden’

I’m very grateful to members of Mystery Train who play on this track, to the wonderful Sophie Davies, who sings with me on this one, and to Mike Boursnell of Cambridge Riffs who plays on it arranges, and produces the whole thing.

so just click on the play button or the link below to listen to to an early mix (3.8) of my song and you can also read the lyrics below

[audio https://malcolmguite.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/dancing-3-8.mp3]

Dancing 3.8

You were born to be a pilgrim.
born to walk the dusty road
born to scan the changing skyline
born to haul a heavy load
you’ve got friends to walk the road with
you’ve got music to inspire
and you will get back to the garden
by dancing through the fire

you have crossed through many rivers
left many memories behind
you have followed many footsteps,
gone down pathways you cant find
all the sirens on the sidewalks
cannot sell what you require
you will get back to the garden
by dancing through the fire

Br: And for all the hell you been thru
theres a mountain still to climb
and all that’s happened to you
can be seen there as a sign
at the summit is a garden
all encircled by the flame
where they burn away your burden
and they call you by your name

So you came out to the cross-roads
but you’ve got no-where to turn
you followed all the best roads
tried to read the signs and learn
theres an easy road goes down ward
but the true roads climbing higher
you will get back to the garden
by dancing through the fire

When you make it to the border
You’ll have nothing to declare
Just a heart that kept on beating
on the far side of despair
its time to give away your burden,
burn it on your funeral pire
so you can get back to the garden
by dancing through the fire.

When you finally climb the mountain
you’ll see the river through the flame
you’ll remember where you came from
you’ll hear the sound of your true name
on the other side of heart-ache
lies the heart of your desire
and you’ll get back to the garden
just by dancing through that fire

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Letting Go for Lent

Van Gogh’s painting of The Sower

Sing a song of sowing, of carrying the seed

A song of hopeful planting, to meet a future need,

Sing a song of letting go, and falling to the ground,

Of burying that feels like loss, still waiting to be found

These are the opening words of a lyric I wrote for Redemption Song, a play about the story of Ruth and Naomi, but they have come back to me as I turn my thoughts to the late Lent that starts this month. It seems fitting that Lent, a season for ‘letting go’ should coincide with spring, a season for sowing seed. Perhaps we should see our Lenten observance as the ‘letting go’ of a Sower of Seed, and not just the ‘giving up’ of an Abstemious Pharisee. If there are things we choose to do without, perhaps we should let them go into God, drop them as seeds, into the good ground of His Love, so as to receive them back at his hand, in another form and another season. This is what Jesus did for his forty days in the wilderness. He let go, and said ‘no’ to the temptation to make stones into bread, to make a private feast in the desert. But God took the seed of what he had ‘let go’ and it bore fruit a hundred fold when he broke bread in that same wilderness and shared it with five thousand. God gave him back what he gave up, but in a newer and better form, made possible by that first letting go.

And that was true of the deepest letting go of all. When it comes to Holy Week and Passiontide we shall see Jesus let his whole life go into God; “into thy hands I commit my spirit” he says from the cross. But that Good Friday ‘letting go and falling to the ground’, that ‘burying that felt like loss’ was the prelude to a glorious finding, and giving back on Easter Day.

Perhaps we can so ‘let go’ our lives into God this Lent that we may find that God has let his life go into us too, has planted his Love, His Son, as a spring-sown seed, to grow in our lives from Easter and Beyond.

Oh and by the way the lyric I mentioned above is from a song, also simply called Redemption, which I hope will appear on my next cd. Meanwhile the full lyrics are here and you can hear an early ‘mix’ of the whole song  here, or by clicking on the ‘play’ button below.

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Old Guitar, New CD

Old and Worn

Also Old and Worn

We’re at the mixing stage with my new CD Dancing Through the Fire and I thought I’d experiment with sharing some early mixes here Here is a link (or player I hope) for a track I may include called Old and Worn. If the button doesnt appear below you can try clicking on the song title where I give the lyrics below. This is an early take with just me playing both guitar parts and no other accompaniment.

Old and Worn

I was round rockin with the boys, they showed me all the latest toys,

They got gizmos now that could almost play the gig.

They like to tell me money talks, they sure can make those boxes squalk,

They say by spending out they’re bound to make it big

 

Chorus: But my Guitar is old and worn, made the year that I was born,

You could put it down as only wood and string

But when I open up that case and blow the dust from off its face

And lift it up, sometimes I swear I can hear it sing

 

Well I know the likes of you, you must have everything brand new

And you will trash it on the day its lost its sheen

And you know the likes of me you can leave me standing like a tree

But I’ve got roots and rising sap to keep me green

 

Chorus : And this Guitar that’s old and worn, made the year that I was born,

But its grown a tone that’s more than wood and string

And when I open up that case and blow the dust from off its face

And lift it up, sometimes I swear I can hear it sing

 

Now as I watch my life unroll, I read the poems on the scroll

And I do my best to savour every line

And every year that takes its toll, is laid down deep within my soul

But I can draw it up again like vintage wine,

 

Like this guitar etc.

 

Now this box of mellowed wood, sounds every bit as good

As the day its maker blessed it with a string

I can see it lying in the shade, remembering every note its played

And waiting for the day that’ll let that music ring

 

Cho: So I don’t mind my touch of grey, I’m not fearing for the day

When every buried seed is bound to have its spring

When Someone opens up my case, I’m gonna see Him face to face

And when I’m in my Makers hands He’ll hear me sing!

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Collateral Magic!

malcolm and noel sing 'Blowing in the wind"

I’m just back from the CS Lewis Foundation‘s writers retreat/CS Lewis conference in Texas at which I was speaking on the subject of CS Lewis’s great sermon The Weight of Glory, and also singing and reading a little poetry. It was a truly extraordinary weekend. First up was a session on the  friday night called “Collateral Magic: a revolution in word and song, which I did jointly with the amazing Noel Paul Stookey, the ‘Paul’ of Peter Paul and Mary. He is a fabulous musician, a witty raconteur, but also, as I discovered over the weekend, a very gracious and spiritually grounded person. He is in a wholly different league from me, a million times better known and, musically far more articulate and experienced, so he could so easily have made me feel nervous, inadequate, or simply out of place, instead he made me feel completely at home, as if I really belonged up there playing at his side, just naturally as a fellow musician and songwriter. And that generous spirit was something that just deepened as the weekend unfolded. We opened by singing ” I shall be released” together and then alternated playing and discussing our own songs before we finished with “Blowing in the wind ” as a duet. To join in singing that particular song with someone who had known Dylan from the outset and had a hit with it before he did, and to sing it together in a context in which we both knew that the wind in which the answers are blowing is the Ruach, the Pneuma, the Holy Spirit of God, was unforgettable. Among the songs I sang were ‘The Green Man’ and ‘Angels Unawares’, and hearing his familiar voice sing the chorus on a song of my own was indeed a piece of ‘collateral magic’. In fact the whole weekend was magic and thronging with angels unawares, I’ll write more about it, and about what Lewis called “The inconsolable secret” as time allows, but meanwhile, if you have facebook, this should get you to a video of our rendition of The Green Man: Malcolm and Noel sing The Green Man

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And the Beat goes On

I am fascinated by the threads of connection that run between all the kinds of poetry, song, and story-telling in which I delight and am always pleased when they are living connections in the form of real people you can meet, friends you can make. For example as my father-in-law and I got to know each other we found we had the same tastes in literature, loved the same poets and even the dame pasgaes in some of those poets, and we both seemed to have learned to appreciate the same qualities. I remember saying to him that it was CS Lewis, as a literary critic who had guided me into the fields of literature and given me some keys to understanding it all, and he replied, “well he did the same for me, only in person as he was my tutor at Oxford!” Suddenly we both knew who the connecting thread was and I felt a particular pleasure that my father-in-law was a living link for me back to an author whom I knew intimately but had never met in the flesh.

The same goes  for my passion for American song and poetry, especially the work of Bob Dylan. From the day I bought Highway 61 Revisited Dylan has been the voice and channel for me for a whole stream of American poetry which I soon came to realise stretched back behind him, not only nto blues and folk, but very specifically into the Beats,  especially the great figures of Ginsberg, and Kerouac, who were in their own radical way carrying on a tradition of flamboyant, inspired anarchic, energetic writing that goes back to Walt Whitman. In Dylan’s film Renaldo and Clara there is a moving episode where he and Ginsberg visit Kerouac’s grave and play music and recite poetry together, honouring someone who served the same muse.

I have been involved for a while in a jazz poetry project, the Riprap Collective, which takes its inspiration from the Beat Generation and tries to do in a new way and in new jazz and poetic genres, what the beats did in their day, but until now we had no living link

with the beats who insired us. but all that changes this week! This Friday, 22nd October I will be playing host to Gerald Nicosia, the  internationally acclaimed author of Memoy Babe, the great Kerouac biography, and a recognised authority on the whole beat generation. but he is himself also a performance poet and has performed alongside Ginsberg at blues and poetry festivals and indeed Ginsberg has commended his woek on Kerouac. Gerald is coming to Cambridge to give a public lecture on the Friday in the English Faculty, 9 West Rd, to which all readers of this blog who are in, or can make it to Cambridge are welcome. But then on Saturday he is going to join with me, Riprap and  another Cambridge poet Keith Dursley and we are going to do our own version of the kind of Jazz-poetry happenings at which Kerouac and Ginsberg used to read. This should be an amazing, and in its own way historic event, and again all my readers here are very welcome. I am giving all details below and hope to see some of you there.

Two Jack Kerouac Events









The Writer Kerouac, the Mythological Kerouac, 
the Popular Kerouac, and the Real Kerouac 

A Lecture by Gerald Nicosia
5pm Friday 22nd October, GR-05, 
Faculty of English,
 9 West Road Cambridge.

All welcome, free admission.

Poetry and Performance

A poetry reading and performance by Gerald Nicosia with members of
The Riprap Quartet.

With support from KM Dersley and Malcolm Guite. 

8pm, Saturday 23rd October, 
Memorial Church (Unitarian), 
Emmanuel Road
CB1 1JW. 

Tickets £5 on the door.
see also:
http://www.ampublishing.org/kevinflanagan/quartet.htm

www.geraldnicosia.com

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