a ballad by Katie Kingshill with music by Danny Kingshill
in celebration of collaboration
round my restless bed
Three ghosts appear: two at the head,
One at the foot - a fearsome crew,
You darkly gleam the whole night through.
At first you do not speak to me.
"Oh, tell me, ghosts," I cry, "all three,
Why do you haunt me night by night?
Is it for pity or for spite?
Your figures shot with grainy rays
Flicker away from my straight gaze;
You shift and change and yet are still,
Each phantom shaped by force of will.
I cannot see your faces yet,
But think I know them, and have met
The sharply piercing sideways glance
You cast upon me as you dance.
At last the youngest - so she seems -
Directs her voice into my dreams:
"Listen," she says,
The notes you hear
Obscure at present will be clear,
Remembered in the morning's sun
When all bright impulse is begun:
I am your voice, the blackbird's song;
To me all melodies belong.
"At that I sense approaching sound,
Thrumming in all the air around;
Each object trembles with the need
To lend its strain to our strange creed.
My voice joins in and who can tell
What other voices rise and swell?
One harmony possesses all:
Our separate thoughts are held in thrall.
Such was the youngest ghost's design:
By uttering she made it mine,
And as we sang, so gradually
She sank from visibility.
Now two remained: one sister spoke;
Did with her words a charm invoke:
"You ask me why I haunt your bed
Remember who I am," she said.
I am the pattern of your speech,
The shape of tales told each to each,
With rhyme and rhythm, rule and beat,
My numbers march with measured feet.
my laws the world would soon
Be cold and lifeless as the moon;
My tyranny is still benign;
My orderliness is divine."
'What are you then?
Your name I'd learn.
No poet sure would be so stern."
"Yet Poetry is my true name,
And also yours, since here I came."
And then I felt her power of truth:
Her form was mine, freer than youth,
Though bound with ties youth does not know,
And bound where youth may never go.
Thus Poetry became my own,
Her outward semblance swiftly flown.
One ghost is left - she at my head,
The dearest, darkest, most to dread.
You are my fate, I know it well;
My gate to heaven and to hell.
I dare not look upon your face,
And yet I must - oh, send me grace!
Your figure bends its head to mine,
Its veiling draperies entwine;
Soft as they seem, they hold us nailed,
And mind reveal to mind unveiled.
Now colour floods the nightlit room
And lets its subtleties illume
The standing shapes that wait to claim
Their substance from its vital flame.
And now the strokes of brush define
The thoughts that are both yours and mine:
Propelled by paint they surge and spring,
Inform the world and make it sing.
So on our canvas, layer by layer,
We build our dreams and stride the stair
That leads us upward, flight by flight,
Into the essence of the light.
But what's that sound? A gong? A bell?
The pace of time each note does tell.
The ghosts are inward but their hour
Must pass as any earthly power.
They will depart and with them I
A mortal must like mortals die.
Oh, let me haunt with ghosts all three
The artist's true eternity.
Back to collaboration page