> Peter Bellamy > Songs > Philadelphia

Philadelphia

[words Rudyard Kipling, music Peter Bellamy]

Philadelphia is a song from Rudyard Kipling's book Rewards and Fairies. Peter Bellamy sang it on his first album of songs set to Kipling's poems, Oak, Ash & Thorn. He commented in the album's sleeve notes:

Philadelphia was the city where, in Brother Square Toes Pharaoh Lee (see Poor Honest Men), spent some years before returning to England with his fortune in Virginia tobacco. Whilst in Philadelphia he met George Washington, and the then-exiled Talleyrand, as well as many other people mentioned in the song.

Kipling tells us—correctly—that there was little in Philadelphia of his day which showed that it once had been a beautiful city. Today this is even more true. It is fortunate, however, that Kipling's conclusion is also still true:

The things that truly last when men and times have passed,
They are all in Pennsylvania this morning!

As the original album wasn't available anymore, Peter Bellamy re-recorded this and other songs with the help of Nigel Schofield, probably in the mid-1980s. The new version was finally included on the Fellside compilation Mr Bellamy, Mr Kipling & the Tradition.

Lyrics

If you're off to Philadelphia in the morning,
You mustn't take my stories for a guide.
There's little left indeed of the city you will read of,
And all the folk I write about have died.
Now few will understand if you mention Talleyrand,
Or remember what his cunning and his skill did.
And the cabmen at the wharf do not know Count Zinnendorf,
Nor the Church in Philadelphia he builded.

It's gone, gone, gone with lost Atlantis
(Never say I didn't give you warning).
In Seventeen Ninety-three 'twas there for all to see,
But it's not in Philadelphia this morning.

If you're off to Philadelphia in the morning,
You mustn't go by everything I've said.
Bob Bicknell's Southern Stages have been laid aside for ages,
But the Limited will take you there instead.
And Toby Hirte he can't be seen at One Hundred and Eighteen,
North Second Street—no matter when you call;
And I fear you'll search in vain for the wash-house down the lane
Where young Pharaoh played the fiddle at the ball.

It's gone, gone, gone with Thebes the Golden
(Never say I didn't give you warning).
In Seventeen Ninety-four it was a famous dancing-floor—
But it's not in Philadelphia this morning.

If you're off to Philadelphia in the morning,
You must telegraph for rooms at some Hotel.
You needn't try your luck at Epply's or the “Buck”,
Though the Father of his Country liked them well.
And it is not the slightest use to inquire for Adam Goos,
Or to ask where Pastor Meder has removed—so
You must treat as out-of-date the story I relate
Of the Church in Philadelphia he loved so.

He's gone, gone, gone with Martin Luther
(Never say I didn't give you warning).
In Seventeen Ninety-five he was (rest his soul!) alive,
But he's not in Philadelphia this morning.

But if you're off to Philadelphia this morning,
And you wish to prove the truth of what I say,
I pledge my word you'll find the pleasant land behind
Unaltered since Red Jacket rode that way.
Still the pine-woods scent the noon; still the cat-bird sings his tune;
Still Autumn sets the maple-forest blazing.
Still the grape-vine through the dusk flings her soul-compelling musk;
Still the fire-flies in the corn make night amazing.

They're there, there, there with Earth immortal
(Citizens, I give you friendly warning).
That the things that truly last when men and times have passed,
They are all in Pennsylvania this morning!