Posted by: David Harley | June 27, 2017

Dying of Communication

Posted by: David Harley | June 21, 2017

Big Road Blues

Posted by: David Harley | June 18, 2017

Epitaph on an army of mercenaries

Another Housman setting, this time from Last Poems. Very rough, since I was literally making up the tune as I went along, but I’m seeing whether it will fit into a sequence of songs I’ve been working on. (See Soldier (You Come, You Go) and Soldier of Fortune.)

The 1917 poem refers to the British Expeditionary Force, which German propagandists referred to as ‘mercenaries’ because at the outbreak of war, Britain’s army consisted of professional soldiers rather than conscripts or the later volunteers of ‘Kitchener’s Army‘. The BEF was practically wiped out by 1916.

A poem by Hugh MacDiarmid, ‘Another Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries’ takes a very different view, regarding the BEF as ‘professional murderers’.

The setting by Geoffrey Burgon sung by Gillian McPherson on the soundtrack to the Dogs of War is much more dramatic, and very effective (even though some might doubt whether the poem is entirely appropriate in terms of this particular novel and movie). This is much simpler and fits the cycle I have in mind better. Still, I might rethink that. This is definitely a work in progress.

Here’s the Housman poem:

Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries

These, in the day when heaven was falling,
The hour when earth’s foundations fled,
Followed their mercenary calling,
And took their wages, and are dead.

Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
They stood, and earth’s foundations stay;
What God abandoned, these defended,
And saved the sum of things for pay.

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | June 17, 2017

Coasting [new demo]

Posted by: David Harley | June 17, 2017

Highway Fever [demo]

One I wrote in the early 70s. Trying out a different arrangement.

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | June 16, 2017

Electric rain

Posted by: David Harley | June 16, 2017

Not so Fahey [demo]

The instrumental I call ‘Faintly Fahey’ started as a sort of fake Irish air, then got translated into a bottleneck version. This is a non-slide version. There may well be more to come on this, as I think it might go rather well with ‘Can’t Sleep’ when I’m more confident with that song.

Posted by: David Harley | June 10, 2017


Posted by: David Harley | June 8, 2017

Song of Chivalry [demo]

Song of Chivalry

When M’Lord returned
To his sheets of silk
And his gentle lady
Of musk and milk

The minstrels sang
In the gallery
Their songs of slaughter
And chivalry

The rafters roared
With laughter and boasting
Goblets were raised and drained
In toasting

The heroes of Crécy
And Agincourt
Or the madness
Of some holy war

The hawk is at rest
On the gauntlet once more
Savage of eye
And bloody of claw

Famine and fever
Are all the yield
Of the burnt-out barns
And wasted fields

The sun grins coldly
Through the trees
The children shiver
The widows grieve
And beg their bread
At the monastery door
Tell me then
Who won the war?


David Harley, copyright 1986. Published in Vertical Images 2, 1987.  I waited 30+ years for the melody to turn up, and finally did a make-it-up-as-you-go-along job. And yes, I know that it’s unlikely that M’Lord fought at Crécy (1346) and Agincourt (1415). While the Black Death subsided in England from about 1350, but outbreaks continued right through the first half of the 15th century and well beyond.

Posted by: David Harley | June 5, 2017

Can’t sleep + faintly fahey

Can’t Sleep

Faintly Fahey

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