From "Peacock Pie"

Song Cycle by Freda Mary Swain (1902 - 1985)

Word count: 619

?. King Caraway [sung text not yet checked]

Old King Caraway
   Supped on cake,
And a cup of sack
   His thirst to slake;
Bird in arras
   And hound in hall
Watched very softly
   Or not at all;
Fire in the middle,
   Stone all round
Changed not, heeded not,
   Made no sound;
All by himself
   At the Table High
He'd nibble and sip
   While his dreams slipped by;
And when he had finished,
   He'd nod and say,
'Cake and sack
   For King Caraway!'

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Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

?. Song of the soldiers [sung text not yet checked]

As I sat musing by the frozen dyke,
There was a man marching with a bright steel pike,
Marching in the dayshine like a ghost came he,
And behind me was the moaning and the murmur of the sea.

As I sat musing, 'twas not one but ten ---
Rank on rank of ghostly soldiers marching o'er the fen,
Marching in the misty air they showed in dreams to me,
And behind me was the shouting and the shattering of the sea.

As I sat musing, 'twas a host in dark array,
With their horses and their cannon wheeling onward to the fray,
Moving like a shadow to the fate the brave must dree,
And behind me roared the drums, rang the trumpets of the sea.

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Confirmed with Peacock Pie. A Book of Rhymes by Walter de la Mare, London: Constable & Co. Ltd., [1920], page 168.


Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

?. King David [sung text not yet checked]

    King David was a sorrowful man:
        No cause for his sorrow had he;
And he called for the music of a hundred harps,
       To ease his melancholy.

    They played till they all fell silent:
        Played and play sweet did they;
But the sorrow that haunted the heart of King David
        They could not charm away.

    He rose; and in his garden
        Walked by the moon alone,
A nightingale hidden in a cypress tree,
        Jargoned on and on.

    King David lifted his sad eyes
        Into the dark-boughed tree --
"Tell me, thou little bird that singest,
        Who taught my grief to thee?"

    But the bird in no-wise heeded;
        And the king in the cool of the moon
Hearkened to the nightingale's sorrowfulness,
        Till all his own was gone.

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • GER German (Deutsch) (Sharon Krebs) , "König David", copyright © 2014, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • SPA Spanish (Español) (José Miguel Llata) , "El rey David", copyright © 2020, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Confirmed with Peacock Pie. A Book of Rhymes by Walter de la Mare, London: Constable & Co. Ltd., [1920], page 111.


Research team for this text: Virginia Knight , Sharon Krebs [Guest Editor]

?. Tit for tat [sung text not yet checked]

Have you been catching [of]1 fish, Tom Noddy? 
  Have you snared a weeping hare? 
Have you whistled "No Nunny" and gunned a poor bunny,
  Or blinded a bird of the air? 

Have you trod like a murderer through the green woods,
  Through the dewy deep dingles and glooms,
While every small creature screamed shrill to Dame Nature
  "He comes - and he comes!"? 

Wonder I very much do, Tom Noddy,
  If ever, when [you are a-roam]2,
An Ogre from space will stoop a lean face,
  And lug you home: 

Lug you home over his fence, Tom Noddy,
  Of thorn-sticks nine yards high,
With your bent knees strung round his old iron gun
  And your head a dan-dangling by: 

And hang you up stiff on a hook, Tom Noddy,
  From a stone-cold pantry shelf,
Whence your eyes will glare in an empty stare,
  Till [you're]3 cooked yourself!

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , "Un prêté pour un rendu", copyright © 2011, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • GER German (Deutsch) (Bertram Kottmann) , "Wie du mir, so ich dir", copyright © 2013, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

View original text (without footnotes)
1 omitted by Britten.
2 Britten: "off you roam"
3 Britten: "you are"

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

?. The old soldier [sung text not yet checked]

There came an Old Soldier to my door,
Asked a crust, and asked no more;
The wars had thinned him very bare,
Fighting and marching everywhere,
  With a Fol rol dol rol di do.

With nose stuck out, and cheek sunk in,
A bristling beard upon his chin -
Powder and bullets and wounds and drums
Had come to that Soldier as suchlike comes -
  With a Fol rol dol rol di do.

'Twas sweet and fresh with buds of May,
Flowers springing from every spray;
And when he had supped the Old Soldier trolled
The song of youth that never grows old,
  Called Fol rol dol rol di do.

Most of him rags, and all of him lean,
And the belt round his belly drawn tightsome in
He lifted his peaked old grizzled head,
And these were the very same words he said-
  A Fol-rol-dol-rol-di-do.

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Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]