'Arthur the King' cover
CD - Park Records, PRKCD58
(UK, 2001)

Sound bits available at
the Samples Page.

Maddy Prior:
Arthur the King

Arthur the King:
    1. The Name of Arthur [3:36]
    2. Veturae Remembering [3:21]
    3. Hallows I [1:16]
    4. Queen and Sovereignity [3:04]
    5. Hallows II [1:01]
    6. Tribal Warriors [4:43]
    7. Hallows III [1:00]
    8. Sentry [4:25]
    9. Hallows IV [1:09]
    10. Once and Future King [3:34]
11. Reynardine [5:46]
12. Hail the Ball [3:43]
13. The Duke of Marlborough [5:20]
14. Fanny Blair [4:16]
15. Lark in the Morning [5:04]

musicians: Maddy Prior - vocals
Nick Nolland - keyboards, backing vocals
Troy Donockley - uillean pipes, electric and acoustic
    guitars, low whistle, tin whistle, cittern,
    backing vocals
Terl Briant - drums and percussion
other credits: Produced by Nick Holland and Troy Donockley
Engineered by Steve Watkins
Recorded at Warehouse Studios, Oxford
Mastered at Country Masters
    by Denis Blackham
Photography by Jay Alice Preece
Sleeve designed by Terri Donockley
Graphics & artworks by Chris Sands at Indigo Design
    West Yorkshire
Album coordination by John Dagnell
© 2001 Park Records


N o t e s   a n d   L y r i c s

The Name of Arthur

      The historical Arthur is a high controversial figure. Theories abound as to his region of activity and his ancestry. Most postulate that he was a Romano-British war-captain who led his people against the in-coming Anglo-Saxons, or English, in the late 5th or early 6th century. The Arthur of legend that we have become familiar with was a construct of the writers of the 12th century. Geoffrey of Monmouth, Chretien de Troyes, Wolfgang von Eschenbach, plus later writers such as Thomas Malory, developed an elaborate and beautiful series of stories supposedly based on earlier tales of this great king. The Mabiniogion, a great poem of Welsh origin gives Arthur a more Celtic dimension, and certainly the later 'Grail romances' that became Christian in style, owed much of their source the Celts.

The poet and the troubadour have stolen my name
They poached my true story and gave me false fame
I was a ruler, a warrior, an emperor, a chief
I fought for my people, I fought for my belief

I fought for law and order in fear of chaos reign
To keep out butchery of hell-hounds fateful bane
I fought against savages of iron flesh and bone
To keep them from ravaging my family and home

They've turned me to a gentleman of pallid livery
A puppet for their musings, their whims of chivalry
But I fought no imaginings of courtly smiles and lies
I fought murderous men with evil in their eyes

Veturae* Remembering

      When the legions marched away from Britain they let behind a people who were more Roman than the Romans. They had been occupied for four centuries and the wealthy Britons thought of themselves as citizens of Rome. They built villas and baths. Tiled their floors with mosaics and drank wine imported from other parts of empire. Then suddenly they were deserted. They couldn't believe it. They sent indignant letters to Rome asking for reinforcements to fight the Picts in the North and the Irish in the West. They were brusquely told to fend for themselves. And so gradually they let go of the image of Empire and made shift to deal with the invaders. Vortingern, a leader of the British, invited a band of Saxon warriors to become mercenaries. Seeing a green and pleasant, and relatively and undefended land, they turned treacherous and decide to stay and bring their tribes over, who were being squeezed out of mainland Europe by the encroaching tribes from Eastern Europe, themselves being pushed by the horsemen of the Steppes. It is into this Scenario that Arthur appears.
      A charismatic figure that bonds the otherwise warring British tribes to perceive a common enemy and fight in unity.
*veturae=old women (Latin)

Roman was my childhood
Soft clothes and clean lines
Pillars and mosaics
Baths and fine wines
Law and order
But then they marched away
Never to return

Betrayed and deserted
At the mercy of the wars.
Mercenaries of Vortigern
Fearless of laws.
Crossed the seas
Hundreds upon hundreds
To dispossess me
To rob my native land
To rob me of my land

They think we have become an easy prey
Law and order
Then they marched away

They massacred our leaders
At a table set for peace
Hengest and his henchmen
Murderers at the feast
Alarm and terror blazed across the land
They hope to drive us out.
Out of history

But a strong island people
Yield not so easily
Arthur pins them to the East
Drives them back into the sea
He strikes fear deep in their hearts
He is a savage man
Arthur our King

The Hallows

      The later stories of the Grail are profound poetry about search of meaning. Since all stories echo this desire it seemed appropriate to make reference to this mystery. The Hallows are various forms that the grail takes, encompassing several cultures and ideologies. We have reprised the soundscape several times through the piece.

From my name has come a dream
A fable
A myth
A truth that runs deep beneath the daily round.

The cup of transformation.
The stone that falls from heaven.
The double-edged sword that extracts a heavy price.
The lance of perception that wounds and heals
By the Dolorous Blow
The sword of David in the Ship of Solomon
That sails out

Timeless symbols resonate
Of Cup and Sword
Dish and Lance.
They colour the essence of truth
That we seek what we cannot find.

Desire what we cannot have.
Fear what we cannot face.
And yearn for a safe harbour of loving arms to hold us dear
Forever and ever.

Queen and Sovereignty

      The king was though to be married not only to his Queen, but also to the land. This song weaves the two ideas together

Youth was an easy time
Strength stiffened every rod.
Energy flowered and blessed our union
My hair caught in his armour as we lay
In Stolen moments

We have laughed together
Fought together
Danced and drank together
I am his queen
He lives in me

His children grow in me
Wild like the hazel tree
I am the ground of his being
This gold torque around my neck
Glows in the gentle Spring light

Bound down in silken bonds
These wolfish Saxon bands
Trapped in a cage of his making.
Our young British warriors
Grow sheltered by
His mighty shadow

Tribal Warriors

      The images in this song could easily apply to either side of the struggle, and resonate throughout history. The vital, vibrant and violent energy of young men channelled into a single idea will always be threatening to any settled society.

Brutal cropped-headed warrior bands
Rage across all civilised lands
Looking for a rumble, yelling out their scorn
Careering down the ages, blood-brothers sworn

He brawls and he drinks and he's bored by peace
War is his pastime, and war was his feast
He feels no pity, he aches with no grief
He comes and he goes, a barbaric savage thief

Always and forever at impotence they sneer
Restless and rude, they thrive on fear

Art is for the soft, arms are for the strong
Might is right, the rest is wrong
Ignorance is power, virtue is a bane
Violated the timid, the halt and the lame

Bonded in hatred by deep racial scars
The tribe is his home, his loyalty is sure
Leather-clad warriors are looking for a war
So keep to your houses and bolt fast the door

(words: Prior/ music: psalm tune by Joseph Gelineau/ arr. Prior/Holland/Donockley)

      One suggestion put forward for the believed success of Arthur is his use of horses. This song is set in the form of a psalm with part of the Compline, or night service included, to give an indication of the rise of Christianity at this time.

The blood-lines of our horses are hazy now
Those who would know them are lost or gone away

We have cleared fields and pastures four our herds
They are steady friends, sure-footed and well fed

We fly on the wind to keep the enemy guessing
We travel in the nigh to catch them sleeping

They dare not leave their villages unprotected
Or we will swoop down and carry off their dear ones

The old hill-forts are our bivouacs at night
The old roman towns our hiding place

The Latin tongue has dried up here long ago
Blown on the dust of the departing legions

Save us O Lord while waking
And guard us while sleeping
That awake we may watch with care
And asleep may rest in peace

We harry the enemy who lumbers along on foot
They are better seafarers than land fighters

They stick together, there's a safety in numbers
For we pick off any strays or small scouting parties

We surprise him in the morning and kill him as he runs
Over land we know because our fathers farmed it.

Arthur has made us into a tight fighting unit

On fast ponies to confuse and rattle the invaders

Once and Future King

      Arthur's achievement was short-live. He probably held the English in East Anglia, Kent and Sussex for twenty years or so, but when he died the tribes fragmented again and the invaders were settled enough to bring over their monarchy. They gained ascendancy and eventually drove the Britons back to the hills of Wales and Cumbria and into Cornwall. Many had already fled to Brittany, and eventually settled there. The Celts had a cult of the head, and one of their stories is of Bran who was decapitated, but continued to speak and enjoy the company of his companions, until one of their number opened the forbidden set of doors (O, perfidy!) and Bran finally died. He was taken to be buried on a hill looking to the coast and it was said that he would return if ever the land was in need. This image of talismanic protection is a powerful one and appeals to our vulnerability and was incorporated into the later stories of Arthur.

The seed has blown
The bird has flown
The sap returns to earth
The chocking weeds
Spawn their seeds
O sweet garden overgrown
There is a promise made
A promise of return
When all is care and pain.
The Once and Future King
Will return to his own
And make the garden bloom again.

(trad. arr. Prior/Holland/Donockley)

      Seduction songs are not uncommon in the tradition, but this one is riveting in its accuracy. A shy character attempts to seduce a young girl, who is singularly unimpressed until he tells her that he is being sought by the authorities. At this proof of his anti-establishment/anti-hero status she becomes romantically inclined, in the time-honoured tradition of maidens everywhere. Robin Hood/Che Guevara/ bad lads can be very attractive figures. And, in the continuing veracity of the song, once he has gained intimacy he becomes evasive. Bu she hooked, and follows after him, asking his name. This telling tale of an eternal theme is underpinned by a most glorious and poignant tune.

One evening as I rambled among the springing thyme
I overheard a young woman conversing with Reynardine

Her hair was black, her eyes were blue and her mouth as red as wine
And he smiled to look upon her did the sly bold Reynardine

She said young man be civil and my company forsake
For my good opinion, I fear you are some rake

He said my dear I am no rake brought up in Venus train
But I'm searching for concealment, all from the judges men

Her cherry cheeks and her ruby lips they lost their former dye
And she fell into his arms there all on the mountain high

They hadn't kissed but once or twice till she came to again
And modestly she asked him, pray tell to me your name

He says if by chance you look for me perhaps you'll not me find
But I'll be in my castle, enquire for Reynardine

Day and night she followed him, his teeth so bright did shine
And he's led her over the mountain, did the sly bold Reynardine

Hail the Ball

      Folk customs of Britain are surprisingly vibrant in our computer/digital age. Often extremely violent or challenging, they provide an outlet for those energies not exorcised by organised football or other physical exertions. This is a picture of the Cumbrian, Workington Easter custom of the 'Uppies and Downies'. It is a centuries-old game of rugby-type anarchy between two 'ends' of the town. Toy grew up in Workington and his draws heavily on his knowledge and experience.

They're gathering at Cloffocks
In the late afternoon
Testosterone in T shirts
The game's beginning soon
An ancient war-like stuggle
For the Park or harbour wall
The Uppies and the Downies
Wage a battle for the ball

Hail, hail the ball
Hail the barbarians
Running along the Harbour Wall

The ball is up, they're in the beck
The scrum is hard and tight
The ball flies out away they run
The beat the failing light.
They're ploughing up the cricket pitch
And allotments of the town.
Stand back, stand back, bystander
Or the scrum will run you down

Laughing, pushing flexing style
Dark determined eyes.
Thousands crowd the high-ground
Murmuring asides.
They think the ball is the pack
In the blood and muck and dirt.
But there are no rules in this game.
It's stuffed up Millican's shirt.

The Duke of Marlborough
(trad. arr. Prior/Holland/Donockley)

      The first Lord Marlborough, John Churchill, was an able general and an adroit politician who dodged his way through several changes of monarchy and their religions with great success, hence establishing Blenheim Palace and the wealth and power of the Churchill family. This is probably a Victorian song, at the height of Empire, given the gung-ho style of the lyrics.

You generals all and champions bold that take delight in field
That knock down palaces and castle walls but now to death must yield
I am an Englishman by birth, Lord Marlborough is my name
In Devonshire I drew my breath, a place of noted fame

I was beloved by all my men, kings and princes likewise
It's many a town I often took, and did the world surprise
King Charles the Second I did serve to face the foe in France
And at the battle of Ramilles I boldly did advance

The sun was down, the earth did shake, how loudly did I cry
Fight on, my lads, for old England's sake, we'll conquer or we'll die
That very day my horse got shot, 'twas by a musket ball
And as I mounted up again, my aide-de-camp did fall

Now on a bed of sickness lie, I am resigned to die
You generals all and champions bold stand true as well as I
Stand true my lads and bribes but fight with courage bold
I led my men through smoke and fire but never bribed by gold

Fanny Blair
(trad. arr. Prior/Holland/Donockley)

      This song speaks about the taboo of sex with the under-aged and the hypocrisy and political wrangling that often go with it.

It was last Monday morning as I lay on my bed
A young friend came to me and unto me said
Rise up Henry Higgins and flee you elsewhere
For they're bound out against you by the young Fanny Blair

Fanny Blair is a girl of eleven years old
And if I must die then the truth I'll unfold
I never had dealings with her in my time
But now I must die for another man's crime

On the day of the trial Squire Vernon was there
And on the green table they've lifted Fanny Blair
And the lies that she swore to I'm ashamed for to tell
But the judge spoke up quick, saying 'You've told it right well'

Henry Higgins of Branfield, O whither art thou flown?
It's you're a poor prisoner condemned and alone
If Jackie McNiell of Newcastle was here
In spite of old Vernon we'd soon have you clear

On the day that young Higgins was condemned for to die
The people rose up with a murmuring cry
We'll catch her and crop her, she's a perjuring little whore
Young Henry is innocent, of that we're very sure

Just one thing remains before my life do end
Don't bury me in some old prison ground so far from many a friend
Leave my body to lie in the sweet Branfiels mould
And I pray the Lord pardons that little girl's soul

Lark in the Morning
(trad. arr. Prior/Holland/Donockley)

      This deceptively simple song has been in my repertoire longer than any other folk song. It has that total Arcadian sweep that puts it in the style of tune that Vaughan-Williams loved and used in his own writing, and is a delight to sing.

Lay still my fond shepherd and don't you rise yet
It's a fine dewy morning and besides, my love, it is wet

Oh let it be wet my love and ever so cold
I will rise, my fond Floro and away to my fold

Oh no, my bright Floro, it is no such thing
It's a bright sun a-shining and the lark is on the wing

Oh the lark in the morning she rises from her nest
And she mounts in the air with the dew around her breast

And like a pretty ploughboy she'll whistle and sing
And at night she will return to her own nest again

When the ploughboy has done all he's got for to do
He trips down to the meadows where the grass is all cut down.

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