The Calling on Song

Fay Hield,

Performing Fairy. Guest editors Fay Hield and Kevan Manwaring. Pages 9 – 10 Download as PDF

Good people I pray give attention

Come hear all we have for to say

And if you’re inclined, come to listen

With your eyes open wide now we pray

You’ll hear of our lowly commission

We’re gathered together by chance

To tell tales of dark deeds and romancing

And to lead you a song and a dance


In days of old, long past and gone now

Of which we sing with great regard

The country was woven with fairies

The elf-queen and her spritely elf hoard

To roam o’er high hills and deep valleys

To dance in the meadows so green

Rejoice in the glitch in the forest

Find the cracks, fall betwixt and between


But this was long years past and gone now

We hear no more high elven song

For the prayers of old priests and bold friars

Cast out all our thoughts of the throng

Blessing hall, chamber, kitchen and bower

They overran rivers and streams

Worn paths gone, old stories forgotten

Gold flecks turned to dust in sunbeams


But never were we wholly ridden

They found a new path, slipped aside

And from places they’ve lately been hidden

Called to arms, they’re now ready to ride

To take back built up city and skyline

Cast shadows down snicket and street

At dawn, falling dusk and in starlight

Glance sideways, you’ll glimpse in your dreams


So now that you hear our intention

Draw near, step inside, take a seat

And if you’re inclined, come to listen

Feel the scratch of their breath as we speak

Come twist all your thoughts to our story

The unhidden do call us to come

‘Hear the tune and strike up the fiddle

We’ll dance on to the beat of the drum’



Adapted from Chaucer‘s The Wife of Bath and bookended with lines inspired by the traditional ‘Calling on Song’, a tune to which the words can be sung.

About the author

Fay Hield,

is Senior Lecturer in Music at The University of Sheffield, teaching on ethnomusicology and music management programmes. Alongside research into the contemporary English folk scene she develops performances of traditional music, albums include Old Adam (2016) and Wrackline (2020). Hield also delivers outreach activity through Soundpost, a community music organisation she founded in 2011.