‘Mount The Air’ – The Unthanks

Anyone who has read my book knows that my self-assigned nickname is ‘Magpie’. The principal reason being that when I sit in my consulting room I feel as though I am a litter bin, a reliquary and not least that I possess another relic of Pandora’s mythic casket of woe with Hope, which can be cruel, concealed in the bottom drawer.

Today, I was presented not with another letter from The Camden Journal but an announcement of an Amazon delivery of a CD that reminded John of me. The lyrics enchant and the melancholy of music suit my mood. That strain again, it had a dying fall.

In France they refer to ‘midwives’ as sage femme  which is what the ‘magpie’ of this lyric reminds me and what I hold onto as an ‘ideal’.

One’s for sorrow
Two’s for joy
Three’s for a girl and
Four’s for a boy
Five’s for silver
Six for gold
Seven’s for a secret never told
Devil, devil, I defy thee
Devil, devil, I defy thee
Devil, devil, I defy thee

Oh the magpie brings us tidings
Of news both fair and foul
She’s more cunning than the raven
More wise than any owl
For she brings us news of the harvest
Of the barley, wheat, and corn
And she knows when we’ll go to our graves
And how we shall be born

One’s for sorrow
Two’s for joy
Three’s for a girl and
Four’s for a boy
Five’s for silver
Six for gold
Seven’s for a secret never told
Devil, devil, I defy thee
Devil, devil, I defy thee
Devil, devil, I defy thee

She brings us news when from the right
Grief when from the left
Of all the news that’s in the air
We know to trust her best
For she sees us at our labor
And she mocks us at our work
And she steals the eggs from out of the nest
And she can mob the hawk

One’s for sorrow
Two’s for joy
Three’s for a girl and
Four’s for a boy
Five’s for silver
Six for gold
Seven’s for a secret never told
Devil, devil, I defy thee
Devil, devil, I defy thee
Devil, devil, I defy thee

Now, the priest he says we’re wicked
For to worship the devil’s bird
Ah but we respect the old ways
And we disregard his word
For we know they rest uneasy
As we slumber in the night
And we’ll always leave out a little bit of meat
For the bird that’s black and white

One’s for sorrow
Two’s for joy
Three’s for a girl and
Four’s for a boy
Five’s for silver
Six for gold

Seven’s for a secret never told

Thank you to ‘The Unthanks’


Piero della Francesca: The Nativity (and the magpie!)

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