The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #63592   Message #4083247
Posted By: GUEST,Zach Weinersmith
13-Dec-20 - 10:48 AM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: The Return (Archie Fisher)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Return (Archie Fisher)
I did my best to transcribe the lyrics from The Waybacks' rendition. Here it is to the best of my ability, with notes. Hopefully he records it at some point:

Long was the hour for the valiant knight
That would ne’er be sick or slain.
Lonely the bower in the candlelight
With neither kith nor kin.

Stormclouds over the full moon raced
As we swung to the dapple grey.
And man and horse to the westward faced
On the eve of an All-Saints Day.

And lo, ‘neath the long green grassy mound
Lie the bones of his noble steed.
Gone to their graves are his brindled hounds,
That were never matched for speed.

Freed to the wind were his grey hawk’s wings,
Never to be seen again.
Lost were the songs that the young men sing
As they ride o’er the plain.

The rowan shield burned[1] on his breast
As the old man rode again.
Over the rocky kirkstan crest
In the howling wind and rain.

Weary the step of his garron’s stride
As they slowly wended down
To the banks of the winding waterside
All under a paley moon

Cold was the crack of the raven’s cry
That echoed from the fell.
Fierce were the flames of the morning sky
As the burning gates of Hell.

Over his breast on the mantle white
The rowan shield burned red.
And, there in the rays of the dawning light,
The berries [2] burst and bled.

“Oh, where is your hawk and your brindled hounds?”
Came the screeching houlet’s [3] call.
“Gone to the dank and the wormy ground,
That will ay [4] consume us all.

Where is the maid of the jet black mare
who held me fast in sleep?”
“Under the long dark winding mere,
She rests in the watery deep.”

He’s laid his hand on his hunting horn
And, with his dying breath,
Has blown a blast to the blazing morn
That would route the Angel of Death.

High in the cusp of the starry night
He heard his grey hawk mew. [5]
As out of the mist came morning light,
His ghostly grey hounds flew.

He has gathered a snatch of the goldenrod
All withered in the wood
And scattered it over the water’s brim
Where his ghostly greyhounds [6] stood.

Flecked was the coat of the lithe black mare
That rose from the watery deep.
White were the locks of the maiden’s hair,
And her brown eyes heavy with sleep.

“Waily, waily my noble lord,
Who wakes me from my rest.
There’s none can heal the wounds of time
That lie bloody on your breast.

Climb from your silvered saddle down
And swing to my back astride.
Gather your hawk and your brindled hounds
And together we will ride.”

His saddlecloth was the velvet blue
Trimmed round with a silver chain.
He’s kissed her pale lips aince [7] and twice,
Aye, and three times round again.

And over the lake with his hounds at heel
And his good grey hawk in hand,
Rode the knight of the blood-red rowan shield
And the witch of the West-mer-land. [8]

[1] The probable word here is “burned” but there is a Scots dialect word “birn” meaning “burden.” It’s possible Fischer, who often uses archaic Scots, is using the latter, or perhaps he’s being cute with the double meaning. I left “burned” because it makes sense in stanza 8.

[2] I think the sense here is the red berry of the rowan tree, maybe with a second sense of his old wounds reopening.

[3] The Waybacks use “owlet,” but the origin from the 1976 song is “houlet,” so I kept it.

[4] I believe this is the archaic “ay” meaning everlasting, though it could simply be “aye” as in “yes, indeed.”

[5] Do hawks mew? I’m not sure. Possibly it’s “his grey hawk new,” but that doesn’t quite make sense since the grey hawk, having just been brought back from the dead, would be “his grey hawk old.” There is another sense of “mew” to mean “to molt” which is a thing hawks do. But, in context, that’s a little… unromantic? You can also put a hawk in its “mews” but that makes even less sense. My guess is that “mew” is a weird usage, needed to rhyme “flew.” But then, why didn’t he just have the hawk cry and the dogs fly?

[6] This could just be “grey hounds,” but to my knowledge the “brindle” pattern isn’t exactly grey, so I suspect this is identifying the breed of his brindled hounds, not noting their color.

[7] The Waybacks say “once,” but the original poem uses the old Scots “aince,” which I’ve kept here.

[8] I doubt it was the poet’s intention, but this closing strongly reminds me of the end of Poe’s “Eldorado,” which goes:

‘Over the Mountains of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride boldly ride,’ the shade replied-
‘If you seek for Eldorado!’