I keep a postcard in a book That shows a bridge over a brook A little boy, a bit forlorn. Beyond, some houses in a row It won't mean much to you, I know But it's the place where I was born. The village: Oh, I still recall The pond, the school, the church, and all A horse and cart rolled through the street there Climbed to the farmhouse on the hill From there the road went further still I didn't know where it would lead there. Chorus 1: As, on the edges of the water, I fed a swan as tall as me I was child I knew no better Than that this life would always be. The seasons ruled the village lives In church the young men found their wives Their days were hard, but filled with peace But still, their lives must have been wrong The modern times before too long Came with their promise of more ease And see how rich their lives can be The shows they're watching on TV That teach them taking without giving Machines replaced washtubs and brooms Cheap furniture now fills the rooms Of concrete boxes built to live in Chorus 1 Their children spent their time alone Connect to music, game, and phone And dress as if they just don't care I know: They have that choice today And choice is good, just as you say But the change, for me, is hard to bear I saw their mothers skipping rope I saw their dads sleigh down the slope Do these kids know what they are missing? But I know; These days have passed This is all that remains at last A postcard, and my reminiscing Chorus 1 Chorus 2: As, on the edges of the water, I fed a swan as tall as me I was child I didn't know then That this old world would cease to be.
Lyrics by Mysha; music by Jean Ferrat.
Cycling through England, I saw an announcement about a Folk Party in Durham (England), some two weeks later. As I had never been to a folk party, I planned my route so I would be back in Durham at the Friday the party started. When I was back that Friday, there was an evening of folk songs, and it turned out that everyone present was expected to sing. I didn't have much of a folk repertoire, so together with guests that had adopted the foreigner, I tried to find something singable. "What do people sing around a campfire in The Netherlands?" they asked. "Well, is it a Protestant campfire, a Catholic campfire, or a Red campfire?" "What song would everyone know, regardles of the type?" "I would know such a song, but you wouldn't understand it."
Eventually, I believe I did Our Son Jack, with difficulty, as you don't hear your own songs as often as the stuff others record, thus I had to try to recall as I sang it. But, during the weekend I kept thinking about "Het Dorp" (The Village), and how it would be in English. So, on Sunday I did a somewhat translated and somewhat rewritten, and somewhat improvised, version in English.
The original song is a French chanson by Jean Ferrat, called La montagne. The well-known Dutch version is by H. Verhage, written for, and sung by, Wim Sonneveld. The three songs aren't literally the same song, but in each there's a comparison between the old ways of the village and the more modern times. The couple that took me in that night, so I wouldn't have to cycle all the way back to the campsite I found, unknowingly contributed to the song: My hostess told about the swan from her youth, her husband later talked about how the next generation was too busy with their gadgets to see what the world actualy looked like. The kindness they, and others, showed me in Durham made me come back for the Folk Party several times, and their conversations contributed the basis for this song.
last modified 11 April 2019; last updated 11 April 2019