Yew Trees

from by Ric Kemper

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A mysterious – because unexplained – line of yew trees exists adjacent to the small ruined church at Knowlton, whose roof collapsed in the 18th century; the church was abandoned after this time. Is the tree line intentional or coincidental, was it a processional way or does it just indicate a field boundary, or the line of a lost hedgerow? After the roof gave way Knowlton’s several bells probably remained, there is no record of the tower being damaged. However, a neighbouring church tower collapsed some years later & Knowlton’s unused bells were possibly taken away at this juncture and reused in the rebuilding of the other church. Perhaps after this time there grew up the folk tale that Knowlton’s bell – now only one – was stolen by the neighbouring village & then accidentally dropped into a river from where it was never recovered? I prefer to see in this story the soul of the vanished village in the form of the church bell returned to the sacred river which gave the village its reason for being. The lyrics for this song were inspired by Brion Gysin’s ‘cut-ups’ technique for assembling text.


Fades vellum scroll
And stave to fall
Erased the page
And image all

Into the depths
Confusion fell
The gilded glyph
The tower bell

To Horton spire
And suffer fate
The open door
Carved foliate

Then plummet figures
Rood screen wrought
With angel’s wings
Too swift for thought

O beating drum
And storm destroyed
Ghost friar’s cells
Left unrestored

The river jewel
And crystal clear
Free flowing flies
The fleeting deer

Freshwater waking
Visions, hymns
Leazeward winds

The pagan circle
Goddess stream
Cursus, barrow
Bell ringing

A moment’s trance
Lucent waters
Dapples sunlight
Ruined arches

Grey priory
Long vanished time
Yet chant the dreamless
River’s rhyme

Transformed the fields
The time-gnarled trees
Of tale, tradition
Whispers breeze

Soft spoken word
Yet magic spell
Backwards in time
Murmur, ripples

Of other lives
Within the land
A line of yew trees
River wends

And after dusk
Another world
Reveals its shifting
Shape unfurled

The ancient yews
Sing through the wind
Sweet music flow
Stream never end


from To Speed The Plough, released August 31, 2015
Words & music by Ric Kemper



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Ric Kemper England, UK

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