songs for the road

When I was at high school we used to sing from a song book most mornings. Then there was a heady moment when my school got the first overhead projector I’d ever seen. Later, when I worked in the school I found it and made it go again – it had less of a bulb, and more of a tube sort of bulb, which I can recall cost as much as a luxury island plus resorts in Hawaii. My school didn’t want islands, they wanted bulbs.

Anyway, we used to sing. I must say I didn’t mind it, even if then, and now, I was a crap singer. The senior boys somehow managed to make singing an manly kind of activity so we all joined in. It was a coed school and so the senior girls weren’t given to being out done by mere boys. And then there was the deputy principal, a man who rejoiced in the surname Smellie. Imagine being a school teacher called Mr Smellie. And you thought your life was tough. Doug Smellie was a number of things to a number of people but I think every former pupil who knew him would agree on one thing. Man, that guy could sing. He could out sing the massed voices of 1,000 kids. Not bad. Not bad at all.

The other day, unbidden, a song from back then slipped into my mind. You know, as songs do. I could just remember the last line of the verses. I could remember the tune – listen to it from is ‘Monks Gate’, a traditional Sussex melody arranged by none other than Ralph Vaughn Williams, in 1904. What’s interesting to me is when I saw the words at cyberhymnal I could almost immediately remember them – it must’ve stuck in the recesses of my mind.

Imagine – remembering some of the words from John Bunyan’s, Pilgrim’s Progress, from 1684. Told you I was at school ages ago. There’s another version where someone were tuned the words, but I prefer them straight from Bunyan’s word processor. Apparently Bunyan wrote the words during his 12-year prison sentence for refusing to conform to the official state chuch. I’ve yet to confirm if that’s correct, or maybe just more internet flab. To be continued…

Meanwhile, click on the music link above and give singing the words a burst. I find the words have something to offer across the ages from when I was at school, but also from the 1600’s. In this case Bunyan’s probably speaking of a religious pilgrim, John Wayne was speaking of you cowboys, and I think anyone on the path to further knowledge is a true pilgrim today.

Seeking knowledge and truth is as demanding as it ever was, let’s have a hymn to got with, whether we’re religious or not, a good song for the road never goes astray.

Who would true valour see
Who would true valour see,
Let him come hither;
One here will constant be,
Come wind, come weather
There’s no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent
To be a pilgrim.

Whoso beset him round
With dismal stories
Do but themselves confound;
His strength the more is.
No lion can him fright,
He’ll with a giant fight,
He will have a right
To be a pilgrim.

Hobgoblin nor foul fiend
Can daunt his spirit,
He knows he at the end
Shall life inherit.
Then fancies fly away,
He’ll fear not what men say,
He’ll labour night and day
To be a pilgrim.


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