This is a tale spelled out in broken twigs, apple peels and the first golden leaves of Autumn…
As the listeners waited for The Lord-beside-the-Sea in the Old Chapel, an old ballad tune drifted down from the Garret above them. Many hummed and some sang along with its familiar story. It softened the time passing.
The rich man came in and sat down. Without pre-amble, the Pilgrim Woman set her recorder to one side and began in a soft and fluting voice. Her gaze led far away…
So here you come with that bonny blue ribbon. I spy it fluttering in your hand against your chest – and my hears flutters with it.
You are climbing the hill to my poor plain home. Still so handsome and so tall. I cannot think what your parents said to you. I will never visit their lands – my journeys are crooked because of that. What caused them to despise me so I cannot say – unless they knew.
Yet still you called upon me and gave your word before you set sail. I am glad to see you again on our path – and heartsick too.
You step up boldly, knock upon my fathers door as you did so many times before. My hiding place is out of your sight. Why would you look up so high? You never glanced into the rigging unless your duties called you to.
You never knew how I watched you sleeping. How the hot nights of hammocks on deck were a joy to me. You praised that blackbird’s song to all – and never knew the singer.
Ah – that whistle as you wait. You don’t know you’re doing it, repeating my favourite trill. You don’t know how it ached to follow your ship’s wake and leave my homeland behind. All my mother’s craft went into that spell -and it was a wearying thing.
And there’s the door opened to you. And there’s embraces I cannot share and the glint of sadness in my mother’s gaze. Father shakes his white head.
I keep my lookout in the old apple tree. The harbour is easy to see from there. You say your condolences and your farewells. The ribbon you hang in the branches. It will line my nest well.
I hope your new love will treasure its twin, will hold the other blue ribbon to her lily-white breast. May it go with her down the aisle. For all my mother’s magic could not heal my broken heart.
As you shut the gate behind you, I give my joyous, mournful call. Tears start in your eyes and that’s enough for me.