Category Archives: Geographical Area

Petition of the Pigs in Kent

More info at a folk song a week blog – https://afolksongaweek.wordpress.com/2013/08/10/week-103-petition-of-the-pigs-in-kent/

Original text in 1809 magazine can be found here

Petition of the Pigs in Kent

Ye owners of woodlands, with all due submission
We humbly beg leave to present our petition
That you will be recall this your latest decree
Which tells us that acorns no longer are free

In Sussex and Surrey and Middlesex too
Pigs may ramble at large without much ado
So why then in Kent should pretences be found
To drive us like culprits and thieves to the pound

Since we and our fathers and others before ‘em
Have ranged in your woods with all proper decorum
No poachers are we for no game we annoy
No hares we entrap and no pheasants decoy

Contented are we if an acorn we find
Nor wish for a feast of a daintier kind
Besides we are told and perhaps not mistaken
That you and your friends love a slice of good bacon

But if of good bacon you all love a slice
If pigs are to starve, how can bacon be nice?
For these and for other wise reasons of state
We again our petition most humbly repeat

Ye owners of woodlands, with all due submission
We humbly beg leave to present our petition
That you will repeal this severest of laws
So your woods shall resound to our grunting applause

Singing history pdf’s by Sing London and EFDSS

Some good stuff in these PDF’s by Sing London

https://www.efdss.org/efdss-education/resource-bank/resources-and-teaching-tools/singing-histories

Just currently looking at the ‘Petition of the Pigs in Kent’ ballad from the Kent book… https://media.efdss.org/resourcebank/docs/EFDSS_Education_RecentProjects_SingingHistoriesKent.pdf

Duncan Bourne’s Land Corporation of Ireland song

Severine from The Greenhorns just sent me this ace song about the Land Corporation of Ireland by Duncan Bourne.

Bill Finney was an ancestor of Duncan’s. His son (William) was born in Ireland and for a long time he thought that the Finneys were of Irish decent. Given that Finney is also an Irish surname. However further research revealed a long standing Staffordshire branch of Finney.


The Land Corporation of Ireland arose out of the 1879 – 1882 Land War, which saw the rise of Irish Nationalism and gave us the word “boycott”. From the summer of 1879 the Land League carried out various activities aimed at preventing the forced eviction of tenants who had fallen into arrears due to recession. These activities ranged from ostracism (the boycott), protests at the sale of leases, riots and, although not officially sanctioned, assassinations. One organiser Michael Boyton advocated that land grabbers (people who took the land of evicted tenants) should be “given the pill” ie. shot. By 1882 the Land League had been suppressed and the Reform Bills of 1884 & 1885 gave voting rights to tenants as well as the promise of reduced rents, though these did not always materialise. The Land Corporation of Ireland was set up to work land that had fallen idle due to evictions but due to the Land War it was nigh on impossible to recruit from the local population and so “caretaker” farmers were recruited from England through letters sent to local parishes. Bill Finney was one such farmer.

Lyrics

I come from Wootton, Staffordshire Bill Finney is my name
And I sought employment where I could you name it, I was game
I started down the Holly Bush serving in that drovers inn
And through talking with those droving lads my travels did begin

Come all you eager labouring lads keen for some work to do
The Land Corporation of Ireland has just the job for you

I tried my luck in the Potteries towns but my efforts came to nought
So I travelled up to Middlewich and worked there with the salt
T’was there I saw a letter requesting men to farm
For the Land Corporation of Ireland and I thought, “well what’s the harm?”

Come all etc.

We’ll pay you ten to fifteen bob to work some idle land
Where used to live a family evicted out of hand
You’ll have a house and garden and a free allowance of fuel
But don’t expect a social life your reception may be cruel

Come all etc.

So I went to Tipperary away from England’s shore
And I learned about the hardship caused by the old Land War
I learned about the ‘Boycott’ and the giving of the ‘Pill’
And of the broken promises caused by the Reform Bill

Come all etc.

And so I am a caretaker on land of sorrows shame
Don’t blame me for being English sir there’s Irish in my name
My name it is Bill Finney come drink with me a while
The Land Corporation of Ireland are the ones you should revile

Come all etc.

Smile In Your Sleep – song about Scottish Highland Clearances

Ewan McLennan just suggested this song ‘Smile In Your Sleep‘ to me, written by Jim McLean about the Highland Clearances.

Beautiful and achingly sad, I personally wonder if it needs another few verses, as I felt from The Cheviot The Stag and The Black Black Oil, that there were a number of defiant pockets of (mostly female) resistance to the Clearances which this song doesn’t touch on.

Hush, hush, time tae be sleepin
Hush, hush, dreams come a-creepin
Dreams o peace an o freedom
Sae smile in your sleep, bonnie baby

Once our valleys were ringin
Wi sounds o our children singin
But nou sheep bleat till the evenin
An shielings stand empty an broken

We stood, wi heads bowed in prayer
While factors laid our cottages bare
The flames fired the clear mountain air
An many lay dead in the mornin

Where was our fine Highland mettle,
Our men once sae fearless in battle?
They stand, cowed, huddled like cattle
Soon tae be shipped owre the ocean

No use pleading or praying
All hope gone, no hope of staying
Hush, hush, the anchor’s a-weighing
Don’t cry in your sleep, bonnie baby

Ewan MacColl – Bring The Summer Home – 1381 The Great Revolt

Peggy Seeger also sent over this track called ‘Bring The Summer Home’ from Ewan MacColl’s 1998 reissue compilation album Antiquities.

It is about the Peasants’ Revolt (or the Great Revolt as it should be know!), the 100 Year War with France, the first attempt at an English Poll Tax and the Black Death.

Someone on the Mudcat forums has a bash at working out the lyrics here – http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=141748.

You can hear it online via this youtube mix tape…

Fred Kitchen – Brother to the Ox

fred kitchen

I was just sent a message telling me to research Fred Kitchen… his wikipedia page is here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Kitchen… Sounds like a super interesting guy.

I have just found out that Little Toller books is republishing his biography ‘Brother to the Ox’ in a few months time, which is great news as copies are going for silly money on the internet at the moment.

Whiteway Colony in the Cotswolds

whiteway colony

A group of socialists bought 41 acres of land in the Cotswolds in 1898 and then burnt the deeds… Pretty radical stuff and one of the only ones still keeping many of its ideals alive today, largely as they have no choice!

We’d like to visit Whiteway Colony very much indeed – if anyone knows someone who lives there please do give them a nudge 😉

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whiteway_Colony

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/property/3310858/What-a-carry-on-in-the-Cotswolds.html

Hey Ho, Cook and Rowe by Peggy Seeger

This song by Peggy Seeger is about the St Pancras rent strikes in 1960

HEY HO! COOK AND ROWE! (Or The Landlord’s Nine Questions)
In 1960, the local council of the Borough of St. Pancras raised the rents of municipal flats.    Many working people found it difficult to meet the increased financial burden imposed upon them by these rents and, under the leadership of two “desert rats”   (Don Cook and Arthur Rowe), they organized a rent-strike which in a matter of two or three weeks became a national topic of conversation. The council’s bailiffs were sent in but were repelled after a preliminary skirmish and from that time on the rent strike took on the character of a military siege.

The tenants barricaded the buildings with barbed wire, old pianos and junk of all kinds, and from sympathisers the country over came a constant supply of canned food. The television coverage provided Britain with one of its most popular daily shows. An army of the police finally battoned their way through demonstrators to find that their only possible point of entry was through the roof. A group of intrepid police officers effected an entry and were greeted with the offer of a cup of tea from the strikers’ general staff.

See also http://www.ccradio.org/programmes/StPancrasRentStrike.html
http://www.islingtontribune.com/reviews/features/2010/oct/feature-st-pancras-rent-strike-1960-50-years
http://www.andrewwhitehead.net/nw5-and-around.html (at the bottom of the page)

HEY HO! COOK AND ROWE!
(or: The Landlord’s Nine Questions)
Words and Music by Peggy Seeger

As true a story I’ll relate
(With a) HEY HOI COOK AND ROWE!
How the landlord told Don Cook one night,
(With a) HEY HO! COOK AND ROWE!
You must answer questions nine
(With a) HEY HO! COOK AND ROWE!
To see if your flat is yours or mine
(With a) HEY HO! COOK AND ROWE!

CHORUS:
Hey, ho, tell them no
With a barb-wire fence and a piano,
Took a thousand cops to make them go,
Three cheers for Cook and Rowe!

What is higher than a tree? (With a, etc.)
And what is lower than a flea?
My rent is higher than a tree,
And the landlord’s lower than a flea.
(CHORUS)

What goes on and never stops?
And what is gentler than a cop?
The tenants’ fight will never stop
And the devil is gentler than a cop.
(CHORUS)

What is stronger than a door?
And tell me what a roof is for?
Barb-wire is stronger, here’s your proof,
The bailiffs came in through the roof.
(CHORUS)
Will you get off my property?
Or will you pay the rent to me?
We’ve settled in as you can see,
Now, won’t you stop for a cup of tea?
(CHORUS)

O, now I’ve lost my board and bed,
I’ll barricade the streets instead.
So all you tenants, settle in,
Keep up the fight, you’re bound to win.
(CHORUS)

Bristol Radical History Group pamphlets

brhgI have been really enjoying reading a number of pamphlets which I picked up recently from ‘Bristol Radical History Group‘ who seem to do a lot of great work down in the south west.

This one on Anglo-Saxon Democracy is of particular interest, although there are many others which I will write up at some point soon.

These few paragraphs are good food for thought, the italics in the last paragraph are mine:

———————————-

The Rise of the Church

If the major cause of the retreat of Anglo-Saxon democracy is the increasing use of charters to create bookland beyond the control of the local courts and thus the local community then it also has to be accepted that the use of charters to gain rights and privileges at the expense of the local populace was first introduced by the Roman Catholic church and all of the charters of pre-Conquest England were denrived from the form of the private charter of the later Roman empire.

In the late 7th century, the English church began to centralise and introduce a hierarchy of ecclesiastical authority that matched that of Rome which since the 4th century had created an organisation that had a bureaucracy based on the Roman army.

This was a level of organisation considerably more structured and bureaucratic than the secular English kingdom had managed. The missionaries from continental Europe who converted the English south of the Humber also brought with them their own views about the nature of political authority. Increasingly ideology from the Late Roman Empire and its early medieval successors under the Franks influenced how royal government was practiced in England.

The Anglo-Saxon view of a king as being chosen by the witan and whose most important duty was to maintain the peace and to ensure the security of the people was becoming replaced by the Frankish view of kings being chosen by God to protect the Christian faith and convert the pagan.

Edward Thomas writing about the state of the land and rights of access

southcountryEdward Thomas writing about the state of the land and rights of access taken from ‘The South Country’ (1906).

You can buy a lovely edition of the book from Little Toller here – http://littletoller.co.uk/bookshop/nature-classics/the-south-country/ or see a digital version here – https://archive.org/stream/southcountry00thomuoft/southcountry00thomuoft_djvu.txt

CHAPTER XVI

255-7 THE END OF SUMMER KENT BERKSHIRE — HAMPSHIRE SUSSEX THE FAIR

The road mounts the low Downs again. The bound-less stubble is streaked by long bands of purple-brown, the work of seven ploughs to which the teams and their carters, riding or walking, are now slowly descending by different ways over the slopes and jingling in the rain. Above is a Druid moor bounded by beech-clumps, and crossed by old sunken ways and broad grassy tracks. It is a land of moles and sheep.

At the end of a shattered line of firs a shepherd leans, bunched under his cape of sacking, to watch his black- faced flock dull-tinkling in the short furze and among the tumuli under the constant white rain. Those old roads, being over hilly and open land, are as they were before the making of modern roads, and little changed from what they were before the Roman. But it is a pity to see some of the old roads that have been left to the sole protection of the little gods.

One man is stronger than they, as may be known by any one who has seen the bones, crockery, tin and paper thrown by Shere and Cocking into the old roads near by as into a dust-bin; or seen the gashes in the young trees planted down Gorst Road, Wandsworth Common; or the saucy “Private” at the entrance to a lane worn by a hundred generations through the sand a little north of Petersfield; or the barbed wire fastened into the living trees alongside the footpath over a neighbouring hill that has lately been sold.

What is the value of every one’s right to use a footpath if a single anti-social exclusive landowning citizen has the right to make it intolerable except to such as consider it a place only for the soles of the feet? The builder of a house acquires the right to admit the sunlight through his window. Cannot the users of a footpath acquire a right, during the course of half-a-dozen dynasties or less, to the sight of the trees and the sky which that footpath gives them in its own separate way?

At least I hope that footpaths will soon cease to be defined as a line — length without breadth — connecting one point with another. In days when they are used as much for the sake of the scenes historic or beautiful through which they pass as of the villages or houses on this hand or that, something more than the mere right to tread upon a certain ribbon of grass or mud will have to be preserved if the preservation is to be of much use, and the right of way must become the right of view and of very ancient lights as well.

By enforcing these rights some of the mountains of the land might even yet be saved, as Mr. Henry S. Salt wishes to save them.^ In the meantime it is to be hoped that his criticisms will not be ignored by the tourists who leave the Needle Gully a cascade of luncheon wrappings and the like; for it is not from a body of men capable of such manners that a really effective appeal against the sacrifice of *’ our mountains ” to commercial and other selfishness is like to spring.

And those lone wayside greens, no man’s gardens, measuring a few feet wide but many miles in length- why should they be used either as receptacles for the dust of motor-cars or as additions to the property of the landowner who happens to be renewing his fence ? They used to be as beautiful and cool and fresh as rivers, these green sisters of the white roads — illuminated borders of many a weary tale. But now, lest there should be no room for the dust, they are turning away from them the gypsies who used to camp there for a night.

The indolent District Council that is anxious to get rid of its difficulties — for the moment — at the expense of a neighbouring district — it cares not — will send out its policemen to drive away the weary horses and sleeping children from the acre of common land which had hitherto been sacred — to what? — to an altar, a statue, a fountain, a seat? — No! to a stately notice-board; half-a-century ago the common of which this is a useless patch passed on easy terms to the pheasant lords. The gypsies have to go. Give them a pitch for the night and you are regarded as an enemy of the community or perhaps even as a Socialist.

The gypsies shall be driven from parish to parish, and finally settle down as squalid degenerate nomads in a town where they lose what beauty and courage they had, in adding to the difficulties of another council. Yet if they were in a cage or a compound which it cost money
to see, hundreds would pay for a stare at their brown faces and bright eyes, their hooped tents, their horses, their carelessness of the crowd, and in a few years an imitation of these things will be applauded in a ” pageant ” of the town which has destroyed the reality.

thomas_2099443ba

 

The Mask Of Anarchy by Percy Bysshe Shelley

The Masque of Anarchy was Shelley’s response to the Peterloo massacre at St Peter’s Fields, Manchester, where 18 died and hundreds were injured, after Hussars charged into a rally for parliamentary reform. Written in Italy in 1819, the poem was not published until 1832, ten years after Shelley’s death.

Here are some selected verses: (from http://www.peterloomassacre.org/shelley.html)

“Ye who suffer woes untold,
Or to feel, or to behold
Your lost country bought and sold
With a price of blood and gold.

Let a vast assembly be,
And with great solemnity
Declare with measured words that ye
Are, as God has made ye, free.

Let the charged artillery drive
Till the dead air seems alive
With the clash of clanging wheels,
And the tramp of horses’ heels.

Stand ye calm and resolute,
Like a forest close and mute,
With folded arms and looks which are
Weapons of unvanquished war,

And that slaughter to the Nation
Shall steam up like inspiration,
Eloquent, oracular;
A volcano heard afar.

Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you-
Ye are many – they are few.”

Here is the full text –

As I lay asleep in Italy
There came a voice from over the Sea,
And with great power it forth led me
To walk in the visions of Poesy.

I met Murder on the way—
He had a mask like Castlereagh—
Very smooth he looked, yet grim ;
Seven blood-hounds followed him :

All were fat ; and well they might
Be in admirable plight,
For one by one, and two by two,
He tossed them human hearts to chew
Which from his wide cloak he drew.

Next came Fraud, and he had on,
Like Lord Eldon, an ermined gown ;
His big tears, for he wept well,
Turned to mill-stones as they fell.

And the little children, who
Round his feet played to and fro,
Thinking every tear a gem,
Had their brains knocked out by them.

Clothed with the Bible, as with light,
And the shadows of the night,
Like Sidmouth, next, Hypocrisy
On a crocodile rode by.

And many more Destructions played
In this ghastly masquerade,
All disguised, even to the eyes,
Like Bishops, lawyers, peers, and spies.

Last came Anarchy : he rode
On a white horse, splashed with blood ;
He was pale even to the lips,
Like Death in the Apocalypse.

And he wore a kingly crown ;
And in his grasp a sceptre shone ;
On his brow this mark I saw—
‘I AM GOD, AND KING, AND LAW!’

With a pace stately and fast,
Over English land he passed,
Trampling to a mire of blood
The adoring multitude.

And with a mighty troop around
With their trampling shook the ground,
Waving each a bloody sword,
For the service of their Lord.

And with glorious triumph they
Rode through England proud and gay,
Drunk as with intoxication
Of the wine of desolation.

O’er fields and towns, from sea to sea,
Passed the Pageant swift and free,
Tearing up, and trampling down ;
Till they came to London town.

And each dweller, panic-stricken,
Felt his heart with terror sicken
Hearing the tempestuous cry
Of the triumph of Anarchy.

For from pomp to meet him came,
Clothed in arms like blood and flame,
The hired murderers, who did sing
‘Thou art God, and Law, and King.

‘We have waited weak and lone
For thy coming, Mighty One!
Our purses are empty, our swords are cold,
Give us glory, and blood, and gold.’

Lawyers and priests a motley crowd,
To the earth their pale brows bowed ;
Like a bad prayer not over loud,
Whispering—‘Thou art Law and God.’—

Then all cried with one accord,
‘Thou art King, and God, and Lord ;
Anarchy, to thee we bow,
Be thy name made holy now!’

And Anarchy, the Skeleton,
Bowed and grinned to every one,
As well as if his education
Had cost ten millions to the nation.

For he knew the Palaces
Of our Kings were rightly his ;
His the sceptre, crown, and globe,
And the gold-inwoven robe.

So he sent his slaves before
To seize upon the Bank and Tower,
And was proceeding with intent
To meet his pensioned Parliament

When one fled past, a maniac maid,
And her name was Hope, she said :
But she looked more like Despair,
And she cried out in the air :

‘My father Time is weak and gray
With waiting for a better day ;
See how idiot-like he stands,
Fumbling with his palsied hands!

‘He has had child after child,
And the dust of death is piled
Over every one but me—
Misery, oh, Misery!’

Then she lay down in the street,
Right before the horses feet,
Expecting, with a patient eye,
Murder, Fraud, and Anarchy.

When between her and her foes
A mist, a light, an image rose.
Small at first, and weak, and frail
Like the vapour of a vale :

Till as clouds grow on the blast,
Like tower-crowned giants striding fast,
And glare with lightnings as they fly,
And speak in thunder to the sky.

It grew—a Shape arrayed in mail
Brighter than the viper’s scale,
And upborne on wings whose grain
Was as the light of sunny rain.

On its helm, seen far away,
A planet, like the Morning’s, lay ;
And those plumes its light rained through
Like a shower of crimson dew.

With step as soft as wind it passed
O’er the heads of men—so fast
That they knew the presence there,
And looked,—but all was empty air.

As flowers beneath May’s footstep waken,
As stars from Night’s loose hair are shaken,
As waves arise when loud winds call,
Thoughts sprung where’er that step did fall.

And the prostrate multitude
Looked—and ankle-deep in blood,
Hope, that maiden most serene,
Was walking with a quiet mien :

And Anarchy, the ghastly birth,
Lay dead earth upon the earth ;
The Horse of Death tameless as wind
Fled, and with his hoofs did grind
To dust the murderers thronged behind.

A rushing light of clouds and splendour,
A sense awakening and yet tender
Was heard and felt—and at its close
These words of joy and fear arose

As if their own indignant Earth
Which gave the sons of England birth
Had felt their blood upon her brow,
And shuddering with a mother’s throe

Had turned every drop of blood
By which her face had been bedewed
To an accent unwithstood,—
As if her heart cried out aloud :

‘Men of England, heirs of Glory,
Heroes of unwritten story,
Nurslings of one mighty Mother,
Hopes of her, and one another ;

‘Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number.
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you—
Ye are many—they are few.

‘What is Freedom?—ye can tell
That which slavery is, too well—
For its very name has grown
To an echo of your own.

‘’Tis to work and have such pay
As just keeps life from day to day
In your limbs, as in a cell
For the tyrants’ use to dwell,

‘So that ye for them are made
Loom, and plough, and sword, and spade,
With or without your own will bent
To their defence and nourishment.

‘’Tis to see your children weak
With their mothers pine and peak,
When the winter winds are bleak,—
They are dying whilst I speak.

‘’Tis to hunger for such diet
As the rich man in his riot
Casts to the fat dogs that lie
Surfeiting beneath his eye ;

‘’Tis to let the Ghost of Gold
Take from Toil a thousandfold
More than e’er its substance could
In the tyrannies of old.

‘Paper coin—that forgery
Of the title-deeds, which ye
Hold to something from the worth
Of the inheritance of Earth.

‘’Tis to be a slave in soul
And to hold no strong control
Over your own wills, but be
All that others make of ye.

‘And at length when ye complain
With a murmur weak and vain
’Tis to see the Tyrant’s crew
Ride over your wives and you—
Blood is on the grass like dew.

‘Then it is to feel revenge
Fiercely thirsting to exchange
Blood for blood—and wrong for wrong—
Do not thus when ye are strong.

‘Birds find rest, in narrow nest
When weary of their wingèd quest ;
Beasts find fare, in woody lair
When storm and snow are in the air.

‘Horses, oxen, have a home,
When from daily toil they come ;
Household dogs, when the wind roars,
Find a home within warm doors.’

‘Asses, swine, have litter spread
And with fitting food are fed ;
All things have a home but one—
Thou, Oh, Englishman, hast none !

‘This is Slavery—savage men,
Or wild beasts within a den
Would endure not as ye do—
But such ills they never knew.

‘What art thou, Freedom ? O ! could slaves
Answer from their living graves
This demand—tyrants would flee
Like a dream’s imagery :

‘Thou are not, as impostors say,
A shadow soon to pass away,
A superstition, and a name
Echoing from the cave of Fame.

‘For the labourer thou art bread,
And a comely table spread
From his daily labour come
In a neat and happy home.

‘Thou art clothes, and fire, and food
For the trampled multitude—
No—in countries that are free
Such starvation cannot be
As in England now we see.

‘To the rich thou art a check,
When his foot is on the neck
Of his victim, thou dost make
That he treads upon a snake.

‘Thou art Justice—ne’er for gold
May thy righteous laws be sold
As laws are in England—thou
Shield’st alike both high and low.

‘Thou art Wisdom—Freemen never
Dream that God will damn for ever
All who think those things untrue
Of which Priests make such ado.

‘Thou art Peace—never by thee
Would blood and treasure wasted be
As tyrants wasted them, when all
Leagued to quench thy flame in Gaul.

‘What if English toil and blood
Was poured forth, even as a flood ?
It availed, Oh, Liberty.
To dim, but not extinguish thee.

‘Thou art Love—the rich have kissed
Thy feet, and like him following Christ,
Give their substance to the free
And through the rough world follow thee,

‘Or turn their wealth to arms, and make
War for thy belovèd sake
On wealth, and war, and fraud—whence they
Drew the power which is their prey.

‘Science, Poetry, and Thought
Are thy lamps ; they make the lot
Of the dwellers in a cot
So serene, they curse it not.

‘Spirit, Patience, Gentleness,
All that can adorn and bless
Art thou—let deeds, not words, express
Thine exceeding loveliness.

‘Let a great Assembly be
Of the fearless and the free
On some spot of English ground
Where the plains stretch wide around.

‘Let the blue sky overhead,
The green earth on which ye tread,
All that must eternal be
Witness the solemnity.

‘From the corners uttermost
Of the bounds of English coast ;
From every hut, village, and town
Where those who live and suffer moan
For others’ misery or their own,

‘From the workhouse and the prison
Where pale as corpses newly risen,
Women, children, young and old
Groan for pain, and weep for cold—

‘From the haunts of daily life
Where is waged the daily strife
With common wants and common cares
Which sows the human heart with tares—

‘Lastly from the palaces
Where the murmur of distress
Echoes, like the distant sound
Of a wind alive around

‘Those prison halls of wealth and fashion.
Where some few feel such compassion
For those who groan, and toil, and wail
As must make their brethren pale—

‘Ye who suffer woes untold,
Or to feel, or to behold
Your lost country bought and sold
With a price of blood and gold—

‘Let a vast assembly be,
And with great solemnity
Declare with measured words that ye
Are, as God has made ye, free—

‘Be your strong and simple words
Keen to wound as sharpened swords,
And wide as targes let them be,
With their shade to cover ye.

‘Let the tyrants pour around
With a quick and startling sound,
Like the loosening of a sea,
Troops of armed emblazonry.

‘Let the charged artillery drive
Till the dead air seems alive
With the clash of clanging wheels,
And the tramp of horses’ heels.

‘Let the fixèd bayonet
Gleam with sharp desire to wet
Its bright point in English blood
Looking keen as one for food.

‘Let the horsemen’s scimitars
Wheel and flash, like sphereless stars
Thirsting to eclipse their burning
In a sea of death and mourning.

‘Stand ye calm and resolute,
Like a forest close and mute,
With folded arms and looks which are
Weapons of unvanquished war,

‘And let Panic, who outspeeds
The career of armèd steeds
Pass, a disregarded shade
Through your phalanx undismayed.

‘Let the laws of your own land,
Good or ill, between ye stand
Hand to hand, and foot to foot,
Arbiters of the dispute,

‘The old laws of England—they
Whose reverend heads with age are gray,
Children of a wiser day ;
And whose solemn voice must be
Thine own echo—Liberty !

‘On those who first should violate
Such sacred heralds in their state
Rest the blood that must ensue,
And it will not rest on you.

‘And if then the tyrants dare
Let them ride among you there,
Slash, and stab, and maim, and hew, —
What they like, that let them do.

‘With folded arms and steady eyes,
And little fear, and less surprise,
Look upon them as they slay
Till their rage has died away.’

‘Then they will return with shame
To the place from which they came,
And the blood thus shed will speak
In hot blushes on their cheek.

‘Every woman in the land
Will point at them as they stand—
They will hardly dare to greet
Their acquaintance in the street.

‘And the bold, true warriors
Who have hugged Danger in wars
Will turn to those who would be free,
Ashamed of such base company.

‘And that slaughter to the Nation
Shall steam up like inspiration,
Eloquent, oracular ;
A volcano heard afar.

‘And these words shall then become
Like Oppression’s thundered doom
Ringing through each heart and brain.
Heard again—again—again—

‘Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number—
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you—
Ye are many—they are few.’

George Ewart Evans and Suffolk farming tales

This is a great hour of radio – Ask the Fellows That Cut the Hay – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00rv8yk

fellows-hay

In this BBC Archive On Four, historian Alan Dein celebrates the centenary of his mentor George Ewart Evans, collector of Suffolk farming tales. Evans began by chatting to his neighbours over the fireside in the 1950’s and transcribing stories about poaching, shepherding, smuggling and ditching.

The talk was of a hardscrabble life, of leaky roofs and meals of pea soup and pollard dumplings and beef only at Christmas with occasional festivities like the Whitsun fair.

Evans came from a Welsh mining village and he sympathised with the labourers’ stories about the tyranny of the trinity of the parson, squire and farmer. He was a sympathetic listener who asked allowed his community to speak for itself and he captured the stories of people whose traditions had been unbroken for generations, who worked on the land before mechanisation and who believed in magic and folk wisdom and had intuitive understanding of working with animals.

Evans’ eleven books about the working lives and folk stories of Blaxhall are a portrait of every facet of his village and paved the way for books and programmes, both fiction and not fiction, about British agricultural life.

The Mores by John Clare

John-ClareThe Mores by John Clare

Far spread the moorey ground a level scene
Bespread with rush and one eternal green
That never felt the rage of blundering plough
Though centurys wreathed spring’s blossoms on its brow
Still meeting plains that stretched them far away
In uncheckt shadows of green brown, and grey

Unbounded freedom ruled the wandering scene
Nor fence of ownership crept in between
To hide the prospect of the following eye
Its only bondage was the circling sky

One mighty flat undwarfed by bush and tree
Spread its faint shadow of immensity
And lost itself, which seemed to eke its bounds
In the blue mist the horizon’s edge surrounds

Now this sweet vision of my boyish hours
Free as spring clouds and wild as summer flowers
Is faded all – a hope that blossomed free,
And hath been once, no more shall ever be

Inclosure came and trampled on the grave
Of labour’s rights and left the poor a slave
And memory’s pride ere want to wealth did bow
Is both the shadow and the substance now

The sheep and cows were free to range as then
Where change might prompt nor felt the bonds of men
Cows went and came, with evening morn and night,
To the wild pasture as their common right

And sheep, unfolded with the rising sun
Heard the swains shout and felt their freedom won
Tracked the red fallow field and heath and plain
Then met the brook and drank and roamed again
The brook that dribbled on as clear as glass
Beneath the roots they hid among the grass
While the glad shepherd traced their tracks along
Free as the lark and happy as her song

But now all’s fled and flats of many a dye
That seemed to lengthen with the following eye
Moors, loosing from the sight, far, smooth, and blea
Where swopt the plover in its pleasure free
Are vanished now with commons wild and gay
As poet’s visions of life’s early day

Mulberry-bushes where the boy would run
To fill his hands with fruit are grubbed and done

And hedgrow-briars – flower-lovers overjoyed
Came and got flower-pots – these are all destroyed
And sky-bound mores in mangled garbs are left
Like mighty giants of their limbs bereft

Fence now meets fence in owners’ little bounds
Of field and meadow large as garden grounds
In little parcels little minds to please
With men and flocks imprisoned ill at ease

Each little path that led its pleasant way
As sweet as morning leading night astray
Where little flowers bloomed round a varied host
That travel felt delighted to be lost

Nor grudged the steps that he had ta-en as vain
When right roads traced his journeys and again –
Nay, on a broken tree he’d sit awhile
To see the mores and fields and meadows smile

Sometimes with cowslaps smothered – then all white
With daiseys – then the summer’s splendid sight
Of cornfields crimson o’er the headache bloomd
Like splendid armys for the battle plumed
He gazed upon them with wild fancy’s eye
As fallen landscapes from an evening sky

These paths are stopt – the rude philistine’s thrall
Is laid upon them and destroyed them all
Each little tyrant with his little sign
Shows where man claims earth glows no more divine
But paths to freedom and to childhood dear
A board sticks up to notice ‘no road here’
And on the tree with ivy overhung
The hated sign by vulgar taste is hung
As tho’ the very birds should learn to know
When they go there they must no further go

Thus, with the poor, scared freedom bade goodbye
And much they feel it in the smothered sigh
And birds and trees and flowers without a name

All sighed when lawless law’s enclosure came
And dreams of plunder in such rebel schemes
Have found too truly that they were but dreams.

The Fowlers’ Complaint (The Powtes Complaint) 1611 – The Fens – Trad

The Fowlers’ Complaint (The Powtes Complaint) 1611

Come, Brethren of the water and let us all assemble
To treat upon this matter, which makes us quake and tremble;
For we shall rue, if it be true, that the Fens be undertaken,
And where we feed in Fen and Reed, they’ll feed both Beef and Bacon.

They’ll sow both beans and oats where never man yet thought it,
Where men did row in boat, ere the undertakers bought it:
But, Ceres, thou behold us now, let wild oats be their venture,
Oh let the frogs and miry bogs destroy where they do enter.

Behold the great design, which they do now determine,
Will make our bodies pine, a prey to crows and vermine:
For they do mean all Fens to drain, and waters overmaster,
All will be dry, and we must die, ’cause Essex calves want pasture.

Away with boats and rudder, farewell both boots and skatches,
No need of one nor th’other, men now make better matches;
Stilt-makers all and tanners shall complain of this distaster;
For they will make each muddy lake for Essex calves a pasture.

The feather’d fowls have wings, to fly to other nations;
But we have no such things, to aid our transportations;
We must give place (oh grievous case) to horned beasts and cattle,
Except that we can all agree to drive them out by battle.

Wherefore let us intreat our ancient water nurses,
To shew their power so great as t’ help to drain their purses;
And send us good old Captain Flood to lead us out to battle,
Then two-penny Jack, with skales on’s back, will drive out all the cattle.

This noble Captain yet was never know to fail us,
But did the conquest get of all that did assail us;
His furious rage none could assuage; but, to the world’s great wonder,
He bears down banks, and breaks their cranks and whirlygigs asunder.

God Eolus, we do pray, that thou wilt not be wanting,
Thou never said’st us nay, now listen to our canting:
Do thou deride their hope and pride, that purpose our confusion;
And send a blast, that they in haste may work no good conclusion.

Great Neptune (God of seas), this work must needs provoke thee;
They mean thee to disease, and with Fen water choke thee:
But, with thy mace, do thou deface, and quite confound this matter;
And send thy sands, to make dry lands, when they shall want fresh water.

And eke we pray thee Moon, that thou wilt be propitious,
To see that nought be done to prosper the malicious;
Though summer’s heat hath wrought a feat, whereby themselves they flatter,
Yet be so good as send a flood, lest Essex calves want water.

Song about enclosure of land in the Fens from 1611. Lyrics in the
public domain – taken from ‘A Ballad History Of England’ by Roy Palmer.

Books on Peterborough and The Fens

pboroHere are the books which Hazel Perry brought along to the workshops localising the show for Peterborough…

Free Thinkers and Troublemakers: Fenland Dissenters / Harry Jones / Published by the Wisbech Society & Preservation Trust / ISBN 0951922076

Peterborough: A Story of City and Country, People and Places / (Peterborough City Council, published by Pitkin) / ISBN 1-84165-050-1

From Punt to Plough: A History of the Fens / Rex Sly / The History Press / ISBN 978-0-7509-3398-8

Peterborough (Britain In Photographs) / Lisa Sargood / Budding Books / ISB 1-84015-247-8

Peterborough Through Time (A Second Selection) / June and Vernon Bull / ISBN 978-1-84868-990-9

The Lost Fens / England’s Greatest Ecological Disaster / Ian D Rotherham / ISBN 978-0-7524-8699-4

Peterborough / HF Tebbs / ISBN 0900891300