40 Voices Challenge #12

Old Man #2 – Young and Old

An unexpected song!

This poem was written by Charles Kingsley
(1819-1875).  It actually appeared at the
end of Chapter 2 of Kingsley’s novel, The Water Babies.  You can tell that it is sung by someone
elderly describing how things are to one much younger.  As one reader commented, the
“speech” given serves to inform the lad of the wonders of youth, but
will most likely be ignored. Thus the case is a relatable one.

I was intrigued to see how it was used in the story of
the The Water Babies.  It was sung by the
school mistress, an ‘old dame’, who lamented the death of a boy (the main
character is mistakenly thought to have drowned).  The little children helped bedecked the
tombstone with garlands every Sunday and although they couldn’t understand it,
liked it nonetheless ‘for it was very sweet and very sad; and that was enough
for them’.

The emotion is summarised by the author after the poem is

‘Those are the words: but they are only the body of it:
the soul of the song was the dear old woman’s sweet face, and sweet voice, and
the sweet old air to which she sang; and that, alas! one cannot put on paper.’

And so, this challenge is suddenly musical too;  To create a sad but beautiful ballad.  Accent-wise, I am unsure where the book is
set, except ‘a great town in the North country’, so perhaps Manchester or
Sheffield.  I decided to create the song
but sung by an elderly man.

The poem: