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Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)

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GUEST 16 Sep 06 - 07:49 AM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 16 Sep 06 - 08:22 AM
GUEST,Pete 14 Apr 12 - 05:38 PM
GUEST,Carole Bannister 15 Apr 12 - 07:09 AM
Bonzo3legs 15 Apr 12 - 07:43 AM
maeve 15 Apr 12 - 07:55 AM
Suegorgeous 15 Apr 12 - 08:23 PM
Lonesome EJ 16 Apr 12 - 12:50 AM
GUEST 30 Jun 12 - 04:31 PM
gnomad 30 Jun 12 - 05:06 PM
GUEST,Rob White 07 Jul 13 - 02:27 PM
GUEST,Rob White 07 Jul 13 - 02:36 PM
McGrath of Harlow 07 Jul 13 - 03:45 PM
GUEST,JTT 07 Jul 13 - 06:30 PM
McGrath of Harlow 07 Jul 13 - 07:43 PM
McGrath of Harlow 07 Jul 13 - 07:43 PM
GUEST 08 Jul 13 - 05:10 AM
GUEST,Rob White 24 Dec 13 - 03:12 PM
Bonnie Shaljean 24 Dec 13 - 08:24 PM
GUEST,John daily 08 May 15 - 12:39 PM
Thompson 08 May 15 - 01:11 PM
Thompson 08 May 15 - 01:13 PM
GUEST,Dave 09 May 15 - 10:58 AM
GUEST 14 Dec 15 - 10:40 AM
maeve 14 Dec 15 - 02:01 PM
GUEST,Sue 24 May 16 - 04:48 AM
GUEST,charles ross 16 Feb 17 - 09:41 AM
GUEST,Charles Ross 16 Feb 17 - 09:50 AM
GUEST,Mark Bluemel 16 Feb 17 - 11:14 AM
GUEST,Mark Bluemel 16 Feb 17 - 11:39 AM
Bonzo3legs 16 Feb 17 - 01:57 PM
GUEST,charles ross 16 Feb 17 - 10:01 PM
GUEST 17 Feb 17 - 05:23 PM
GUEST,charles 21 Feb 17 - 09:52 PM
Felipa 24 Feb 17 - 10:32 AM
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Subject: rtf, Farewell, farewell Meaning.
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Sep 06 - 07:49 AM

sorry for double posting, does anyone know the meaning of fairports farewell, farwell.

Apart from the obvious what is this song about, is it about a historical personage as the song seems to be about someone sent into exile,

what does "cut the cloth" mean is it a reference to billiards, this doesn't seem right,

what does "drink the light" mean, i have found several poems with "drink the light" but any help would be welcome.

What does the song mean when the character says, "ill swear a year to one who lies asleep alongside of me."?

thanx
howie


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Subject: RE: rtf, Farewell, farewell Meaning.
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 16 Sep 06 - 08:22 AM

good question!

also: is it 'loathe me every one' - as I'd always thought, or 'love' as I've heard sung? Loathe makes more sense to me because I'd always thought it might be an abusive hsuband/father deciding to leave his family, possibly for another woman (having a woman sing it adds another layer), but I may be way way way off the mark. If it's about a real person that might explain much.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: GUEST,Pete
Date: 14 Apr 12 - 05:38 PM

Ive loved that song since the 70's, and always thought it was " loath me, everyone", as it fits into the context of why the character won't "return".
I believe it's "swear aliege", which (and I well may be wrong) means an oath of loyalty. Which also makes more sense.
"Cut the cloth" means to eat together, as in cutting bread on a table, and "drink the light Toby" is cider, not some light show.
That's all I've got. What a lovely song.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: GUEST,Carole Bannister
Date: 15 Apr 12 - 07:09 AM

Perhaps the phrase "I'll swear a year..." is a reference to the old "jumping the broom" method of marriage in which after a year you could seperate? Just a thought...


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 15 Apr 12 - 07:43 AM

It's a Richard Thompson song - at least the words are, so who knows what the words mean. My wife and I performed it at her mother's funeral a couple of years ago - she was 2 months short of 99!


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: maeve
Date: 15 Apr 12 - 07:55 AM

From http://www.richardthompson-music.com/song_o_matic.asp?id=346
                        
Farewell, Farewell
Written by Richard Thompson

Farewell, farewell to you who'd hear
You lonely travelers all
The cold north wind will blow again
The winding road does call

And will you never return to see
Your bruised and beaten sons
Oh I would, I would if welcome I were
For they loathe me every one

And will you never cut the cloth
Or drink the light to be
And can you never swear a year
To anyone but we

No I will never cut the cloth
Or drink the light to be
But I'll swear a year to one who lies
Asleep along side of me

Farewell, farewell to you who would hear
You lonely travelers all
The cold north wind will blow again
The winding road does call

Discussed on Mudcat in a few threads, including this one: thread.cfm?threadid=98554&messages=24


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 15 Apr 12 - 08:23 PM

What a very sad song...


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 16 Apr 12 - 12:50 AM

I had always thought this was a song written after a motorway accident involving the band's bus that killed a woman Thompson was seeing at the time.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Jun 12 - 04:31 PM

Well, no, not really, or not completely. My skill and call is to see "folk" songs like this as relating to the spiritual Path, which this song definitely does. It's a dialogue between the Father and the Sons, the principle of spiritual guidance and the "travelers" on the spiritual Path ("travelers" is a Sufi term, but it's of universal application insofar as the spiritual life is conceived of as a pilgrimage or a journey). Here's the dialogue:

[THE VOICE OF THE FATHER]

"Farewell, farewell to you who would hear
You lonely travelers all
The cold north wind will blow again
The winding road does call."

[THE VOICE OF THE SONS, THE VOICE OF THE FATHER]

"And will you never return to see
Your bruised and beaten sons?"
"Oh, I would, I would, if welcome I were
For they love me, every one."

[THE VOICE OF THE SONS]

"And will you never cut the cloth
Or drink the light to be?
And can you never swear a year
To any one of we?"

[THE VOICE OF THE FATHER]

"No, I will never cut the cloth
Or drink the light to be
But I'll swear a year to one who lies
Asleep along side of me.

"Farewell, farewell to you who would hear
You lonely travelers all
The cold north wind will blow again
The winding road does call."

The Father has died and gone to the next world; the principle of spiritual Guidance is hidden behind the door of death. And so the sons lament. (This song could well have been written by the followers of a great spiritual teacher after he had passed on.)

"Cut the cloth and drink the light to be" may well refer to the initiatory rites of the particular esoteric school the dead teacher guided, possibly a school of Christian Hermeticism. "Drink the light to be" would be some act that symbolized and foreshadowed the final goal of the Path, maybe a shared cup of wine or some more powerful intoxicant. As for "cut the cloth", this could indicate an "investiture" with a sacred initiatory robe or a piece of cloth with a similar significance -- perhaps a symbolic funeral shroud as is used in some Sufi orders, indicating "death to the self", or the apron or similar piece of cloth conferred upon the initiate in Freemasonry or in the futuwwah (chivalric) brotherhoods of the Muslim world. The meaning of the song is that the dead master cannot initiate us from the other world; for that a living master is needed. But we can still receive a helpful spiritual influence from him -- possibly in the dream state -- if we are willing, as it were, to sleep on his grave, to die spiritually to the world as he has died both spiritually and physically.

And the North is the direction of the Hyperborean Paradise, the gate to which is the Pole Star, the "still point of the turning world", the visible point of eternity in the temporal order. Those who die uninitiated pass to the West; the initiates, however -- the ones
who have "died before they die" -- pass to the North, along the hard road of purgation, against the full force of the northern cold, the ascetic spiritual power that pacifies the passions and makes the soul ready for Hyperborea, the land of eternal Springtime behind the north wind; as William Blake put it in The Book of Thel, "The Eternal Gates' terrific porter lifted the Northern Bar…." Dante, in the Divine Comedy, places the northern constellations of the Bears above the Terrestrial Paradise at the summit of the Mount of Purgatory.

On a more outer level, this song expresses the lament of the persecuted true sons of a King or Lord whose place has been taken by a bastard or usurper -- which, in terms of Britain, could well represent the plight of persecuted Catholics after Henry XVII usurped the powers of the Roman hierarchy and bombarded and shut down the monasteries, including the Abbey at Glastonbury -- an event Blake covertly lamented in his prologue to The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. In a specifically Christian context, the Lord who has passed on but whose sons still long for his return would be assimilated to Christ the King.

Sincerely,
Charles Upton


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: gnomad
Date: 30 Jun 12 - 05:06 PM

From RT's BeesWeb site in Nov 2007:

"Much as I love this song (Farewell Farewell), I cannot grasp the meaning of part of it:

And will you never cut the cloth, Or drink the light to be, And can you never swear a year, To anyone of/but? we?

What does this mean, what does it refer to? I would be much obliged if you could tell me. kind regards, Wies Morcus


I really don't know what it means. This song came out of a dream, and I pretty much wrote it as I dreamt it (it was the sixties), and didn't spend very long analyzing it. So interpret as you wish – or replace with your own lines."

If HE can't say, then it might prove tricky getting a solid answer (but still fun trying)


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: GUEST,Rob White
Date: 07 Jul 13 - 02:27 PM

I love this beautiful song too, and play it a lot. I came to the idea that it might draw its imagery the Jacobite uprisings against the English throne in 1715 and 1745 - bearing in mind a folk-rock interest in the human tragedy of England and Scotland's long conflict; see Fotheringay's 'Fotheringay', and Steeleye Span's wonderful rendition of 'Parcel of Rogues' - guaranteed to have your fingers twitching to draw your Claymore from the thatch, even if you're English!!!

So, in this idea, the "winding road" is the road to exile for the failed supporters (in the '45) of Bonnie Prince Charlie. "And will you never cut the cloth" could be taken to refer to the racially motivated banning of the tartan in 1746, not relaxed till the next century. "Drink the light to be" might be the ritual raising of a glass to the forlorn hope of return of the Prince. The "bruised and beaten sons" are those who suffered the heavy retribution of the victorious English, and who perhaps resent the flight of the singer of the song; and "swearing a year" - well, all that's left to him as he flees his conquered country, perhaps never to see it again, is truth to his loved one: the only native "country" left to him now.

But as Richard Thompson says, "interpret as you wish". It certainly does no harm having that tragic imagery in your mind as you sing it though.

Rob White.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: GUEST,Rob White
Date: 07 Jul 13 - 02:36 PM

I love this beautiful song too, and play it a lot. I came to the idea that it might draw its imagery from the Jacobite uprisings against the English throne in 1715 and 1745 (bearing in mind a folk-rock interest in the human tragedy of England and Scotland's long conflict - see Fotheringay's 'Fotheringay', and Steeleye Span's wonderful rendition of 'Parcel of Rogues' - guaranteed to have your fingers twitching to draw your Claymore from the thatch, even if you're English!!!)

So, in this idea, the "winding road" is the road to exile for the failed supporters (in the '45) of Bonnie Prince Charlie. "And will you never cut the cloth" could be taken to refer to the racially motivated banning of the tartan after the '45, in 1746, not relaxed for many a long decade. "Drink the light to be" might be the ritual raising of a glass to the forlorn hope of return of the Prince. The "bruised and beaten sons" are those who suffered the heavy retribution of the victorious English, and who perhaps resent the flight of the singer of the song; and "swearing a year" - well, all that's left to him as he flees his conquered country, perhaps never to see it again, is truth to his loved one: the only native "country" left to him now.

But as Richard Thompson says, "interpret as you wish". It certainly does no harm having that tragic imagery in your mind as you sing it though.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 07 Jul 13 - 03:45 PM

Interesting, Rob - that's just the thought that came into my mind reading the words just now. But I think that it's more a question of it being applicable to that historical episode than directly referring to it.

The essential theme is about exile, leaving behind those who one way and another have reason for feeling bitter towards you. Basically it's about there being no way to retrieve the lost past, and that is what makes it such an evocative song, because in a way it's our unversal experience.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: GUEST,JTT
Date: 07 Jul 13 - 06:30 PM

Typical of how different people perceive the same thing differently! I always saw this as the archetypal alcoholic's song as he deserts his family - sorry for himself, he's the victim, nobody loves him, but he'll swear a year to the new lover.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 07 Jul 13 - 07:43 PM

That's what I mean by a song being 'applicable'. It's a common thing for an existing song to be used, typically in television, as background to some kind of real or fictional narrative. For example some sportiing event, with its inbuilt narrative of triumph and failure, or a political event with a parallel narrative.

I can imagine that at some future time there might be a confusion, with people thinking tye song was about that event, when of course it wasn't - but it was applicable, and might be highly relevant as a way of understandng how it was viewed at the time.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 07 Jul 13 - 07:43 PM

That's what I mean by a song being 'applicable'. It's a common thing for an existing song to be used, typically in television, as background to some kind of real or fictional narrative. For example some sportiing event, with its inbuilt narrative of triumph and failure, or a political event with a parallel narrative.

I can imagine that at some future time there might be a confusion, with people thinking tye song was about that event, when of course it wasn't - but it was applicable, and might be highly relevant as a way of understandng how it was viewed at the time.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Jul 13 - 05:10 AM

Lonesome EJ is right. Her name was Jeannie and she was a fashion designer, that's what the 'never cut the cloth ' is about. The Great North Road is the M1. The then Fairport drummer Martin Lamble was killed in the same accident. RT wrote 'Bad News at around the same time. Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Hyperborean Paradise ? Do us a favour...


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: GUEST,Rob White
Date: 24 Dec 13 - 03:12 PM

OK Guest, I will do you a favour... there is a great deal of the lyric that won't work with the Jeannie interpretation - though I can see that sadness over such a tragedy might prompt Richard Thompson's writing, and of course it's important not to be too literal. First though, it is "the cold north wind", not "the Great North Road", in the lyric. Then, if it is just Jeannie, as you insist - who are "the lonely travellers"? How does "the winding road" fit in (even metaphorically?) Who are the "bruised and beaten sons"? And what is the "light to be", after such a loss? And finally, who may it be who lies "asleep alongside of me"? But of course – to each her and his own. That, after all, is part of the making of good music and great songs – what we as listeners and performers bring to it. Happy Christmas 2013!


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: Bonnie Shaljean
Date: 24 Dec 13 - 08:24 PM

Another thread on this topic here - it should really be added to the stack of blue clickies at the top of the page:

Farewell Farewell (Richard Thompson & Fairport)

http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=98554


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: GUEST,John daily
Date: 08 May 15 - 12:39 PM

To me, this song's theme is one of lamenting the departed. " cutting cloth and drinking light " are metaphors for life, living. The dead do not drink the light of life. The living implore the deceased " can't you stay with us? And the dead answer no but they would if they could. So farewell. Life is a weary journey and in the end you must go alone through the veil.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: Thompson
Date: 08 May 15 - 01:11 PM

'Cut the cloth' wouldn't apply, I suppose to the saying that you should cut your cloth according to your measure?
Anyone know the songwriter - maybe he could be lured in here to explain?


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: Thompson
Date: 08 May 15 - 01:13 PM

Interesting that it's drink the light to be - I always heard it as "or drink [to] the life to be".


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: GUEST,Dave
Date: 09 May 15 - 10:58 AM

Just noticed a post about two years ago, saying "The Great North Road is the M1", but it most definitely is not, the Great North Road was the old mail coach route, which mostly follows the current A1.

But in any case, trying to work out the meaning of a Richard Thompson song has never been a very productive activity.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Dec 15 - 10:40 AM

"Traveler" is just a tinkerer. Cf. Sandy Denny in "Listen Listen": "I am a traveler
By trade/I only have what I have made." Also cf. "The Old Changing Way": "We go where the work is me boys and we work where we can." So, as a starting point,
I have always believed the subject of the song was the itinerant life of a tinkerer.
"The winding road does call": the tinkerer must travel to conduct his trade. Never cracked the code of the third verse though.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: maeve
Date: 14 Dec 15 - 02:01 PM

Here again is what the songwriter Richard Thompson said about it:

From RT's BeesWeb site in Nov 2007:
"I really don't know what it means. This song came out of a dream, and I pretty much wrote it as I dreamt it (it was the sixties), and didn't spend very long analyzing it. So interpret as you wish – or replace with your own lines." (As gnomad quoted 30 Jun 12 - 05:06 PM)


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: GUEST,Sue
Date: 24 May 16 - 04:48 AM

Yes, I agree, it's all about death and pertains to a widow who has to 'mourn' for one year before marrying again. Cut the cloth is to do with making and wearing new coloured clothes (she would have worn the one black dress all year) while the cup reference is to the lack of celebration in times of mourning. She swears one year's allegiance of mourning for her dead husband but will not stop 'living'. She feels sorry for all others yet to be afflicted with her grief - the cold north wind - and she acknowledges that all will follow the winding road of death eventually...
I LOVE this song and see it as a woman's funeral song!


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: GUEST,charles ross
Date: 16 Feb 17 - 09:41 AM

This is a remake of Willie O Winsbury by Richard Thompson. The Question and Answer format is similar to the last verses of that folk song where the lord/father and willie converse about ("Will you..." "Yes I.." "No I...") matters related to marrying the lord's daughter.

The 2 deceased people are speaking to the survivors, the band members and their party. The survivors must continue to follow the lonely road, Rising with the Moon and blown by the cold north wind.

Martin, the drummer is loathed by his sons, the drums, who he beat.

Jeannie (a costume maker) will no longer cut the cloth. She will swear a year to he who sleeps beside her.

That's what the lyrics mean.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: GUEST,Charles Ross
Date: 16 Feb 17 - 09:50 AM

RT knows well what it means but it hurts so he'll not say. Jeannie was his girlfriend at the time of the wreck, but perhaps some romantic intrigues were in play and pledging a year to someone could have been an ongoing question.
Drink the light - see the dawn, perhaps to take those colors to be woven in to her creations of cloth.

Beautiful song, I think it does Willie O W one better.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: GUEST,Mark Bluemel
Date: 16 Feb 17 - 11:14 AM

It's already been twice quoted that RT says he wrote it from a dream without much analysis. I see no reason to doubt that explanation.

I think a number of his earlier "poetic" songs are similarly opaque even to him - it's about evocation rather than precise meaning.

See for his comments on "Devonside" which are, I think, apposite.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: GUEST,Mark Bluemel
Date: 16 Feb 17 - 11:39 AM

The comments I reference are at
Here and the following page.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 16 Feb 17 - 01:57 PM

RT clearly wrote it with Mudcat "folk police" in mind!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: GUEST,charles ross
Date: 16 Feb 17 - 10:01 PM

L and L was recorded as the band was recovering from the shock of losing 2 very real people, no fantasy or archaic legends about it and this song is a direct response to that event. Certainly Richard may have dreamed it and certainly it is poetic. But it's about those 2 people and the band carrying on along the road as they must to ply their trade. RT's way with a metaphor seems to have everyone a bit mystified, for sure.

The metaphor of the drummer's drums being his sons who loathe him because he beats them - it's wonderful and makes perfect sense to me.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Feb 17 - 05:23 PM

Charles,

When the author of a song clearly states that ""I really don't know what it means", it's pretty arrogant to say that you know it's a response to a particular event and that your interpretation is defiantly the correct one.

But there we go...


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: GUEST,charles
Date: 21 Feb 17 - 09:52 PM

Of course, it's arrogance, yep!


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Subject: RE: Meaning: Farewell Farewell (Fairport Convention)
From: Felipa
Date: 24 Feb 17 - 10:32 AM

it's interesting to see the very different interpretations of this verse. It had never occured to me to analyse the song. It just strikes me as the song of someone in exile (or wandering for any reason) and it sounds like s/he is the black sheep of the family


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