October Lament

This piece took a while to come together. When I originally workshopped it, I had the first and third verses and the melody pretty set, and I thought the same for the second. But after some feedback, the second verse came together to this version, and I think it works better than my original lines. Which is why we workshop and get feedback, eh? It felt, and still feels, a bit short, especially since I was going for a ballad (see “documentation” below), but every attempt at expansion ended up feeling forced and trite and smelled distinctly of cheese. This is another one of those I consider to be in the vein of “SCA traditional.” Hope you enjoy!

October Lament

E                                                                           A                   E
How many roads have you traveled, what hard days have you seen,
E                             C#m7                A         B
In the light and the shadow and the valleys between?
            E                                                     A                 E
Shall I watch for your coming, ‘neath the sun and the rain,
E                            C#m7             A           E
And when, oh my friend, shall I see you again?

For the winter was coming, and the trees whispered low
That you’d left in the night on the dark paths below.
With no news of your parting we searched all in vain,
When, oh my friend, shall we see you again?

Will you travel these roads and return in the spring?
Will the trees speak your coming in their new clothes of green?
Will you return to our memory in the sun and the rain,
And when, oh my friend, shall we see you again?

What’s in a Ballad or, The Documentation

A survey of 16th-century ballads returns a selection of songs that span a wide spectrum of topics from the sacred to the secular. Some tell a linear story, while others relate a casual encounter (“The vertuous maids resolution. Or The two honest lovers” 16??) or ruminate on a topic, such as death (“The lamenting lady’s farewel to the world” 16??) (Libraries). While this piece is much shorter than most of the traditional ballads that have survived, I have modeled its construction on the strong rhythmic sense, the aabbcc, etc., rhyme scheme, and the tune that moves along a melodic line with a late-period sense of progression and resolution.

When I perform this piece, I rarely give an introduction that includes more than the name of the song, and the fact that it is an original piece. I leave it to the audience to imagine to whom I’m singing. Is it a friend who has traveled temporarily? A loved one who is seen only rarely? A missed chance at a connection from long ago? Alas, the one for whom I sing this Ballad shall be seen again only in the words of my song and the memory of those who loved him.


Libraries, Bodleian. Broadside Ballads Online. n.d. 14 May 2020. <http://ballads.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/&gt;.

Someday I will learn how to sing on a video without looking constipated …

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