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Fable of the Wings

[Keith Christmas]

Fable of the Wings is the title track of Keith Christmas’s 1970 album Fable of the Wings.

Martin Carthy sang Fable of the Wings on Brass Monkey’s 1983 eponymous debut album Brass Monkey. According to the album sleeve notes, Carthy adapted Christmas’ original words to fit John Stickle’s tune John Peterson’s Mare. The LP was re-released in 1993 as part of the CD The Complete Brass Monkey.

Chris Wood sang Fable of the Wings in 2019 on Topic’s 80th year anthology, Vision & Revision. He noted:

What other musician would’ve had the imaginative genius to put a lyric about middle class drug taking to a Shetland fiddle tune? When I came to folk music Martin Carthy was Topic Records. He is wholly responsible for me doing what I do in the way that I do it, be it interpreting a traditional manuscript or writing a new song. I owe it all to him and it’s a tremendous privilege to get the chance to say so on a Topic record sleeve.


Martin Carthy sings Fable of the Wings

He wore a suit of morning grey;
No thought did he betray
As he moved inside with the evening tide
At the end of his working day.

Off the train and down the road,
Stepping through the door,
Sees his wife standing
Staring across the floor.

She said, “A stranger came today,
He opened a silver tray.
He had all sorts of pills that could cure all ills,
Said I’d see things a different way.

“Oh what a heart that pounds
And oh what limbs that are weak.
Voices come from so far away,
I hardly hear you when you speak.”

At night she dreamed strange things,
Her thoughts ran round in rings
’Til to the dawn sky she gave a cry
To find that she had grown wings.

See her gaze into the mirror,
See her gazing through the gloom
As she stretched and she watched this great wonder
Filling her tiny room.

She rose from off her bed,
Stretched her wings above her head
And then with the shame, she cried out in vain,
“Oh I wish that I was dead!

“Whatever will the neighbours say?
Whatever gossip will they all preach?
Whatever will my children all think of me
When they see that I’m a freak?”

And now there comes the day
For the last act of the play:
You can see the surprise in the surgeon’s eyes
At the task that before him lay.

From deep behind the mask he stared
And from deep down there came a sigh
As he wondered what it must be like
To have the power to fly.

He wore a suit of morning grey,
No thought did he betray
As he moved inside with the morning tide
At the end of his working day.

But those of us who are like to trip,
Those who are like to fall
Find however high are the walls we build
We find no shelter at all.