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Peasants and Pages

from Midwinter Revels by GreenMatthews

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Our retelling of a very well-known Christmas story.

lyrics

The King sits in his oaken hall
In his robes so rich and fine-o
He’s gnawing on a roasted haunch
And drinking blood-red wine-o
And pine logs crackle in the hearth

And fill the room with cheer-o
Upon the board lie meat and cheeses
Puddings, pies and beer-o

The wind blows chill and raw without
Snow covers the horizon
And through the storm a figure plods
Who catches the King’s eye
“Come hither, page - who is that man

Out there, pray do me tell-o

Why does he trudge through frost and rime

and whither does he dwell-o?”

“Good sire,” the gentle page replied
“I know not how he’s named-o,
But sure his hovel yonder lies
Beyond the holy spring
“Then bundle up these rinds and skins
Likewise these scraps and bones-o
We’ll take them them to his home straightways
Where he dwells all alone-o.

He’ll never have such a feast beheld
As we bring him this night-o
And in his joy and nourishment
I’ll take such a delight-o
For is it not the season when
The great give to the least-o
So bundle up the remnants of
The yester’s Yuletide feast-o”.

They set out through the wind and snow
In front the King so bold-o
Behind the little page bent low
The pack across his shoulder
The snow fell fast, the frost crept in
The wind roared ever colder
Beneath the heavy pack the page
Sank low and ever lower

“Good sire, the burden weighs me down
The chill me overcomes-o
I have no shoes to warm my feet
They’re lifeless and they’re numb-o”
“Fear not, my page, for my fine boots
Are lined with fleece and fur-o.
Place your feet in the prints I leave
They’ll warm you to the marrow”.

Late was the hour when they arrived
At the hovel of the fellow.
“Why what a poor, mean place is this!”
So loud the King he said-o
He flung the door wide there to find
The man beside the bed-o
A-weeping and grieving
For his wife and babe so dead-o.

“A tragedy!” the King exclaimed
“What cruel fate has done so
To take this poor man’s wife and child
Upon the feast of Stephen?
How could such a cruel thing unfold
Upon the Christmas season?"
“Good sire,” the page replied “I will
Tell you the very reason.”

“In summer this man’s wife fell sick,
In autumn then his babe-o
But taxes still he had to find
And carried on to labour-o.
His taxes paid, no gold remained
To pay for food and nursing
And so they both grew sicker still
And ever since been worsening.

The taxes went unto the Crown
This poor man’s overlord-o.
He laboured for your comfort, sire
And see now his reward-o -
A bundle of cold scraps and rind
As sop for Christmas given,
But this poor gift can ne’er bring back
His loved ones no more living.”

But let it now be always told
How on one feast of Stephen
The good King and his page went forth
On deep snow crisp and even.
And let one good deed cancel out
The ill deeds of the ages.
For tales we tell of deeds of kings
Not of peasants nor of pages.

credits

from Midwinter Revels, released November 30, 2020
Music and lyrics by Chris Green

Sophie: voice, flute

Chris: voice, mandocello

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GreenMatthews Coventry, UK

Chris Green and Sophie Matthews play English traditional songs and tunes in a thoroughly 21st-century kick-ass style. Using a blend of ancient instruments such as cittern, English bagpipes and shawm as well as modern folk instruments such as guitar, flute and piano accordion, they breathe new life into material from hundreds of years ago, making it fresh and relevant for a modern audience. ... more

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