Songs and Poems

I am starting this thread in the hope that people will post poems or lyrics that they cherish for the way the words illustrate or encapsulate a feeling or notion with a precision that has made them memorable, haunting or just plain enjoyable. And hopefully comment why they treasure these particular words.

I am going to start off with the lyrics to a song which have resonated with me for nearly 50 years now. Long before I’d heard the word autism.

The Drifter’s Escape

“Oh, help me in my weakness”

I heard the drifter say

As they carried him from the courtroom

And were taking him away

“My trip hasn’t been a pleasant one

And my time it isn’t long

And I still do not know

What it was that I’ve done wrong”

Well, the judge, he cast his robe aside

A tear came to his eye

“You fail to understand,” he said

“Why must you even try?”

Outside, the crowd was stirring

You could hear it from the door

Inside, the judge was stepping down

While the jury cried for more

“Oh, stop that cursed jury”

Cried the attendant and the nurse

“The trial was bad enough

But this is ten times worse”

Just then a bolt of lightning

Struck the courthouse out of shape

And while ev’rybody knelt to pray

The drifter did escape

Bob Dylan

Dylan often uses the outsider to comment on society, like the previous generation of the Beat poets and writers. 

In verse one the Drifter is in the court room expressing his fragility and how he is unaware of the nature of his transgression. 

In verse two, the judge -  official duties performed - removes the apparel of office and sympathises, he’s seen outsiders before. There is a restless crowd outside and the jury are crying for more - the disapproving, accusatory baying of those unable to accept and include lives lived outside the mainstream.

In verse three, the nurse and the attendant are appalled by the mob behaviour. Then divine intervention - or an ordinary weather incident ,take your pick - and the Drifter, unencumbered by popular superstition or orthodox religion, makes his escape. I’ve always felt a certain connection with the Drifter. In my young teenage years I banged on so much about Bob Dylan, that I ended up with the nickname Bob.

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  • The lyrics of many songs that sound ok don't stand up when written down.  And conversely and contrariwise there are songs which have very good lyrics but when set to music also don't stand up.

    I could include the lyrics of any number of contemporary songwriters who write in the folk idiom.  People such as Brian Bedford (of the acapella trio Artisan), Bill Caddick, *** Gaugan, Ewan MacColl, Tom Paxton, Ralph McTell ... all write outstanding lyrics at times.  I will perhaps put some others on later, but with the world in a constant state of near war at the moment, I will put the lyrics to 'Crow on the Cradle'.  This was written by the pacifist Sydney Carter, who is perhaps best known for 'Lord of the Dance' and a few other modern hymns such as 'When I needed a neighbour were you there'. Good versions of this song are by Jackson Brown and also 'Show of Hands'. The song is very loosely based on a folk song lullaby 'Bonny at Morn'.

    The sheep's in the meadow
    The cow's in the corn
    Now is the time for a child to be born
    He'll laugh at the moon
    And cry for the sun
    And if it's a boy he'll carry a gun
    Sang the crow on the cradle

    And if it should be that this baby's a girl
    Never you mind if her hair doesn't curl
    With rings on her fingers
    And bells on her toes
    And a bomber above her wherever she goes
    Sang the crow on the cradle

    The crow on the cradle
    The black and the white
    Somebody's baby is born for a fight
    The crow on the cradle
    The white and the black
    Somebody's baby is not coming back
    Sang the crow on the cradle

    Your mother and father will sweat and they'll slave
    To build you a coffin and dig you a grave
    Hush-a-bye little one, never you weep
    For we've got a toy that can put you to sleep
    Sang the crow on the cradle

    Bring me my gun, and I'll shoot that bird dead
    That's what your mother and father once said
    The crow on the cradle, what can we do
    Ah, this is a thing that I'll leave up to you
    Sang the crow on the cradle
    Sang the crow on the cradle