Underneath The Stairs

P1100485

Wentworth Castle from the Parkland (Photo: John Anstie)

This tale is told by many tongues,
of now and yesteryear.
Three hundred years of life are here,
but memories disappear.

Between each line, a thousand words
of love, of heart and soul,
there’s mystery here, it must be said,
when tales remain untold,

they seed a search for history,
a sparkle in the eyes
of once romantic sons of yore;
a family’s demise.

Refrain:
And how their days would start at dawn
to sounds of clacking feet.
Underneath the stairs they’d run,
their serving paths to beat.

Stone dressed, these monuments became
far more than home sweet home,
for they withstood the test of time
in centuries to come.

And who could guess, in such a place,
we’d cast our eyes and, more,
write stories in organic dust,
of lives that went before.

Their toil, by standards of today,
would break, in half the time,
the backs of men and women who,
at forty, passed their prime.

[Refrain]

Faint tinkling of bone china plates
their masters’ breakfast fare,
the focus of their energies
to serve, make good, repair.

And all day long these duties pressed
their shoulders to the stone
all day, each week, each month, each year,
their lives were not their own.

No leisure time to recreate,
without upstairs’ consent.
With no spare time or energy,
their lives were paid as rent.

[Refrain]

No time allowed away from toil
save worship Sunday morn,
where duty bound them to this house,
all but their souls forsworn.

So much depended on their strength,
their duty, loyalty;
with half a day each week to rest
they earned their royalty.

They had to cast off any thought
of freedom, every day,
they bore their obligation and
they signed their lives away.

[Refrain]

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The Victorian Conservatory, beside the Victorian Wing (Photo: John Anstie)

Then, life meant building grander things
mere ornaments to scale,
denying the austerity,
when nation could not fail.

And here to glimpse humanity,
their own great compromise;
to fall from favour and love’s loss;
so too a great house dies

… and with it all dependant life,
no welfare scheme was theirs
for all of its inhabitants
underneath the stairs.

[Refrain]

And as his mansion starts to die,
the Earl sold on his lot,
the need for education rose
and a roof to stop the rot.

But here’s the final irony:
for those who served in fear
of losing jobs for which, today,
we freely volunteer.

This grand estate, these monuments
this house and gardens too
are all the product of an age,
restored and serving you.

Refrain:
And how their days would start at dawn
to sounds of clacking feet.
Underneath the stairs they’d run,
their serving paths to beat.

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The Cast inside the conservatory (Photo: Brian Parkhurst)

This landscape’s green and pleasant land
its rooted, verdant gold
captures all these mysteries
for you that we unfold.

The following is an edited extract from the whole piece, recorded in Dennis Tuckerman’s Cellar Studios on 21st April 2017. All music: composed, played with pick and bow on six-string bass guitar by Joseph Alen Shaw. Voice: spoken and sung by John Anstie.

Words: © 2013 John Anstie (lyric edited 2016).  Music: © 2016 Joseph Alen Shaw 

[ This lyric is based on an original ballad, written for this historic site, three years before, but never published until it was given its first outing last year. It was extensively edited and augmented for Joseph Shaw’s commission, the ‘Wentworth Cantata’, which was performed in the historic Victorian Conservatory of Wentworth Castle Gardens, South Yorkshire on 16th October 2016. This song was comprised of six cycles of four verses; each cycle consisting of two spoken and two sung verses, the last of which was a reiterated refrain ]

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About PoetJanstie

As a young man, John was fit and sporting. Playing Rugby Union for over twenty years, encouraged in the early days by a school that was run on the same lines as Gordonstoun, giving shape and discipline to a sometimes precarious early life. This fitness was enhanced by working part time jobs in farming, as a leather factory packer and security guard, but probably not helped, for a short time, by selling ice cream! His professional working life was spent as a Metallurgical Engineer, Marketing Manager, Export Sales Manager, Implementation Manager and Managing Director of his own company. Thirty five years spent, apparently in a creative desert, raising a family and pursuing a career, probably enriched his experience, because his renaissance, on retirement, realised a hidden creative talent as a blogger and poet. He also enjoys music, with a piano and a forty-five year old Yamaha FG140 acoustic guitar. He sings bass in three singing groups: as a founding member of a mixed voice chamber choir, Fox Valley Voices; a member of one of the top barbershop choruses in the UK, Hallmark of Harmony (the Sheffield Barbershop Harmony Club) and a mixed barbershop quartet, Needle & Fred. He is also a would be (once upon a time) photographer with drawers full of his own history, and an occasional, but lapsed 'film' maker. In his other life, he doubles as a Husband, Father, Grandfather, Brother, Uncle, Cousin, Friend and Family man. What he writes is autobiographical and very often pins his colours to the mast. In 2013, he completed an anthology of the poetry (including his own) of an international group of nine poets, who met on Twitter. He produced, edited and steered the product of this work, "Petrichor Rising", to publication by Aquillrelle.
This entry was posted in Ballad, Collaboration, Composition, conservation, History, Music, nature, nostalgia, poem, poetry and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Underneath The Stairs

  1. Doris Stubbs says:

    Let me know when there is a reprise, John, I would love to be there.
    Doris Stubbs

    Like

  2. This is marvelous storytelling and a great tribute John. I just love it. It was delightful to hear you speak it aloud, and sing it. I hope we get to hear more of this. Just marvelous

    Liked by 1 person

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