Back in 2011 I posted a link to Richard Thompson’s song Beeswing, sung by The Little Unsaid. That post still brings a trickle of visitors to his site, which led me to this version by Christy Moore:
I was 18 when I came to town they called it the summer of love
Burning babies burning flags the hawks against the doves
I took a job at the steaming way down on Caltrim St,
Fell in love with a laundry girl that was workin next to me.
Brown hair zig zagged across her face and a look of half surprise,
Like a fox caught in the headlights there was animal in her eyes,
She said to me can’t you see I’m not the factory kind,
If you don’t take me out of here I’ll surely lose my mind
She was a rare thing fine as a bee’s wing
So fine a breath of wind might blow her away
She was a lost child, she was runnin’ wild (she said)
So long as theres no price on love I’ll stay
You wouldn’t want me any other way.
We busked around the market towns fruit pickin down in kent
We could tinker pots and pans or knives wherever we went.
We were campin down the Gower one time, the work was mighty good.
She wouldn’t wait for the harvest, I thought we should.
I said to her we’ll settle down, get a few acres dug,
A fire burning in the hearth and babbies on the rug.
She said Oh man you foolish man that surely sounds like hell,
You might be lord of half the world,You’ll not own me as well
We were drinking more in those days our tempers reached a pitch
Like a fool I let her run away when she took the rambling itch.
Last I heard she was living rough back on the Derby beat
A bottle of White Horse in her pocket, a Wolfhound at her feet
They say that she got married once to a man called Romany Brown
Even a gypsy caravan was too much like settlin’ down
They say her rose has faded, rough weather and hard booze,
Maybe thats the price you pay for the chains that you refuse
She was a rare thing, fine as a bee’s wing
I miss her more than ever words can say
If I could just taste all of her wildness now
If I could hold her in my arms today…..
I wouldn’t want her any other way
Followed by this comment (which I thought was a pretty good answer to the incessant YouTube arguments about whose version of any song is the best):
It is never easy writing these words out. First there is the problem of the lyric as written. Invariably I need to turn these songs into my own dialect, into the english as I sing it. Sometimes I am unable to resist slipping back into the writers idiom when seduced by the beauty of the sound of a particular word. Then there is the bloody grammar and punctuation which can get in the way of writng a song as she should be sung (as distinct from the way Fr. Clandillon would have me write it!)
This song is, for me, a modern classic in the old style. Up there with Musgrave and Baker, Raggle and Yellow Bittern, it will survive the ages that are left and will shine brightly when us lads are long forgotton.
Its a beauty to sing, it is usually good but every now and then a version emerges that stills my night and leaves me totally satisfied at the last chord not caring about audience or next song or The Gig or anything, just to bathe in the luxury of a beautiful song shared and sung to a receptive kipful of listeners.