This was the final song written for my first album, also titled Hidden Gold. The title and the chorus had been with me for a couple of years (see my notes), but during the process of recording the album I came to realize it was the perfect title for the collection as a whole, if I could only complete it in time to get it recorded. It was first publicly performed at the Bardic Competition at the Wars of the Roses event in Concordia of the Snows in May 2015.
Hidden Gold © 2015 by Eric Schrager
So, young lad, you ask if I’ll agree to teach you,
But I know that you’re a colt who won’t be led.
So cocksure and full of pride, my words will never reach you.
For today, please take this leather pouch instead.
You hold virtues, waiting for you to embrace them,
But until you look at them, they can’t shine true.
In the pouch, three golden coins I’ll name as I place them:
And this is all I have to give ’til you can see them too!
One, for the courage that’s buried inside you.
Two, for the truth you conceal in the fold.
Three, for the love that you’ve always denied you.
Now go seek: Be bold! Never rest ’til you find your hidden gold.
So my hat he hands me, and he sends me packing!
I’m not fit to study with the likes of him.
Then the old man dares me to discover what I’m lacking.
Must I with this talisman indulge his whim?
How I long to hurl away this token gleaming,
Flee this latest challenge as I’ve always done.
No! The master sees inside me something redeeming,
And I will find the courage to pursue until it’s won! (CH)
He tells me I’m arrogant: the charge, it stings me.
An unflatt’ring mirror is this golden piece.
For all that my muse is potent, it no pleasure brings me
If it serves no purpose but my own increase.
There’s a deeper truth behind my puff and poses,
Though I entertain folk and they may applaud.
Tear away the mask and underneath it exposes
That if they truly knew me, they would scorn me as a fraud! (CH)
There’s the final coin, so bright I fear to hold it,
Oh that kind regard I have pursued from birth.
Evermore withheld–or is it as the master told it?
Am I truly author of my heart’s own worth?
If I trust in me, could I hold space for others?
No one’s love but mine is keeping me apart.
If my mission is to serve my sisters and brothers
Then surely I must learn the craft of serving from the heart! (CH)
Well, lad, welcome back. I see that you’ve been seeking.
Have you found some answers as I hoped you might?
I can tell you have: it’s in your face as you are speaking.
You’ve dug deep inside, and brought some truth to light.
Thus your path to wisdom starts by touching sorrow,
There’s a strong foundation in what you have learned.
We can start your lessons here the same time tomorrow.
No no, lad, keep the talisman. It’s well and truly earned! (CH x 2)
Chords (No Capo)
Intro: Bm D Em G D A F#7 Bm Bm Verse 1-4: Bm D G A F#m Bm D G A F#m Bm D G A F#m Bm D G A F#m Bm Chorus 1-4: Bm D Em G D A F#7 Bm D Em G D A F#7 Bm Bm Verse 5: Bm D G A F#m Bm D G A F#m Bm D G A F#m Bm D G A F#m Bm Bm Chorus 5: Bm D Em G D A F#7 Bm D Em G D A F#7 Bm D Em G D A F#7 Bm D Em G D A F#7 G D A F#7 G D A F#7 Bm Bm
Chords (Capo on 2nd Fret)
Intro: Am C Dm F C G E7 Am Am Verse 1-4: Am C F G Em Am C F G Em Am C F G Em Am C F G Em Am Chorus 1-4: Am C Dm F C G E7 Am C Dm F C G E7 Am Am Verse 5: Am C F G Em Am C F G Em Am C F G Em Am C F G Em Am Am Chorus 5: Am C Dm F C G E7 Am C Dm F C G E7 Am C Dm F C G E7 Am C Dm F C G E7 F C G E7 F C G E7 Am Am
This song was inspired by, and dedicated to, several mentors I’ve had in my life in the last few years, and speaks to the challenging but valuable nature of the teacher-student relationship.
- The title derives from an actual conversation in I had in 2010 with my former mentor David Michael. David gifted me with a talisman containing three gold Sacajawea coins, with meanings similar to those explained in the chorus of the song. This actually happened near the end of our active mentor relationship, rather than at the start. However, the firmness and “wake-up” implied in the opening verse recalls my early work with David, when he set firm expectations about the amount of self-examination our work was going to require. The concepts of “gold” and “hidden gold” are used in The ManKind Project, a men’s growth organization we are both part of. (This should not be confused with a men’s rights organization–if anything, MKP is the opposite, about men taking responsibility rather than complaining about loss of privilege.)
- The title and the chorus of the piece came to me very shortly after I received the talisman, but it took a long time to flesh out the song. I’d had “Hidden Gold” as the working title for the album probably close to a year before I finally completed it in the form it’s in now. At the end of 2014, my family made plans to visit David in South Carolina, just as I was moving into the end game with the project. I hadn’t seen David in years (not since he gave me the gift, in fact), and knowing he was in declining health, I desperately wanted to be able to sing him the completed song as a way to return his gift to me. The self-imposed pressure finally got me past my writer’s block, and I finished the song the day before we traveled to see him. As I had hoped, he loved the song, which was all the affirmation I needed for it.
- The song was also informed by my relationships with my two SCA teachers, Maistre Lucien de Pontivy of the East Kingdom and Mistress Sofia ‘Zsof’ Tyzes of the Midrealm. The mentoring and teaching relationships the SCA fosters are one of the reasons I love it so much. “Peers” in our Society take on trainees–students, apprentices, protegees, squires–for relationships that can last a few months, but often endure for years. (And this is not restricted to Peers.) There is a wealth of knowledge freely shared with no financial transactions whatsoever in the SCA, and I enjoyed paying tribute to that (specifically with references to “the master” and “lessons”).
- One other point of interest: I have an aversion to writing a straightforward repeating chorus that allows the audience to join in and sing through. (I explain some of the reasons in my “Songwriting to Tell a Story” class.) I know how much audiences enjoy a sing-along, and given the straightforward count-off of the chorus, I realized this song would be a chance to finally try one and see how it worked. The song’s a bit long (the structure dictated by the three coins, and the need for an introduction and a resolution, meant it would run five verses), but the strong rhythm and bouncy tempo seem to appeal to the audiences who’ve heard it so far. (I know a couple of children who love to hear it and sing along, including my son, and that’s a good sign.)