When I despair of civilization – of courtesy and wit – my reliable antidote is Nige, who today shares a 60th birthday with another agent of consolation, Tom Waits. Nige is fortunate in his choice of co-natalist. I share my day of birth with the former Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom, Andrew Motion. As a gift I offer Nige a favorite Waits ballad, “Time,” from Rain Dogs (1986); in particular, these lines:
“Oh and the things you can't remember
Tell the things you can't forget
That history puts a saint
In every dream”
Lately I’ve been reading and listening to the words and music of another poet-musician, a countryman of Nige’s and contemporary of Shakespeare’s, Thomas Campion. Basil Bunting described him as “a poet who was even more of a musician than a poet,” and the same might be said of Waits. Here’s a selection, “Never weather-beaten Saile…,,” one of the lute songs (Campion was the king's lutenist) in A Book of Ayres:
“Never weather-beaten Saile more willing bent to shore,
Never tyred Pilgrims limbs affected slumber more
Then my weary spright now longs to flye out of my troubled brest.
O come quickly, sweetest Lord, and take my soul to rest.
“Ever-blooming are the joyes of Heav’ns high paradice,
Cold age deafes not there our eares, nor vapour dims our eyes;
Glory there the Sun outshine, whose beames the blessed onely see:
O come quickly, glorious Lord, and raise my spright to thee.”
My edition of The Works of Thomas Campion, edited by Walter R. Davis, glosses “affected” as “longed for,” and “spright” as “spirit.” Happy birthday, Nige.