Saturday, 9 March 2013

The Eternal String of Pearls

One of the wonders of writing this idiosyncratic blog is the range of equally idiosyncratic responses that come to me across the ether, as comments on the page or by emails from everywhere - recently from as far away as the the very wise ‘60 going on 16’ in the West Country (I think) and the poet Ann Grenier in Rhode Island USA to John Haggerty in Glasgow.  

For me these connections with their inspired references are like an eternal string of pearls rippling down to me through time and across space.
This week, in his comment, the very informed John Haggerty from Glasgow tells me that the song  She Moves Through The Fair  reminds him of RL Stevenson’s poem   'Bright is the ring of words/ When the right man rings them/ Fair is the fall of songs/ When the singer sings them.'

I've copied the whole poem* below for your delight. It has been sent to music but I can’t find a version of it. I love the phrase Fair is the fall of songs and recognise the connection which John sees between these songs.

John also tells me that his brother who lived in Los Angeles for 35 years, would say of someone whose style he admires, 'She moves through the fair.'  Then he goes on to mention the autobiography of Rosamund Lehmann who took her title, 'The Swan in the Evening', from the ballad. In it she writes of her   daughter Sally, who died at the age of twenty three.

I love the work of Rosamund Lehman but have never read this one, so I have ordered it and will read it. A pearl on my string.

John also says that Sally’s husband, the distinguished poet and novelist PJ Kavanagh, describes her reaction in his extraordinary memoir 'The Perfect Stranger'  that title being  from a poem by Louis MacNeice.  Another pearl for my string.

And now my friend Sharon Griffiths, after commenting to me on She Moved Through The Fair , and knowing I'm currently researching a novel set in 382 AD (set in British Wales and the British North)  has sent me a uTube  link to   Rhydian and Dafydd Iwan singing what has become the anthem We Are Still Here.

 I have to tell you that their rendering of this modern anthem - referring back 1500 years to the place, time and people in my story - made my quarter-Welsh reddish hair stand on end; it also reassured me about the old truths embedded in the world I am imagining.  Two more pearls for my string. 

Thank you John and Sharon for these pearls of great price.   I hope some of them become pearls for other people's lifetime strings.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) ,
 no title, from Songs of Travel and other verses,
 no. 14, published 1896

Bright is the ring of words
When the right man rings them,
Fair the fall of songs
When the singer sings them,
Still are they carolled and said -
On wings they are carried -
After the singer is dead
And the maker buried.
Low as the singer lies
In the field of heather,
Songs of his fashion bring
The swains together.
And when the west is red
With the sunset embers,
The lover lingers and sings
And the maid remembers.

1 comment:

  1. What a haunting poem WEndy - I've just got back and organised enough to begin looking at blogs again. Just to say that 'She moved through the fair' has always been one of my absolute favourite irish songs. Thanks for reminding me. it always brings goose-bumps.



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