John Hiatt, Charlie Sexton : Tennessee Plates

The ‘All Hail The King’ Series (1)

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Summer of 1988 and I was going 90 miles an hour down a dead end street.

So, I walked one block from my office to the Tourist Centre for Greece and asked them to recommend an Island without an airport and with as little tourist infrastructure as possible to ensure the three week holiday I had just awarded myself would be as peaceful as possible.

The next day I was on my way with no suitcase in the hold.

Just a carry on bag with the minimum changes of clothes, one book (Virgil’s The Aeneid) and one music tape (John Hiatt’s Slow Turning).

I loved every song on Slow Turning but the song I played the most and the one that accompanied me to the beach and kept the throttle on my hired moped wide open was Tennessee Plates – probably the most oblique and powerful tribute song to Elvis Presley ever composed.

The marriage of words, rhythm and wit are worthy of Chuck Berry (and when it comes to Rock ‘n’ Roll song writing there is no higher praise).

Woke up in a hotel and I didn’t know what to do
I turned the T-V on and wrote a letter to you
The news was talkin’ ’bout a dragnet up on the interstate
Said they were lookin’ for a Cadillac with Tennessee plates
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Since I left California baby, things have gotten worse
Seems the land of opportunity for me is just a curse
Tell that judge in Bakersfield that my trial will have to wait
Down here they’re lookin’ for a Cadillac with Tennessee plates
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It was somewhere in Nevada, it was cold outside
She was shiverin’ in the dark, so I offered her a ride
Three bank jobs later, four cars hot wired
We crossed the Mississippi like an oil slick fire
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If they’d known what we was up to they wouldn’t ‘a let us in
When we landed in Memphis like original sin
Up Elvis Presley Boulevard to the Graceland gates
See we were lookin’ for a Cadillac with Tennessee plates
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Well, there must have been a dozen of them parked in that garage
And there wasn’t one Lincoln and there wasn’t one Dodge
And there wasn’t one Japanese model or make
Just pretty, pretty Cadillacs with Tennessee plates
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She saw him singing once when she was seventeen
And ever since that day she’s been living in between
I was never king of nothin’ but this wild weekend
Anyway he wouldn’t care, hell he gave them to his friends
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Well this ain’t no hotel I’m writin’ you from
It’s the Tennessee prison up at Brushy Mountain
Where yours sincerely’s doin’ five to eight
Stampin’ out my time makin’ Tennessee plates
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Ok – let’s press the pedal to the metal and drive!

A complete movie with; a love story, criminality, cultural commentary, eyeballs out playing from the band (especially Sonny Landreth on guitar) and a twist at the end – all in under three minutes.

What more could you possibly want!

Hard to pick out favourite lines when every verse gleams with brilliance.

Still :

Three bank jobs later, four cars hot wired
We crossed the Mississippi like an oil slick fire
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has a thrilling propulsive power that takes some beating.
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Mind you :
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If they’d known what we was up to they wouldn’t ‘a let us in
When we landed in Memphis like original sin
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matches it all the way.
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And :
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Well, there must have been a dozen of them parked in that garage
And there wasn’t one Lincoln and there wasn’t one Dodge
And there wasn’t one Japanese model or make
Just pretty, pretty Cadillacs with Tennessee plates
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is both emotionally apposite and laugh out loud funny.
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While :
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She saw him singing once when she was seventeen
And ever since that day she’s been living in between
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is as good a summary of the Elvis’ impact on our lives as anything ever written.
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John Hiatt has been writing superb songs for decades and all those, ‘in the know’ from Ry Cooder to Bonnie Raitt to Bob Dylan are in no doubt about the magnitude of his abilities.
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John’s bank balance got a welcome boost when, ‘Tennessee Plates’ was featured in an iconic film of the 1980s, ‘Thelma and Louise’.

There is a great additional pleasure in that the film version was by Charlie Sexton later to be famed as the stellar guitarist in Bob Dylan’s touring band.

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Let her rip Charlie – let her rip!

 

A song with such wild fire power is always going to attract cover versions.

The one that I’ve chosen to present today introduces Samantha Fish to The Jukebox.

She sure can burn it up!

I am going to leave you with John burning down the barn with The Goners – listening to this we are all Kings and Queens of The Wild Weekend!

Now, when I make my pilgrimage to Graceland as I drive down Elvis Presley Boulevard let me assure you that I won’t be driving a Lincoln or a Dodge or heaven forbid any Japanese model make.

No. No. No.

I will be driving a Cadillac (Hell he gave ’em to this friends!) and blasting out in tribute to The King will be Tennesse Plates.

All Hail The King!

Tom Waits : What’s He Building?

During the Christmas festivities a couple of balls of malt into a serious philosophical discussion a friend of mine suddenly asked – if you had the time to write another Blog not themed around music what topic would you choose?

The question took me aback but my answer was immediate and as surprising to me as it was to him.

’I would write a Blog called ‘Tom, Tom, Tom’ celebrating the wondrous achievements of those who share my forename including, of course, those Toms formally called Thomas, Tommy, Tomas and indeed Thom.

Toms have been prominent in every field of human endeavour throughout history so I’ll have no shortage of engaging subjects.

Here’s 10 off the top of my head :

Thomas The Apostle – How can we know the way?

Thomas Jefferson – “The equal rights of man, and the happiness of every individual, are now acknowledged to be the only legitimate objects of government.”

Thomas Hobbes – Because waking I often observe the absurdity of dreams, but never dream of the absurdities of my waking thoughts, I am well satisfied that being awake, I know I dream not; though when I dream, I think myself awake.

Thomas Hardy

At once a voice arose among The bleak twigs overhead,
In a full-hearted evensong of joy illimited.

An aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small,
With blast-beruffled plume,

Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

Tom Mix – King of The Cowboys, 291 Films and a violent death!

Tom Finney – A Football Genius : Tom Finney would have been great in any team, in any match and in any age .. even if he had been wearing an overcoat.”Bill Shankly.

Thomas Tallis – Listen to Spem in allium if you want a foretaste of the sound of Heaven.

Tommy Farr – The Tonypandy Terror who went the full 15 rounds with Joe Louis in his prime.

Thomas Sudhof – Nobel Prize Winner, Professor of molecular and cellular physiology.

Oh .. And Tom Waits – Singer, songwriter and performer  extraordinaire :

You won’t believe what Mr. Sticha saw
There’s poison underneath the sink
Of course…

But there’s also
Enough formaldehyde to choke
A horse…

What’s he building
In there.

What the hell is he
Building in there?

Tom. Tom. Tom.

Tom Waits whether he’s right or whether he’s wrong Lord ain’t we gonna miss him when he’s gone.

But, if you have created and curated one of the great songbooks you will never, ever, be gone.

Tom has studied the old masters – Hank Williams, Gershwin, Mississippi John Hurt, Kerouac, Hemingway, Bukowski, O’ Hara and Bob Dylan.

He has drunk deep of their influence and then mixed up a miraculous confection tipping the hat to them all while remaining obstinately and magnificently the one and only inimitable Tom Waits.

Ain’t no kind of song Tom can’t write.

Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards.

Drunk Songs.

Sober Songs.

Lullabys and Vampire Venom.

Philosophical Songs.

Sociological Songs.

Songs you won’t forget for the whole of your life.

Songs as innocent as dreams.

Songs as guilty as your worst waking nightmare.

Songs that, damn it, can make a grown man or woman break right down and cry.

Songs that make you scratch your head and then say with a grin – well I guess that’s true I know someone with a story just like that (often because it’s your story).

Songs that can spook you and give you the shivers.

What’s he building in there?
What the hell is he building in there?
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He has subscriptions to those magazines
He never waves when he goes by
And he’s hiding something from the rest of us
He’s all to himself, I think I know why
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Songs that are plain as day and cranky as Hell.
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He took down the tire-swing from the pepper tree
He has no children of his own, you see
He has no dog, he has no friends
And his lawn is dying
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Songs that betray a deep knowledge of the crooked timber of humanity.
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And what about those packages he sends?
What’s he building in there?
With that hook light on the stairs
What’s he building in there?

I’ll tell you one thing, he’s not building a play
house for the children.
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Songs that can make you laugh out loud one minute and silence you with dread the next.
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Now what’s that sound from underneath the door?
He’s pounding nails into a hardwood floor
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And I swear to God I heard someone moaning low
And I keep seeing the blue light of a TV show

He has a router and a table saw

What’s he building in there?
What the hell is he building in there?
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I. heard he has an ex-wife in some place called Mayor’s Income, Tennessee
And he used to have a consulting business in Indonesia
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Songs that Nobody else could write.
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But what’s he building in there?
He has no friends but he gets a lot of mail
I bet he spent a little time in jail
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I heard he was up on the roof last night, signaling with a flashlight
And what’s that tune he’s always whistling?
 
What’s he building in there?
What’s he building in there?
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We have a right to know
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Songs that Nobody else could write.

Nobody.

Nobody.

Tom. Tom. Tom.

Jukebox Top 10 for 2019 : Van, Ry, Tom Waits, Emmylou, The Kinks, Don Everly ++

The Jukebox covered a lot of territory this year.

I hope you enjoyed the journey – discovering new artists and reacquainting with old favourites.

Here’s the 10 most popular Posts of 2019 – make sure you’ve read every one!

At 10 : David Bowie and Nina Simone demonstrating why their legendary status will never dim with contrastingly brilliant takes on Wild is The Wind

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-27c

At 9 : Guy Clark with Texas 1947 brings a lost world to vivid life.

https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2019/11/23/guy-clark-texas-1947/

At 8 : More premium Texas Texture courtesy of Butch Hancock, Joe Ely & Emmylou Harris

Remember – only 2 things are better than milkshakes and malts and one’s dancing like the dickens to The West Texas Waltz!

https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2019/06/29/butch-hancock-joe-ely-and-emmylou-harris-west-texas-waltz/

At 7 : A Birthday tribute to the one and only Don Everly.

There was a quality in Don’s voice, a seeming deep acquaintance with the heartaches that assail us all, that never fails to move me deeply.

https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2019/02/01/happy-birthday-don-everly-singing-beyond-singing/

At 6 : Bobby Darrin – Dream Lover. A tale of triumph, tragedy and Trauma.

https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2019/06/08/bobby-darin-tragedy-trauma-triumph-dream-lover/

At 5 : The Kinks with yet another Ray Davies masterpiece, Days (Thank You For)

Don’t forget a single Day. Bless The Light

https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2019/01/26/the-kinks-days-thank-you-for/

At 4 : The great Tom Waits with a characteristically evocation of the everyday melding with the mythic – (Looking For) The Heart of Saturday Night.

https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2019/05/27/tom-waits-looking-for-the-heart-of-saturday-night/

At 3 : Ry Cooder, Jerry Garcia, The Drifters & Aaron Neville know a great song and how to present it. Here they are with Money Honey.

https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2019/07/27/ry-cooder-jerry-garcia-the-drifters-aaron-neville-money-honey/

At 2 : Linda Ronstadt & Mike Nesmith with a heady 60s classic, Different Drum

https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2019/09/12/linda-ronstadt-mike-nesmith-p-p-arnold-different-drum/

And ..  Top of The Charts .. by far the most popular Post in the history of The Jukebox :

Van Morrison & Mark Knopfler setting down eternity shale with ‘Last Laugh’.

https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2019/08/27/van-morrison-mark-knopfler-last-laugh-happy-birthday-van/

A massive vote of thanks from me to all the wise and witty Jukebox Readers.

There are some 150 Posts in draft ready for 2020 – so stay tuned!

Happy New Year!

Christmas Contemplation 1 : Max Richter & David Behrman

Time to get off the Christmas Helier-Skelter.

Breathe.

Breathe slowly and with deliberation.

Tune in to the rhythm of your breath and your beating heart.

Tune in to the Rhythm of Life.

Experience Time passing.

Sit or stand still.

Breathe.

Beat.

Listen.

Still is still moving.

Still is still moving.

Breathe.

Beat.

Listen.

Why not just Be?

Be.

On the way to becoming.

Breathe.

Beat.

Listen.

Listen.

Happy Christmas 2019 from Bob Dylan (x2), Judy Garland & Charles Dickens!

Traditions must be maintained!

An Etching by Rembrandt

A Literary extract from Charles Dickens

Music by Bob Dylan and Judy Garland .

Rembrandt may be the most searching anatomist of the human heart who has ever lived.

rembrandt

There is such depth of humanity in Rembrandt’s etching of Mother and Christ Child.

The scene glows with immediate and eternal love and intimacy.

So, at last it’s Christmas Eve!

I hope you have enjoyed the music and reflections on the way here.

I have agonised over the music choices in this series and have many years worth stored up for Christmases to come (you have been warned!).

But today’s choices were the first I wrote down and were my inevitable selections for the day before the great Feast.

First, the Keeper of American Song, Bob Dylan, with his inimitable spoken word rendition of Clement Moore’s, ‘The Night Before Christmas’.

It is safe to say that Bob’s pronunciation of the word ‘Mouse’ has never been matched in the history of the dramatic arts!

Of course, in the process of his more than 50 year career Bob has continually been reinventing himself and in so doing has gloriously renewed American culture.

The clip, above comes from his wonderful, ‘Theme Time’ radio show where over a 100 episodes he displayed an encyclopaedic knowledge of twentieth century popular music and a wicked sense of humour.

Bob also recorded for the season at hand the deeply heartfelt, ‘Christmas In The Heart’ album which gets better and more extraordinary with every hearing.

It is clear that Bob, who is well aware that it’s not dark yet (but it’s getting there) is consciously rounding out his career by assuming the mantle of the grand old man of American Music tipping his hat to every tradition (hence the deeply stirring series of CDs where he explores the Great American Songbook).

The only safe thing to say about Bob is that he will have a few surprises for us yet!

Who could have imagined his helter-skelter, how fast can you polka punk?, take on, ‘Must Be Santa’?

Only Bob Dylan!

Only Bob.

Now we turn to Judy Garland with a Christmas song without peer, ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’.

Her singing on this song seems to me to be almost miraculous.

It’s as if her singing really came from secret chambers of the heart all the rest of us keep under guard.

No wonder she has such a deep impact on us – we know she is expressing a profound truth about the human condition – our need to love and know we are loved.

Judy Garland paid a high price in terms of personal happiness for living her life and art with such an exposed heart and soul but she fulfilled a vocation given to very few and left an indelible mark on her age and will surely do for aeons to come.

Today, not a poem but the concluding passages from, ‘A Christmas Carol’ by the incomparable Charles Dickens – a writer for all seasons and situations.

‘Hallo!’ growled Scrooge, in his accustomed voice, as near as he could feign it. What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?

‘I am very sorry, sir’ said Bob, ‘I am behind my time,’
‘You are?’ repeated Scrooge. ‘Yes. I think you are. Step this way, sir, if you please.’
‘It’s only once a year, sir,’ pleaded Bob, appearing from the Tank. ‘It shall not be repeated. I was making rather merry yesterday, sir.’

‘Now I’ll tell you what my friend, said Scrooge, I am not going to stand that sort of thing any longer. And therefore, he continued, leaping from his stool and giving Bob such a dig in the waistcoat that he staggered back into the Tank again, and therefore I am about to raise your salary!’

Bob trembled and got a little nearer to the ruler. He had a momentary idea of knocking Scrooge down with it, holding him, and calling to the people in the court for help and a strait-waistcoat.

‘A merry Christmas Bob! said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. ‘A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!’

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed; and that was quite enough for him.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards, and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.

May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, Every One!

And who am I to do anything other than echo Mr Dickens and Tiny Tim?

So, to all the readers of the Jukebox I wish you a peaceful and joyous feast – however you choose to celebrate it.

God bless us, Every One!

 

Christmas Art Gallery 1 : Light, Shadow & Inspiration

There are insights and truths beyond the ability of words to tell.

When it comes to telling the Christmas Story it seems to me that the great Painters down the ages have provided in paint, in light and shadow, searching insights and truths that still resound.

Take some time and let the Story unfold.

Piero della Francesca (1415 – 1492 ) ‘Madonna del Parto’

I know of no work of art which captures the sense of awed anticipation surrounding the nativity story with such tenderness as Piero della Francesca’s, ‘Madonna del Parto’.

Piero somehow manages to make present through drawing and paint both the vulnerability of Mary in all her humanity and the immanent divine.

pdf-pregnant-mad-br

Fra Angelico (1395 – 1455 ) – The Annunciation

This painting by Fra Angelico has long haunted my imagination since I first saw it in The Convent of San Marco in Florence.

It is a representation of an epochal event, The Annunciation, which holds human time and eternity in perfect balance.

fra-angelico-annuncition

Federico Barocci (1535 – 1612 ) – Nativity

There is nothing more intimate than the bond between a mother and child after a birth.

This intimacy is captured exquisitely by the Master of Urbino, Federico Barocci, in this Nativity which positively glows with the light of love.

federico-nativity

Giorgione ( 1477 – 1510 ) – The Adoration of the Shepherds’

Giorgione, a Venetian artist from the period of the High Renaissance, remains a figure of intense mystery.

giorgione_-_adoration_of_the_shepherds_-_national_gallery_of_art

What we can say from his, ‘The Adoration of the Shepherds’ (NGA Washington) is that he could suspend time and evoke awe and silent wonder.

This painting offers us a profound sense of reverence. The Nativity tableau shows Mary communing with her child as both motherly protector and prayerful worshiper.

Joseph, so often the forgotten man of the narrative, seems overwhelmed by the enormity and mystery of the events he has been caught up in.

Shepherds were ill-regarded outsiders in biblical times.

Yet, it was they who were granted the blessing of an audience with the new born King.

This must be some new type of King who welcomes first the poor and the ragged before the rich and high born.

The sight greeting the Shepherds was beyond words.

Their attitude of humble surrender to an experience beyond their understanding is intensely moving.

Taddeo Gaddi ( 1290 – 1366 ) –  ‘The Angelic Announcement to the Shepherds’

The Florentine Taddeo Gaddi was the star pupil of the great Master, Giotto.

His, ‘The Angelic Announcement to the Shepherds’ can be seen in the Baroncelli Chapel within Santa Croce in his native Florence.

It is a wonderfully dramatic painting.

gaddi_taddeo_announcement

An Angel acts as God’s messenger alerting humankind to an event upon which all history will pivot.

The Sheep are stirring and the Dog’s keen senses alert him to the messenger from afar.

As the Angel speaks eternity merges with linear time.

How could the waking Shepherd find the words to tell his sleeping companion what he has learned?

Surely all he could say was:

‘Let us go – someone we must see is waiting for us just down the hill. Come now!’

It is an invitation which remains open.

Geertgen tot Sint Jans ( 1465 – 1495 )  – Nativity
night-nativity

St Bridget of Sweden had a mystic vision of The Nativity.

The painting by the Flemish artist Geertgen tot Sint Jans makes that ineffable vision a reality before our eyes and in our hearts through virtuoso deployment of light and shadow.

Looking at this tender scene we remember Christ’s statement:

‘ I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.’

More Paintings tomorrow! 

Christmas Alphabet : S for Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town, Sussex Carol & Robert Louis Stevenson

Watch out.

Better not cry

Make sure not to pout.

You don’t need me to tell you why.

Listen to those tinkling sleigh bells.

Can’t you hear the rattle of those Reindeer hooves?

Oh, we all know it’s true.

Santa Claus is coming to town
Santa Claus is coming to town
Santa Claus is coming to town

You’re on the list.

But, which list?

Check twice Santa.

C’mom, I been good twenty times for every time I been naughty.

Come on to our Town Santa.

Come on down.

You’ve watched us sleeping and you’ve watched us awake.

Oh, for goodness sake … you know we’ve been good.

Extra special good.

Out of Darkness we have Light.

Out of Darkness we have light.

Lift up your voices and your hearts.

Apparently there are some ‘Scholars’ of English Literature who regard Robert Louis Stevenson as a mere ‘Storyteller’ not fit to be considered as a major writer.

Such opinions get short shrift from The Jukebox!

RLS with considerable art in a series of gripping and psychologically acute publications created a host of characters who have entered the general consciousness of the mass public as well as devotees of Literature.

His works will be read and remembered as long as people harken to stories.

Below is a Christmas Poem which combines technical assurance with tremendous narrative drive.

 

Christmas at Sea

The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;
The decks were like a slide, where a seaman scarce could stand;
The wind was a nor’wester, blowing squally off the sea;
And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.

They heard the surf a-roaring before the break of day;
But ’twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay.
We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout,
And we gave her the maintops’l, and stood by to go about.

All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North;
All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth;
All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
For very life and nature we tacked from head to head.

We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide race roared;
But every tack we made we brought the North Head close aboard:
So’s we saw the cliffs and houses, and the breakers running high,
And the coastguard in his garden, with his glass against his eye.

The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;
The good red fires were burning bright in every ‘long-shore home;
The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;
And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.

The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;
For it’s just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year)
This day of our adversity was blessèd Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard’s was the house where I was born.

O well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,
My mother’s silver spectacles, my father’s silver hair;
And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves,
Go dancing round the china plates that stand upon the shelves.

And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,
To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessèd Christmas Day.

They lit the high sea-light, and the dark began to fall.
‘All hands to loose top gallant sails,’ I heard the captain call.
‘By the Lord, she’ll never stand it,’ our first mate, Jackson, cried.
… ‘It’s the one way or the other, Mr. Jackson,’ he replied.

She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,
And the ship smelt up to windward just as though she understood.
As the winter’s day was ending, in the entry of the night,
We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light.

And they heaved a mighty breath, every soul on board but me,
As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea;
But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold,
Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.

This Post completes the Christmas Alphabet Series  

Make sure you’ve read them all!