Blood Red Moon and Seven Sleepers
And where are you going to?
Must I remain? The passage
whispers endless questions and my answer
is the same: I’m going for to market; a-going
to the fair; going all a-courting, and O what
have you got there? How come that
blood? And what did you? And my
reply: is this? this true? this
false flood of wishes, and pretty
little horses, the lily white
breast, the one I love
the best, tiny sparrow all a-crying, go
to sleep, hush-a-bye, seven
sleepers, bluest eyes—wake you
up, and up, and off, and where
are you going to? I’m going to the fair,
for my true love he is
–come, arise, seven sleepers, close
your eyes, tell me gentle, tell me
true, and where
are you a-going
to?—if I had knowed, if before: and none
as I so ready to unlock my chamber
door; and the pen-knife, and the rose, and my
sweet babe, and my sweet sweet lost
repose: seven sleepers, and the
briar, rest my weary I would fain my bed
a-lie O I will riddle, I will
reply: seven sleepers, seven
sleepers, and the refrain:
Must I remain?
First off, shout out to
You may have notice this is quite a bit longer than my usual attempts at verse. I started writing this poem 40 years ago. In those days my poetry rambled on. This was one I always liked, and worked on quite a bit, but never finished. Every few years I would remember it and revise it. I found it again earlier this year and vowed to complete and illustrate it sometime in 2015.
“Seven Sleepers” is an alternate title for Child Ballad #7, also known as “Earl Brand”. I love these songs, but the stories get jumbled in my head, and my poem incorporates phrases found in many other Child ballads as well. Pieces of these lyrics also appear in many other traditional English language songs. The subjects are almost always grisly in some way (plenty of love lost, betrayal, death, and mayhem) which seems appropriate for a Blood Red Moon of any sort.
And lastly, I’d like to dedicate “Seven Sleepers” to the folk music partner of my youth: Alfie. She and I spent many hours both listening to and making music. The songs, and hopes and dreams of that time, still remain.