Stories and Riddles

I wrote this set of songs in early 2011.  Someday I'll make proper recordings, but until then I hope you'll enjoy these demos:

(Riddle texts from The Exeter Book.  The Road was recorded live at the Stone with Geremy Schulick, Brad Balliett, Doug Balliett, Majel Connery and Alison Fletcher.)

Seven Sons

My friends Jordan and Charlotte singing Juniper!

if all the leaves on all the trees were tongues
that spoke in rhymes
where every line's
a sturdy ladder rung
and you climbed and climbed forever
you would still not reach the measure
of my seven sons

the oldest one can sing and play the lyre
a perfect breeze
that he can tease
from hair or piano wire
and when he sang at eventide
it seemed his voice could multiply
into a choir

where they disappeared to, no one knows
here comes a daughter and away she goes

and next the twins that grew as tall as pines
they build our home
from honeycomb
and dug our almond mines
so skilled their hands that they could make
whatever we did undertake
of their design

and after them we had our middle child
he speaks no words
except to birds
and deer and crocodiles
he'd go with them for weeks on end
and when at last came back again
he'd only smile

suns too hot and the moons too cold
here comes a daughter and away she goes

the next one always wears a flower crown
a single glance
and what he plants
will leap up from the ground
and even in December you can
see the green and tender blossoms
all around

number six an endless tale could tell
in prose or verse
all unrehearsed
in sonnets lays and villanelles
and all who heard him speak would sit
enraptured at his feet until he
broke the spell

August wilts and November blows
here comes a daughter and away she goes

the seventh son was still just but a babe
he loved them all
'ere he could crawl
and never was afraid
not even when they strapped him to a horse
and whispered in his ear before
they rode away


where they disappeared to, no one knows
'cept for the devil who won't disclose
that on yon mountain, seven crows
wait for their sister and away she goes

Riddle No. 1

A wave over the wave,
a weird thing I saw
thorough wrought and wonderfully ornate
a wonder on a wave:
water become bone

Faithful John

my master has a perfect horse 
in the countryside
she's as red as Mars, and clever, 
and a joy to ride
tomorrow I'm to fetch her, 
and it will be my master's greatest pride
to be borne upon the back of her 
when he goes to meet his bride

but I must shoot it dead at dawn
I must shoot it dead
I must shoot it dead at dawn
for I am Faithful John
I am Faithful John

gold, silver, sulphur, pitch
woven tight and finely stitched
deliver by a tailor who asked 
nothing more in payment
no more handsome raiment 
could be in a bridegrooms wish

but I must throw it in the fire
before he tries it on
I must throw it in the fire
for I am Faithful John
I am Faithful John

what an honor and a curse
it is to know
that the bride will soon grow faint
beneath the mistletoe
when she falls I must be there
and to a chamber take her
and I know that she'll be safer --
if I take off all her clothes

my master then will have no choice
but to hear the gallows in my voice
so all I hope is when I'm gone
more clearly he will hear my song:
I must do you, lord, this wrong
I must do you, lord, this wrong
I must do you, lord, this wrong
for I am Faithful John
I am Faithful John
I am Faithful John oh lord
I am Faithful John

Riddle No. 2

I am fire-freighted
and I flirt with wind
and my limbs are lightly freighted
and my many arms wrapped in flame
you read me
and I carry you cross water
and I strain to fly
in the spring, a grove leaf-bearing
and in fall a glowing ember

hand to hand around the hall
friend to friend, I'm kissed by all
I drink as deep as I am tall:
say what I am

The Road

I will open the road before her
and close the road behind her
and raise the hills to hold her
and shade them all with poplars
and every night I'll ring the stars like bells for to remind her
as I open the road before her
and close the road behind

I will open wide the pastures
I will still the many waters
I will multiply the orchards
and fill the trees with blackbirds
and every day they'll sing the summer song of what's inside her
as I open the road before her
and close the road behind

I will cross the ever-under
I will harp asleep the creature
I will sing across the river
I will sooth the shades who suffer
and every night I shift my ring from one hand to another
but I will not hold my lover
I will not hold my love

Juniper

My mother she killed me
my father he ate me
my sister collected my bones
she wrapped them in linen and tied them with silk
and buried me under a garden stone

Now I can fly, now I can sing
someday I'll go find my murderer
but first a purse for my father and shoes for my sister
and a song for the juniper

As for mothers, I had another
she died the day I was born
so happy to see me her heart burst in two
and her laughter still keeps me warm

She'd gone and prayed, each night and day
out beneath the juniper
and waited and waited and waited and waited
for something to grow up inside of her

how long
inside of her
how long
inside of her

The fig shall bear a colored flower
and time's mid-point a scepter
each good thing will be made better
and everything bitter more sour

(all text ©2011 Elliot Cole)