I’ve had the music of the Tannahill Weavers playing in the background today as I edited Book 2 of the Maxwell Saga. (I’m pleased to report that the Kindle edition is almost ready. The print edition will take longer to format, but I’ll get right onto that tomorrow. They’ll both be published together later this month, along with a print edition of Book 1.)
This song, ‘Capernaum’, is based on a poem by a most intriguing Scotsman, Lewis Spence. It’s very profound, spiritually speaking, as well as a fine piece of polyphony. Ed Miller, who set it to music, wrote:
“Raking through poetry journals for thesis material on the images of Edinburgh and Glasgow in literature and song, I came across this stark poem written in the 1930’s by Lewis Spence. A contemporary of Hugh MacDiarmid, Spence was an important figure in the Scots literary renaissance.”
“As there is a dearth of songs about Edinburgh compared to the large number turned out by Glasgow songwriters about their city, I put this poem to music. It focuses on the bloody history of Edinburgh and the equally harsh moral and religious attitudes of its Calvinist past. Spence’s condemnation of Edinburgh is compared to the denouncement of Capernaum by Jesus (Matthew 11:23).”
According to its YouTube page, this video depicts “Scenes of Scotland’s strife and folklore, courtesy of the National Galleries of Scotland”. They make a fitting visual accompaniment to the song. If you can’t understand the Scottish brogue of the singers, the lyrics may be found here.
Thought-provoking indeed . . . and lovely listening.