by Bucolics Anonymous

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released October 10, 2010



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Bucolics Anonymous Austin, Texas

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Track Name: Walking up the Hogsback Ridge
Walking up the hogsback ridge of The Wrekin during the late afternoon, there was no indication that there might be a sunset. As we emerged across the trees into the open sky, the view across the Shropshire and Cheshire plain, from the northwest to the northeast, was a hazy grey sea with islands of darker, wooded ridges rising above it.

Through the double ring of the iron-age earthworks around the hilltop, the sky brightened perceptibly. But when we reached the top we stood awestruck. It was as if we had crawled from the wreckage of some dark, forgotten disaster and were experiencing the power of sunlight for the first time. Under a thick band of charcoal cloud the sky was clear above the South Shropshire hills and Welsh Marches. This space was filled with a golden light that poured over the hills and across the wide valleys filled with white mist.

At its centre the sunset was a syrupy gold, soft and luminous but intense. At its edges, against the lower flanks of hills and ridges, it was purple. The mist seemed to flow towards the sunset, following the lie of the land, but the rays, bolts and sheets of light radiated from a central point behind the hill Caer Caradoc and rushed headlong towards us. The numinous quality of the sunset changed a familiar landscape beyond recognition. The huge ball of the sun sank slowly from the clouds and behind the hills. It felt like it was a vision, an idyll, of the world as it could be. The reality was most astonishing: this was the world and, for a moment, I suppose that’s enough.
Track Name: In the Small Hours/Haste to the Wedding/Scotch Cap
In the Small Hours
by Thomas Hardy

I lay in my bed and fiddled
With a dreamland viol and bow,
And the tunes flew back to my fingers
I had melodied years ago.
It was two or three in the morning
When I fancy-fiddled so
Long reels and country-dances,
And hornpipes swift and slow.

And soon anon came crossing
The chamber in the gray
Figures of jigging fieldfolk—
Saviours of corn and hay—

To the air of “Haste to the Wedding,”
As after a wedding-day;
Yea, up and down the middle
In the windless whirls went they!

There danced the bride and bridegroom,
And couples in a train,
Gay partners time and travail
Had longwhiles stilled amain! . . .
It seemed a thing for weeping
To find, at slumber’s wane
And morning’s sly increeping,
That Now, not Then, held reign.
Track Name: Jewellery of Flies
Jewelry of Flies
by Paul Evans

A bird is wearing the jewelry of flies. It’s hardly a bird yet, just a thing made of some light and the flesh of grubs and worms the bluetit parents brought to its tiny gape in the honeysuckle nest. Emerald green flies spin around it then fasten their pins into its body, sucking up the juice of almost being, of becoming.

The story of how this nestling came to splat on the path so far from the nest is written in the stain around it, glistening in the first June morning. There will be many more dead squabs before the month is out.

Within a stone’s throw of garden trees and shrubs there are hidden nests of bluetit, sparrow, goldfinch, blackbird, robin, wren and blackcap. Each clutch of eggs has hatched and the parent birds are ramming as much food into the chicks as they can find. But others seek out the nests: other birds and cats, helping themselves to the helpless.

Away from the shadows there are flowers everywhere and bees pinballing through spaces between them. It’s quiet weather: warm, thick with haze, like a headache.

The wild garlic flowers turn to seed and their leaves yellow, the stink is stronger on the banks. This smell is what memories hold long after the plants have returned to their bulbs.

The tree canopy above has closed over the stink and sealed in the shadows and the calls of birds ring through the green. Down in the shadow of sallow and thorn, a grass snake searches for an opportunity to slither into. The snake finds a flow across moist earth towards the ditch and all of it is a continuous movement, a divining rod moving to a rhythm that does not trouble the shadows. Only its eye betrays its snakeness, and if there was any pity in it this world would fall to pieces.
Track Name: A Bird-Scene at a Rural Wedding
A Bird-Scene at a Rural Dwelling
by Thomas Hardy

When the inmate stirs, the birds retire discretely
From the window-ledge, whereon they whistled sweetly
And on the step of the door,
In the misty morning hoar;
But now the dweller is up they flee
To the crooked neighbouring codlin-tree;
And when he comes fully forth they seek the garden,
And call from the lofty costard, as pleading pardon
For shouting so near before
In their joy at being alive:—
Meanwhile the hammering clock within goes five.

I know a domicile of brown and green,
Where for a hundred summers there have been
Just such enactment, just such daybreaks seen.
Track Name: Weathers
by Thomas Hardy

This is the weather the cuckoo likes,
And so do I;
When showers betumble the chestnut spikes,
And nestlings fly:
And the little brown nightingale bills his best,
And they sit outside at “The Travellers’ Rest,”
And maids come forth sprig-muslin drest,
And citizens dream of the south and west,
And so do I.

This is the weather the shepherd shuns,
And so do I;
When beeches drip in browns and duns,
And thresh and ply;
And hill-hid tides throb, throe on throe,
And meadow rivulets overflow,
And drops on gate-bars hang in a row,
And rooks in families homeward go,
And so do I.
Track Name: At Day Close in November
At Day-Close in November
by Thomas Hardy

The ten hours’ light is abating,
And a late bird wings across,
Where the pines, like waltzers waiting,
Give their black heads a toss.

Beech leaves, that yellow the noon-time,
Float past like specks in the eye;
I set every tree in my June time,
And now they obscure the sky.

And the children who ramble through here
Conceive that there never has been
A time when no tall trees grew here,
That none will in time be seen.

Music: Lyke Wake Dirge (trad.)
Track Name: An Upbraiding
An Upbraiding
by Thomas Hardy

Now I am dead you sing to me
The songs we used to know,
But while I lived you had no wish
Or care for doing so.

Now I am dead you come to me
In the moonlight, comfortless;
Ah, what would I have given alive
To win such tenderness!

When you are dead, and stand to me
Not differenced, as now,
But like again, will you be cold
As when we lived, or how?
Track Name: To the Moon
To the Moon
by Thomas Hardy

“What have you looked at, Moon,
In your time,
Now long past your prime?”
“O, I have looked at, often looked at
Sweet, sublime,
Sore things, shudderful, night and moon
In my time.”

“What have you mused on, Moon,
In your day,
So aloof, so far away?”
“O, I have mused on, often mused on
Growth, decay,
Nations alive, dead, mad, aswoon,
In my day!”

“Have you much wondered, Moon,
On your rounds,
Self-wrapt, beyond Earth’s bounds?”
“Yes, I have wondered, often wondered
At the sounds
Reaching me of the human tune
On my rounds.”

What do you think of it, Moon,
As you go?
Is Life much, or no?”
“O, I think of it, often think of it
As a show
God ought surely to shut up soon,
As I go.”
Track Name: Night of the Dance/Helston Furry Dance/Shepherd's Hey
The Night of the Dance
by Thomas Hardy

The cold moon hangs to the sky by its horn,
And centres its gaze on me;
The stars, like eyes in reverie,
Their westering as for a while foreborne,
Quiz downward curiously.

Old Robert draws the backbrand in,
The green logs steam and spit;
The half-awakened sparrows flit
From the riddled thatch; and owls begin
To whoo from the gable-slit.

Yes; far and nigh things seem to know
Sweet scenes are impending here;
That all is prepared; that the hour is near
For welcomes, fellowships, and flow
Of sally, song, and cheer;

That spigots are pulled and viols strung;
That soon will arise the sound
Of measures trod to tunes renowned;
That She will return in Love’s low tongue
My vows as we wheel around.
Track Name: Great Things
Great Things
by Thomas Hardy

Sweet cyder is a great thing,
A great thing to me.
Spinning down to Weymouth town
By Ridgeway thirstily,
And maid and mistress summoning
Who tend the hostelry:
O cyder is a great thing to me!*

The dance it is a great thing,
A great thing to me,
With candles lit and partners fit
For night-long revelry;
And going home when day-dawning
Peeps pale upon the lea:
O dancing is a great thing to me!

Love is, yea, a great thing,
A great thing to me,
When, having drawn across the lawn
In darkness silently,
A figure flits like one a-wing
Out from the nearest tree:
O love is, yes, a great thing to me!