Bastard’s Tale

This was the first song I wrote specifically for the SCA, in August 2004. It was also the first song I ever used at a competitive event. In 2012, it tied for first prize at Baroness Morgan Wolfsinger’s second annual Pennsic Depressing Song Competition. (Lorelei Skye was the other winner.)


The Bastard’s Tale © 2004 by Eric Schrager

In the village I hail from a man met a maid,
He was caught by her unblemished face.
He professed her his love and she flushed and she smiled
And she took him into her embrace.

But the man was a noble of lofty degree
And his duty soon called him to home.
When he told her the truth on the night that he left
She confessed she had news of her own.

He gave her a bastard! They said,
For worthy she wasn’t to wife.
The blood of my childbirth left her with a stain
That she wore for the rest of her life.
The blood of my childbirth left her with a stain
That she wore for the rest of her life.

So when I was a boy, she would try to explain
Why it was we were always alone.
As I grew into manhood, it harder became
To find ways to keep flesh on our bones.

As my mother grew weak, I worked hard every day
On my strength and my speed and my blade.
When she fell ill, I knocked upon door after door
Seeking pay in an honest man’s trade.

Nay, you worthless bastard! I heard.
They all saw that villainous brand.
My blood boiled within me that I be denied
For a thing in which I had no hand.
My blood boiled within me that I be denied
For a thing in which I had no hand.

I found other employment to which I was suited—
No pride, but the payment was…good.
So my mother’s last days knew a doctor and comfort;
I buried her as a son should.

‘Twas a few weeks ago that I spied a young man
In the clothing and manner well-born,
But the badge on his coat was one I’d heard described
And his face, it was much like my own.

Gods, stand up for bastards! I prayed.
Protect me, and I’ll make you smile.
His blood is no thicker than mine at the source
And the color we’ll know in a while.
His blood is no thicker than mine at the source
And the color we’ll know in a while.

Now the deed, it’s been done with professional skill,
And I don’t care if I’ve been fate’s pawn;
For my father knows now he has only one heir:
Here I am, on the gallows at dawn. *

Think you I’m a bastard? I ask.
Your answer I know in advance.
The river can’t separate your blood from mine;
That is done on the rocks we call chance.
The river can’t separate your blood from mine;
That is done on the rocks we call chance.


Top

Chords (No Capo)

Intro:
Dm   C    Dm   Gm   Dm   C
Dm   C    Dm   Gm

Verse 1, 2, 3:
Dm   C    Dm   Gm   Dm   C    Gm
Dm   C    Dm   Gm   Dm   C    G

Dm   C    Dm   Gm   Dm   C    Gm
Dm   C    Dm   Gm   Dm   C    Dm   Dm7

Chorus 1, 2:
Am7  Dm7  Am7  A7
Dm   Gm   Dm   C
Dm   C    Gm7
Dm   Gm   Dm   C    Dm   C
(Instrumental)
Dm   Gm   Dm   C

Chorus 3:
Am7  Dm7  Am7  A7
Dm   Gm   Dm   C
Dm   C    Gm7
Dm   Gm   Dm   C    Dm   C
(Instrumental)
Dm   Gm   Dm   C    Dm   Gm   Dm   C

Verse 4:
Dm   C    Dm   Gm   Dm   C    Gm
Dm   C    Dm   Gm   Dm   C    Dm   Dm7

Chorus 4:
Am7  Dm7  Am7  A7
Dm   Gm   Dm   C
Dm   C    Gm7
Dm   Gm   Dm   C    Dm   C
(Instrumental)
Dm   Gm   Dm   Gm (rit.)
Bb   C    D

Top

Chords (Capo on 5th Fret)

Intro:
Am   G    Am   Dm   Am   G
Am   G    Am   Dm

Verse 1, 2, 3:
Am   G    Am   Dm   Am   G    Dm
Am   G    Am   Dm   Am   G    D

Am   G    Am   Dm   Am   G    Dm
Am   G    Am   Dm   Am   G    Am   Am7

Chorus 1, 2:
Em7  Am7  Em7  E7
Am   Dm   Am   G
Am   G    Dm7
Am   Dm   Am   G    Am   G
(Instrumental)
Am   Dm   Am   G

Chorus 3:
Em7  Am7  Em7  E7
Am   Dm   Am   G
Am   G    Dm7
Am   Dm   Am   G    Am   G
(Instrumental)
Am   Dm   Am   G    Am   Dm   Am   G

Verse 4:
Am   G    Am   Dm   Am   G    Dm
Am   G    Am   Dm   Am   G    Am   Am7

Chorus 4:
Em7  Am7  Em7  E7
Am   Dm   Am   G
Am   G    Dm7
Am   Dm   Am   G    Am   G
(Instrumental)
Am   Dm   Am   Dm (rit.)
F    G    A

Footnotes

* The original line was “And this one meets the axe-man at dawn.” Don Levey, who was kind enough to accompany the song with me on YouTube, observed that in medieval England, beheading was usually reserved for the nobility. One the one hand, it’s a quibble, and I liked the sound of “axe-man”, which I had chosen over “hangman”. On the other hand, it’s not trivial in a song about a noble’s bastard. On reflection, I came up with the line used here, which I felt gave the entire song a wonderful shift in perspective along with the vengeful twist–the whole tale is now his confession to the crowd come to watch him hang.


Top

Notes

One afternoon at Pennsic in 2004, my wife (carrying our unborn child—don’t know if that was a coincidence or not) looked over at me, pacing and pondering, and asked, “Are you okay?” I answered, “I’m writing.” She immediately gave me respectful space and loving support.

I hadn’t done any writing in a few years, but the nugget of this story (specifically the first stanza) had been in my mind since college. I had run a role-playing campaign that featured an illegitimate son of a noble, whose fortunes through the campaign were shaped by his birth. At one point, I’d contemplated examining the original circumstances of his birth–if the father had married the mother instead of abandoning her, how much of not only his life but the world of our campaign might have been changed?

More recently, I had found myself thinking of Shakespeare’s habit of using bastards as his villain of choice. (Certainly he made most of his villains easy to understand—Jew, resentful white guy, hunchback—but bastards seemed to be his go-to baddies.) I tied these two strands together—the stillborn love story and the meditation on Shakespeare—and ultimately borrowed Edmund’s line “[G]ods, stand up for bastards!” (King Lear, Act I, Scene 2) as an acknowledgement of the debt.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s