Tuesday, 4 May 2010

"Charlotte's Song" Lyrics (2004)

Over the Humberhead Levels
I see the keels on the cut:
Leeboards are ready for raising,
Onward, now, ready or not

Tides roll on, hell or high water,
Little one, stowed in my deep,
The coamings are fog-draped beyond us
The waterway mumbling of sleep

Pinder and mariner rise up and range,
The peat-cutters wait at the stile;
My grandfather watches the door from the settle,
The nightjar, she weeps all the while

No-one can sift out your shadow, my love,
No-one knows quite where we lay;
Whispers and rumours, half-guessing our story -
My journey to Hull far away:

There in the muck-garths and cobbles,
There in the alley, my child,
Your birthing so precious and brutal and fragile,
Bleak as the sea and more wild!

Now as we a wait for tomorrow,
Your heart beats its future for me:
I leave you the Chase where the lapwing is tumbling home
Over the Lings to be free!


Dedicated with love to my great great grandmother, Charlotte Barrass, keelgirl, wife and mother, and my great grandfather Thomas, who was the child she conceived and bore in Chaffer's Alley, Witham, Hull in May 1857, the year after her grandmother Nancy's suicide. Charlotte died of TB in 1865, a few short weeks after giving birth to a little brother for Thomas, George Bottom, following her marriage to farmer William Bottom in Hatfield Woodhouse. Baby George only survived his mother by one day, and mother and child were buried together on a snowy February day in Hatfield St Laurence churchyard, close to Charlotte's Barrass roots in the bleak Humberhead levels, near to Hatfield Chase and the Lings, where a windmill used to turn its sails in the wind from the seas far beyond.

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