For about a year and a half now, I’ve been writing a series of songs about the natural world in the environment of my home in western Massachusetts near the top of a nearly-1400-foot-high peak in the Berkshire Mountains. I’ve followed the sequence of the Sun arriving at the Summer and Winter Solstices, Equinoxes, and so-called “cross-quarter days” of Oimelc, Ostara, Beltaine, Litha, Lammas, Mabon (this one), Samhain and Yule. We’re coming around to the end of the cycle, with only the Samhain song left to publish.
Based on the tune of “The Lincolnshire Farmer.” It’s apparently a variant of Child Ballad #283 The Crafty Farmer. Ralph Vaughan Williams collected the tune in Norfolk and the Journal of the Folk-Song Society printed it in 1906. I originally learned about this tune and how it sounded from a site called http://www.contemplator.com/england/farmer.html — But that website seems to have gone down… or maybe it’s back up? It was away for a while and now it’s back, apparently. We’ll hope it stays that way, it’s a great resource.
My goal in writing these songs was to create a cycle of eight songs for the local community to celebrate our changes in the land — a taste of old England, perhaps, in the music, but words for New England to acknowledge this other side of the Atlantic.
The last song in the sequence should be out by mid-October.
The shadows grow long, the night comes on fast; the best days of summer are over and past: The goldenrod bends from the weight of her bloom, and the grasshopper sings in the oncoming gloom.
Moths dance and mate in the hazy blue sky
while swallows are practicing turns as they fly!
The alders change colors to gold from bright green,
the first of the Canada geese can be seen.
The acorns are ripe on the oak’s bending limb;
as shadows of sunset are heavy and dim;
The weeds of the roadsides are painted in brown.
and burning bush puts on her red evening gown.
The thick clouds above now promise new rain
that ripens tomatoes but rots corn and grain;
The farmer and gardener both harvest their wealth,
thankful for riches that bring joy and health.
Most days are still warm, but midnight is chill,
As owls feed in silence on mice that they kill.
The bear in the woods has changed what he eats,
Preparing his body for winter’s long sleeps.
The Sun’s brilliant light is placed on the Scales
As the balance of daylight to darkness now fails.
The streams of the springtime get muddy and dry,
And the chipmunk and rabbit grow cautious and shy.
The maple delights in her bright ruby gown,
As ducks on the water put on thicker down.
Soon all the trees will wear armor of gray
And bare-branched they’ll crackle at close of the day.
The silver-gilt summer of heat and of light, Now passes its power to cold and to night; For sure as the harvest must follow the Sun, The Earth takes its rest when the harvest is done.