Maddy Prior – Sentry

The bloodlines of our horses are hazy now
Those that would know them are lost, or gone away
We have cleared fields and pastures for our hacks
They are steady friends, sure footed and well fed

We fly on the wind to keep the enemy guessing
We travel in the night to catch them sleeping
They dare not leave their villages unprotected
Or we swoop down and carry off their dear ones

The old hill forts are our bivouacs at night
The old Roman towns our hiding place
The Latin tongue has dried up here long ago
Blown on the dust of the departing legions

Save us oh Lord while waking
And guard us while sleeping
That awake we may watch with care
And asleep may rest in peace

We harry the enemy who lumber along on foot
They are better seafarers than land fighters
They stick together for there’s safety in numbers
We pick of any strays or small scouting parties

We surprise him in the morning, and kill him as he runs
Over land we know because our fathers farmed it
Arthur has made us into a tight fighting unit
On fast ponies to confuse and rattle the invaders

Save us oh Lord while waking
And guard us while sleeping
That awake we may watch with care
And asleep may rest in peace

I love this song by the great Maddy Prior – one of England’s most distinguished folk singers. I have seen Maddy perform both solo and with Steeleye Span and there are few better.

Maddy has never been afraid to tackle weighty subjects in her work, and her 2001 concept album Arthur the King includes the haunting Sentry. Recently I have been reading a lot about the history of the Roman Empire, and for me in these lyrics Maddy captures an eerie sense of the post-Roman England, ravaged by Anglo-Saxon invaders and struggling with the slow heartbreaking deterioration which followed the implosion of the Roman Empire in Northern Europe, with men such as the Romano-British soldier Arthur attempting to hold back the horde.

Last.fm has a snippet of the track here. The chorus, taken from the Compline, is particularly affecting.

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3 Responses to Maddy Prior – Sentry

  1. globus says:

    globus used to live next door to liam from steeleye span. nice guy.

  2. bigrab says:

    I know someone who was “an item” with Maddy Prior.

    Small world.

  3. Fleet of Worlds says:

    I feel quite put out that I don’t have a connection to them. The best I can come up with is that my daughter went to nursery with the son of the girl from Saint Etienne. Which isn’t the same at all.

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