Last weekend my band, The West End, played a show and in the midst of it I had just the best feeling. I looked out at the audience and saw that everyone was paying attention, listening to the music. They weren’t distracted by the ball game behind the bar, weren’t playing Liar’s Poker, weren’t embroiled in some animated conversation. They were just listening.
As a performer of original music, I can tell you there is no better feeling.
What’s more, the song we were playing is one of our more . . . unconventional . . . songs. It’s got this beat that’s sort of a cross between a shuffle and a carnival calliope.
The topic is even more unconventional. It’s based on the account of Mary Rowlandson, who was taken captive by Indians during the bloodiest war in North America — King Phillip’s War in the late 17th century. Her tract, titled “The Narrative of the Captivity and the Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson” and collected in the scholarly work So Dreadfull A Judgment, became the archetype of a new form of American writing called the captivity narrative.
Ever since I discovered them, I have been fascinated by captivity narratives. Puritans saw events in the world as signs of God’s pleasure or displeasure with their amount of piety, and the captivity narratives always have a heavy philosophical underpinning of judgment and retribution. (The scholarly book’s title is taken from a sermon at the time that referred to the War itself as a “dreadfull” judgment.)
So one day I thought I would write a song about this one, taking events, words and phrases from Rowlandson’s own work. And this is the song where I noticed that people seemed to be paying attention. Were they really? I don’t know for sure, but it felt like they were!
I thought, therefore, you might be interested in seeing the lyrics to my captivity narrative song (if you want to hear it, you can listen on my band’s Facebook page).
So Dreadfull A Judgment, by Brad RourkeWas the tenth of February 1675 King Philip's men they came and they left few of us alive At length they fell descending on us like a devil's claw It was the dolefullest day my eyes ever saw Captured, I was taken left for dead So dreadful a judgment on our heads Go or stay they finally made me choose Now I've returned to spread the news Eight days come and gone and my baby passed away That little lamb left me but she didn’t go away I laid all night beside my darling precious little one The next day saw my Mary who’d been traded for a gun Captured, I was taken left for dead So dreadful a judgment on our heads They herded me from camp to camp for days Sold and sold again and sold away Providence reversed and at last they sent me home After full a year among the savages alone But to this day, I recall a woman with some meat A piece of bear, a boiling pot, good enough to eat Captured, I was taken left for dead So dreadful a judgment on our heads Our punishment is waiting in the hills He’ll hurl them at our arrogance and will
Note: The photo is from an outdoor festival we played some time ago. I don’t have any photos from this weekend yet. If you are reading this and happened to be there, and happened to snap a photo or two, let me know!