November 2009


The vivid delight in scenery then awakened in my mind has lasted longer than any other aesthetic pleasure. Darwin, Autobiography

The world poured back and forth a daft number of times
between mountains and the drill-holes of his eyes.

Fissure and sky. Bronze grass, brown-glow bog
asphodel and purple heather. “The Welsh Borders
with my elder brother!” Hours in a wet saddle.

His pony’s stingy mane. Long wriggles of shadow
through drystone walls. A treasure map, painted by gods.

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The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;
The decks were like a slide, where a seamen scarce could stand;
The wind was a nor’wester, blowing squally off the sea;
And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.

They heard the surf a-roaring before the break of day;
But ’twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay.
We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout,
And we gave her the maintops’l, and stood by to go about.

All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North;
All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth;
All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
For very life and nature we tacked from head to head.

We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide-race roared;
But every tack we made we brought the North Head close aboard:
So’s we saw the cliffs and houses, and the breakers running high,
And the coastguard in his garden, with his glass against his eye.

The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;
The good red fires were burning bright in every ‘long-shore home;
The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;
And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.

The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;
For it’s just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year)
This day of our adversity was blessed Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard’s was the house where I was born. (more…)

That old Bilbao moon, I won’t forget it soon
That old Bilbao moon, just like a big balloon
That old Bilbao moon would rise above the dune
While Tony’s Beach Saloon rocked with an old-time tune
We’d sing a song the whole night long and I can still recall
Those were the greatest (those were the greatest)
Those were the greatest (those were the greatest)
Those were the greatest nights of them all
No paint was on the door (no paint was on the door)
The grass grew through the floor (the grass grew through the floor)
Of Tony’s Two By Four (of Tony’s Two By Four)
On the Bilbao shore (on the Bilbao shore)
But there were friends galore (howdy do, howdy do)
And there was beer to pour (chug-a-lug, chug-a-lug)
And moonlight on the shore (and the moon shines above)
That old Bilbao shore (on the shore, not the floor)
We’d sing all night with all our might and I can still recall
Those were the greatest (those were the greatest)
Those were the greatest (those were the greatest)
Those were the greatest nights of them all
Those old Bilbao guys
They loved to harmonize,
Who stopped to realize
How fast the summer flies!
The moon was on the rise,
We’d catch the ladies’ eyes
And whisper Spanish lies,
They never did get wise.
We’d sing a song the whole night long and I can still recall
Those were the greatest
Those were the greatest
Those were the greatest nights of them all
That old Bilbao moon, I won’t forget it soon
That old Bilbao moon, just like a big balloon
That old Bilbao moon would rise above the dune
While Tony’s Beach Saloon rocked with an old-time tune
We’d sing all night with all our might and I can still recall
Those were the greatest (those were the greatest)
Those were the greatest (those were the greatest)
Those were the greatest nights of them all