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Thom Moore: Blog

Seven Things Aloom -- track seventeen: Keep This Thought

Posted on April 8, 2013

Keep This Thought

 

Keep this thought, awake at night,

wind across the willows:

you'll catch no sleep in silver light,

the moon outside your window.

No sleep, stormy night:

branches rattle, wind blows;

scud cloud, silver light—

the moon across your pillow.

 

Silver comes to fill your eyes;

keep this thought, or otherwise

no stopping when you wake and rise

and float up through your window.

Float you must, but don't give in:

the senses in your cheek and chin

will tell you where and tell you when

to find your homely pillow.

 

Sleep and toss, late at night,

clouds press up in billows;

you'll be weeping silver like

a moon upon your pillow.

So steep?  Don't you mind:

climb that cliff by moonglow.

"Eyes up," the wind is whining:

"watch for where the tune goes."

 

Melody will fill your mind;

keep this thought, or otherwise

no stopping when you wake and rise

and float up through your window.

Float you must, but don't give in:

the senses in your cheek and chin

will tell you where and tell you when

to find your homely pillow.

 

Girl child [Irene] says goodnight,

and she goes to seek her pillow.

Three things within her sight:

moon, and panes, and willow.

Last thing to cross her mind,

just before her eyes close,

this song for stormy nights,

moon outside her window:

 

"If silver comes to fill my eyes,

I'll keep this thought, or otherwise

no stopping when I wake and rise

and float up through my window.

Float I must, but won't give in:

the senses in my cheek and chin

will tell me where and tell me when

to find my homely pillow."

 

©1998 Thom Moore, reg. IMRO, MCPS

 

Most of the Irish melodies I use are dance tunes – jigs or reels – and rarely do I monkey with song melodies (something my namesake was famous for – not me!).  This is a rare exception: the only version of the original song that I have ever heard has no English form, to my knowledge, and is a very popular song among schoolchildren who are required to sing something in the native tongue.  I first heard it years ago and far away (Hawai’i, in 1963, to be exact) on a 1958 Folkways recording of the singing of Deirdre ni Fhlionn ... and I heard it again sung in 1998 by Irene Haggan, who was at the time 10 years of age, in her mother’s house in Ramelton, Co. Donegal. She was someone obviously on the verge of a life full of many of the more tumultuous things ... and I felt a need to write a song to reassure her in some way that it would all work out.  So I used the song (whose name I can never remember) in a typically ratcheted and tumbriled form ... so much so that I defy anyone to recognize the original without actually asking me, Irene, or her mother, Mary.  When I sent the lyrics to an American connoisseur of Irish songs, she merely asked me, in a very American way, whether the lyrics represented some sort of dream state, as they appear at one point to lose all coherence altogether.  ‘Well,’ I said, ‘not altogether: at moments it does represent that state somewhere between being awake and being asleep, when things might be memorable without making a lot of logical sense ... I guess.’  I’m told that Irene still plays the tune on her fiddle ... the song being written for her, after all.