With the publication of Goshen Samhain, here, I’ve completed the set of eight songs that I wrote the lyrics for last year, and then recorded and published this year. The idea was to use traditional English and Scottish ballad tunes from the 1600s to 1800s, to tell the story of the landscape in which I live — a sort of re-connection of self with landscape and with time, partly using European elements and partly using the land on which and in which I live, which has its own relationship with time and with natural cycles.
The tune is “The Girl I left behind me” (available from Contemplator.com), popular during the American Revolution on the west side of the Atlantic, but also possibly an older fife tune known originally as Brighten Camp. Some sources claim it dates from the reign of Elizabeth I of England, which would make it as old as the 1580s or 1590s, though that seems too early. The earliest known publishing of the tune is from Ireland in 1791, although that printing suggests that it was already a well-known tune and widely available.
Typically, Halloween music is spooky and in a minor key — I chose something bright and cheerful and upbeat, because I wanted to provide a counterbalance to the historical gloom and doom; and also because the cheeriness of the song reminds us that death is not so much an ending as a transition to a new chapter.
All the hillsides turn from green to red,
to brown, to gold and yellow.
Soon the forest will seem gray and dead,
like the springtime’s hope was hollow.
Though all we see shall pass away,
though the night-time vigil’s longer —
the soul within shall yet abide,
eternally growing stronger!
All the harvest wealth is garnered in the bounty of farmers’ labor, and the work-songs of the field and farm, change to dance with pipe and tabor. The goblins and the heroes bold, emerge from secret places; and haunt the night with wild delight, as children with hidden faces! chorus
Soon a frosty wind blows across the height,
as the first pale snows are flying.
Now the skies are filled with honking geese
and the bracken ferns are sighing.
The lazy Sun delays his dawn,
and the first frost silvers meadows;
and the antlers sprout from the grown-up fawn,
as mama bear sets her pillow.
Now the ghosts of all who have passed on are lingering at the portal, and they dance and play at the close of day, remembering what was mortal the first tart bite of the apple ripe and the sweetness of the cider and the silken web and the unseen thread, the fishing net of the spider. chorus
Now the lawns turn brown as the leaves come down and the blue sky glows much brighter but the great horned owl declines to sing while working through his all-nighter. Now the fox delights to take her prey — though the hare may be a fighter — for her kits are grown, and soon, it’s known, her family chores will be lighter. chorus
The other songs in this series are all based on Goshen, Massachusetts, where I live — there’s Goshen Yule, Goshen Oimelc, Goshen Ostara, Goshen Maying, Goshen Solstice, Goshen Lammas, and Goshen Mabon.