Crispin's Day

Crispin's Day

This song is about the plight of young working class men on the battlefields of the Somme. Like a lot of my writing, it’s littered with references to T S Eliot, in this case mostly Burnt Norton and The Waste Land. The lines I refer to in Burnt Norton seemed especially relevant to this song: “The trilling wire in the blood/Sings below inveterate scars/Appeasing long forgotten wars.”. It’s also got a handful of quotes from Shakespeare in it, including the title.

The axle tree still bedded in the mire
This trilling in the blood
The call comes down the wire: “it’s time to leave”
Did you hear what the thunder said?
Collect your things, get out of here
The road’s already pulling at your feet
Over-shoulder glances
Up the path of second chances
And good intentions rusty with neglect
My overcoat is soaking
As the morning comes in smoking
Stubbing out a final cigarette

And time will tell the fortunate ones
Who crawl through the mud to a day in the sun

First light we’ll be moving
Rushing headlong to the future
Unreal city lost beyond the fog of war
A spectre in the distance
As we swing the focus inward
Each man takes the moment squarely on the jaw
A timebomb of reprisals
The only sign of our arrival
A scattering of ashes on the floor
And a hangover that passes
Like the sun through broken glasses
Wondering what the hell has all of this been for

Inertia spent and stalling
While the bloody rain keeps falling
Failing with a stutter and a start
A tally no-one counted
New-cut valleys turn to mountains
And Crispin’s day it came and went unmarked
No knight in shining armour
But the builder and the farmer
And the boy behind the counter in a shop
A list read out in silence
Since the milk of human kindness
Has run out to the final, bitter drop

An hour since dawn has broken
And not a man has spoken
The silence is no more than you’d expect
A cortege or an escort
And not a face looks distraught
Cos the truth is: we’ve all done things we regret
A lost game at the outset
The conclusion of the inquest:
That civil blood makes civil hands unclean
But the mother holds the photo
Of a boy not coming home
And all she has is all that might have been

And time will tell the fortunate ones
Who crawl through the mud to a day in the sun
When the battle’s lost and won
Who’ll crawl through the mud to a day in the sun?

© T Ashworth 2017