The Songs Of Edward Capern

by Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll

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about

The new release from Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll features landscape- and life-inspired poetry from a renowned Victorian poet set to beautiful original music drawing on and evoking the folk melodies of 19th Century Devon.

Edward Capern was born in Tiverton in 1819, and his family moved to Barnstaple when he was a young child. He worked in a lace factory from an early age but was forced to abandon the work due to failing eyesight and he later secured a job as a postman in Bideford. Capern’s post route took him on a 12 mile round trip to Buckland Brewer and back and during the journey and three-hour wait in the village he composed poetry. Over the years he published several volumes of poetry, including one collection “The Devonshire Melodist” which had 12 selected poems set to music; apparently the melodies were Capern’s own, transcribed and arranged by the musician Thomas Murby. In fact, many of Capern’s poems were probably intended to be sung as they include a “chorus” or there is a note saying “written to music”. In 1866 Capern moved to Birmingham but returned to North Devon in 1884 and lived in Braunton until his death in 1894.

This recording features a selection of Edward Capern’s poetry that we have set to music, including two pieces to his own compositions from “The Devonshire Melodist”. We have also included two instrumental tracks of country dance tunes that would have been popular in Capern’s time. Capern was also an amateur musician and apparently played both the flute and concertina so he may well have played or danced to these tunes!

Our thanks to Liz Shakespeare for introducing us to Edward Capern and suggesting this project to us. Liz’s novel “The Postman Poet”, based on the life of Edward Capern, is available from her website www.lizshakespeare.co.uk along with a selection of Capern’s poetry.

Thanks also to Chris Braund, James Budden, Ellen Driscoll & Rachel Marsh and to our families for their support and tireless childcare!

www.englishfiddle.com

credits

released March 25, 2017

All arrangements © Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll 2017

Nick Wyke: voice, fiddle, viola, guitar, mandolin, ukulele
Becki Driscoll: voice, fiddle, viola, piano, tin whistle, glockenspiel

Chris Braund: spoken word - 2, 11, 15, 16
James Budden: double bass - 1, 7, 15, 17
Ellen Driscoll: French horn - 17

Produced by Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll
Recorded, engineered & mastered by Nick Wyke
Design by Rachel Marsh

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Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll England, UK

Nick & Becki are highly respected players and composers firmly rooted in North Devon and the West Country. They blend melodic, emotive violin and viola with driving fiddle chords and powerful vocals to produce an unforgettable sound.

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Track Name: The Old Fashioned Plough
THE OLD-FASHIONED PLOUGH
Words: Edward Capern, Music: Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll

Here’s a song for the old-fashioned plough, boys,
The friend of the rich and the poor;
There is nought like the honest old plough, boys,
To keep off grim want from the door.
There’s a spell in the trusty old plough, boys,
There’s a charm in its glossy-backed team,
Which can never be beaten, I vow, boys,
By all the new wonders of steam.

Then hurrah! for the old-fashioned plough, boys,
And hurrah! for the children of toil;
May God ever speed the good plough, boys,
And prosper the sons of the soil.

The world in its infancy used it,
And its children are proving it now;
Our forefathers never abused it,
And we’ll not dishonour the plough.
As wide as the world is its fame, boys,
Its virtues there’s none can deny;
Like the plough let us win a good name, boys,
And leave it behind when we die.

When our island with war was distressed, boys,
And tyranny stood in the prow,
O, who battled for us the best, boys?
The heroes who followed the plough.
And who, if a foe were to dare, boys,
To land on our ocean-bound isle,
Would meet them? - the men of the share, boys,
And take out their pluck for awhile!

But long as the summer-time comes, boys,
May peace be the lot of us all,
The rose that shall bloom in our homes, boys,
And cheer both the great and the small;
May our lives be as straight as our furrows,
And happiness smile on each brow,
Fair wages diminish our sorrows,
And plenty e’er follow the plough.
Track Name: The Rural Postman
THE RURAL POSTMAN (Excerpt)
Words: Edward Capern

O, the postman’s is as happy a life
As any one’s, I trow;
Wand’ring away where dragon-flies play,
And brooks sing soft and slow;
And watching the lark as he soars on high,
To carol in yonder cloud,
“He sings in his labour, and why not I?”
The postman sings aloud.
Track Name: The Spring O' The Dawn
THE SPRING ‘O THE DAWN
Words: Edward Capern, Music: Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll

O! have you been up when the spring o’ the dawn
With it’s glow lights the green on the brow o’ the lawn,
Ere the “bell” o’ the buck wakes the doe, with her fawn
To hear the lark’s song in the morning?

The bonny wee warbler, refresh’d with his rest,
“Good morrow!” lilts out to his love in her next,
While pluming his pinions and rearing his crest
To welcome the light o’ the morning.

Now fluttering his wings, all bedabbl’d with dew,
He soars up the grey for a sight o’ the blue,
Loud singing his song, until lost to the view,
His first merry song in the morning.

So it’s O! to be out in the spring o’ the dawn,
When the glare o’ the grey greens the grass on the lawn,
Ere the bellowing buck wakes the doe, with her fawn,
To hear the gay lark in the morning
Track Name: Kitty Lile; Or, Mazed Kate Of Clovelly
KITTY LILE; OR, MAZED KATE OF CLOVELLY
Words: Edward Capern, Music: Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll

Under the cliff by the western shore
Wandering ever went she,
Looking for one she will never see more,
in the little cove down by the sea.
When the rock-fowl dropped from their granite homes
To prey on the brit below,
As thickly as bees in their honeycombs,
And white as the driven snow;
And red-winged trawlers flew out of the bay,
Like birds o’er the rainbow sea,
To sport where the fluttering sea-gulls play,
None happier were than she.

Weaving the net by her storm-rocked home,
With hands by the sun embrowned,
And smiling upon the curling foam
That broke on the shell-strewn ground.
She sat ‘mid the wave-washed boulders bare,
Thrown up by the tumbling main,
Singing a song to an olden air,
And this was the sweet refrain:-
“My Billy is out with his boat in the bay,
To snare the bright herring for me,
And I, with my arms, in the dimmit of day,
Will snare the bold son of the sea.”

Wearily wore one long dark night,
Which followed a threatening eve,
The men in the boats saw the tiny light
That flickered ‘neath Katie’s eave.
Many, oh many a time she rose,
And looked from her cabin door;
But, grief of griefs, and woe of woes,
The fisher came home no more!
That night, instead of the sweet refrain,
There went forth the bitterest wail,
“My Billy! my Billy!” again and agin,
She shrieked to the bellowing gale.

Long, Katie, with look all woe-begone,
Was seen on the little pier,
With a scarlet rag; and her monotone
Fell sad on the stranger’s ear.
And when the season for fishing would come,
She waved it down by the sea,
“A token of love he gave her,” say some,
“The flag of his own ‘Bonny Bee.’”
And ever till death the sweet refrain
She mournfully sang to the wave,
But little wot she that the murmuring main
Was Billy her fisher-boy’s grave.
Track Name: The Robin Is Weeping
THE ROBIN IS WEEPING
Words: Edward Capern edited Wyke/Driscoll, Music: Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll


The robin is weeping, my baby dear;
Woe, sweet baby, woe to me!
Mine eye is dim with the swelling tear:
My heart is big with a new-born fear,
Lest the little bird weeps for thee.
Weep, weep, weep, the robin is weeping

Weary, oh! weary the day-time wore
Woe, sweet baby, woe to me!
Now the house-dog howls outside the door;
Again he howls, and my heart is sore,
’Tis a death-howl, babe for thee.
Weep, weep, weep, the robin is weeping

The robin is weeping upon the wall,
Woe, sweet baby, woe to me!
The sexton has been with a little black pall;
And four sweet maidens, fair and tall
Are bearing it tenderly.
Weep, weep, weep, the robin is weeping
Track Name: Jemmo's Curse
JEMMO’S CURSE
Words: Edward Capern, Music: Song Melody - Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll Tune: Three Around Three - Traditional

It was the golden harvest time,
And life went merry in the fields,
Until St. Mary's even-chime,
When labour unto pleasure yields.
In mazy dance, and pleasant song,
Young maidens mingled with the men,
And cheer'ly sped old Time along,
As " necks" were cried from hill to plain.

When hard by where the Torridge flows,
Upon the hillside in the east,
Some sheaves are seen in shiny rows,
The promise of a future feast.
"To-morrow, if the day is fine,
We'll stack this corn," old Jemmo cried ;
"To-morrow, boys, be here at nine,
To-morrow's noon shall see it ride!”

But He whose thoughts are not as ours
Oped wide the windows of the sky,
And pour'd his sweet refreshing showers
Upon the meadows hot and dry.
The cattle leap'd for very joy,
The thirsty landscape wore a smile,
"Butter and barley now, my boy!"
The milkmaid chuckled by the stile.

But Jemmo's eye is dark with rage,
And passion boils in Jemmo's blood,
With Heaven he will the contest wage,
And dares to curse the corn and God.
That night, while stretch'd upon his bed,
Awoke by thunder, wind, and rain,
He lifted his ungrateful head
And cursed the corn and God again.

The morning breaks, away he hies
To seek the cornfield on the hill,
When, lo! a scene confronts his eyes,
And now his cursing tongue is still.
A whirlwind from the mighty Hand
That holds the desolating wind
Had swept the vile blasphemer's land,
And scarcely left an ear behind.

That very morn the ebbing tide
Bore Jemmo's golden sheaves away,
And soon his crop was floating wide
Among the billows of the bay.
And now unto this hour they tell,
That, when the sickle wounds the grain,
The storm that on old Jemmo fell
Returns to curse the spot again.
Track Name: The Song Of The Keeper
SONG OF THE KEEPER
Words: Edward Capern, Music: Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll

Good neighbours draw near,
I’ve lots of good cheer,
A little of many things pleasant:
I’ve dainty young roe,
Red deer, buck, and doe,
Hare, partridge, snipe, woodcock, and pheasant.
With my dog and my gun,
I am up ‘ere the sun,
Singing songs in the praise of my charmer;
And leaping the brook,
I scare the black rook,
And rouse up the slumbering farmer.

Say where is the dad
That can boast of a lad
Whose tide of true pleasure runs deeper;
There is no employ,
For a rollicking boy,
As free as the life of a keeper.

I have Frolic and Rose,
With right tender nose,
To spring the brown bird in September,
And Missey and Bob,
Ever ripe for a job,
When we sport in the chilly November.
And Spot, Shot and Rough,
Fan, Billy, and Bluff,
To follow me over the furrow.
And sleek as a mole,
There’s Vic for a hole,
When the rabbit is deep in his burrow.

When Winter winds blow,
And fair falls the snow,
The pole-cat, the fox, and the badger,
I track with my hound,
Or trap on the ground,
And strip off their coats for the cadger.
For catching a stoat,
Or otter afloat,
Owl, hawk, kite, and jay, or a poacher,
I have always a snare;
And I’d have those beware,
Who feed the big bags of the troacher.

So join when I sing,
Like a merry old king,
And drink till your spirits are mellow,
Come, fill up the glass,
Here’s a health to each lass,
And Master, a jolly good fellow.
Track Name: The Dinner-Bell
THE DINNER-BELL
Words: Edward Capern, Music: Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll

The dinner-bell, the dinner-bell,
That dingle dongles through the dell;
I’d rather hear its iron tongue,
Than proudest note of battle-song:
And, ‘spite of harp and classic shell,
No music’s like the dinner-bell.

The dinner-bell, the dinner-bell,
As out its brazen welcomes swell,
The ploughman slips his weary team,
Indulging in a pleasant dream,
When he shall wed his rosy Nell,
The maid who rings the dinner-bell.

The dinner-bell, the dinner-bell,
There’s not a feud I would not quell,
Throughout the round of England’s coast,
If I had Devon beeves to roadt;
I’d scatter every mob pell-mell,
And charm them with my dinner-bell.

The dinner-bell, the dinner-bell,
Ah, there’s a sadder tale to tell;
As here and there it plenty rings,
Oh, there are scores of famished things,
Who sniff the dinner’s fragrant smell,
And sighing hear the dinner-bell.

The dinner-bell, the dinner-bell,
I love its merry music well;
And if I had a noble’s store,
I’d keep a butler for the poor;
And he should ring the laughing knell
Of hunger on my dinner-bell.
Track Name: Life
LIFE
Words: Edward Capern

Through our infancy we glide
Calmly as the waveless tide.
Merry childhood skips along,
Carolling a constant song.
Youth, romantic, loves to go
Dancing like the bounding roe.
Manhood’s pace is slow and sure,
Sobered by the slips of yore.
Age is like a heavy load,
Tottering down a rocky road.
Track Name: The Old Gray Thrush
THE OLD GRAY THRUSH
Words: Edward Capern, Music: Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll

Of all the birds of tuneful note
That warble o’er field and flood,
O give me the thrush with the speckled throst,
The king of the ringing wood:
For he sits upon the topmost twig
To carol forth his glee,
And none can dance a merrier jig
Or laugh more loud than he.

So the thrush, the thrush, the old gray thrush,
A merry, blithe old boy is he;
You may hear him on the roadside bush,
Or the topmost twig of the mountain tree.

Ere Spring arrayed in robes of green
Bids beautiful flow’rets start,
He cheereth up dull December’s scene
With a song from his gushing heart.
But sweeter far are his notes to me,
When piping to the morn,
He woos the bright sun o’er the lea
With a flourish of his horn.

To come with the balmy breath of Spring,
And chant to the orient beam,
To hop on his favourite bough, and sing,
When rich ruby sunsets gleam;
To feed his love on her moss-built nest,
To rear us a singing brood,
And fire with song the poet’s breast,
He haunteth the green-roofed wood.
Track Name: More Happy Than A King
MORE HAPPY THAN A KING
Words: Edward Capern, Music: Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll

Give me the bright bird palaces,
Where Joy delights to dwell,
The fragrant grove of sycamore,
The odour-breathing dell.
’Tis there, with rapture in my soul,
I sit in bliss and sing,
“Good bye to care, for here I feel
More happy then a king.”

Yes, I have known the ecstasy
Which comes in sunny days,
Of gazing on the silent heavens,
Till I was dumb with praise:
To quaff the sunshine of the skies
Till drunken with its wine,
Then, shouting, tell the listening world
The draught was most divine.

Aye! and this pleasure thou may’st share,
If thou wilt only go
Where Nature is the antidote
Of half our mortal woe.
With hearty purpose in thy soul,
Go, hear the minstrels sing,
And thou shalt feel, as I have felt,
More happy than a king.
Track Name: Come List, My Love
COME LIST, MY LOVE
Words: Edward Capern, Music: Edward Capern / Thomas Murby / Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll

Come list, my love, and I will sing
A song O, a song O.
Come list, my love, and I will sing,
Of all the seasons give me spring,
For youth and beauty it doth bring,
And joy O, and joy O.

The bud half blown, my love, for me,
For aye O, for aye O.
The bud half blown, my love, for me,
The maiden bark upon the sea,
The young bird singing on the tree.
For aye O, for aye O.

The morn, with dew upon its head,
For me O, for me O.
The morn, with dew upon its head,
The sun new rising from his bed,
The first love of a gentle maid,
And thine O, and thine O.
Track Name: Epitaph / A Song In Sorrow
EPITAPH / A SONG IN SORROW (Excerpt)
Words: Edward Capern, Music: Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll

For my love I built a nest
With two birdies we were blessed
Raven death this way did fly
Slew them both and here they lie.

My heart is sad, I cannot sing
Those merry strains I sang of yore;
I hear the thrush salute the spring,
But music charms my soul no more.

I see the bonny primrose peep,
And eye me as I pass her by,
But all that I can do is weep,
And turn my head away and sigh.

A moan escapes with every breath,
My bosom is a nest of fears;
The only thought I have is death,
And day in darkest gloom appears.
Track Name: It's O! To Be In Devon At The Merry Christmas Time
IT'S O! TO BE IN DEVON AT THE MERRY CHRISTMAS TIME (Excerpt)
Words: Edward Capern

Now the days are dark and dreary,
And the year is growing weary,
And the leaves have left the branches
Of the sycamore and lime;
I am thinking of thy bounty,
My dear old native county,
It's O! to be in Devon at the merry Christmas-time.
Track Name: Christmas Bells
CHRISTMAS BELLS
Words: Edward Capern, Music: Edward Capern / Thomas Murby / Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll

Ring out, ye merry bells! Welcome bright icicles!
Welcome old holly-crowned Christmas again!
Blithe as a child at play, keeping his holiday,
Welcome him in from the snow-peak and plain.

Up with the holly-bough, green from the winter’s brow;
Lock up your ledgers and cares for a day;
Out to the forest go, gather the mistletoe,
Old and young, rich and poor, up and away.

Up with the holly-bough, ay, and the laurel now;
In with the yule-log, and brighten the hearth;
Quick! he is here again, come with his joyous train,
Laughter and Music, and Friendship and Mirth.

Up with your holly-boughs, high in each manor house
Garnish the antlers that hang in the hall;
Yes, and the “neck” of corn with a gay wreath adorn,
Rich as the bloom on the cottager’s wall.

Wealth has it’s duties now, Christians, you will allow;
Think, then, ye rich, whilst your tables are spread,
Think of those wretched ones, Poverty’s stricken sons,
Weeping, whilst children are asking for bread.

Ring out, ye merry bells! ring till your music swells
Out o’er the mountain, and far on the main;
Ring till those cheerless ones catch up your merry tones,
Singing, “Come Christmas, again and again.”