Selected Lyrics: The Snow Lamb

The Snow Lamb was released on The Pearlfishers album A Sunflower at Christmas (MA 63, 2004). The lyric tells the story of an encounter between two children and the magical creature of the title who lures them into a forest and bestows on them Christmas gifts “from nature’s store”.

The Snow Lamb

When Christmas comes they clear the path
The forest deeps and blossoms swoon
A snow lamb waits beneath the hill
Her frosted breath across the night
One day you’ll grow, one day you’ll grow, one day you’ll grow

They saw her there one Christmas eve
If memory can be believed
She sped away then crept back in
And danced away and back again
Kind children won’t you follow me?
Beyond the world into the trees
One day you’ll grow, one day you’ll grow, one day you’ll grow

Inside a clearing there she was
They stumbled in on stars and moss
The snow lamb spoke and dipped her eyes
The valley bright with fire flies
I’ve been a child a million years
I saw the lord and kissed his tears
And now I walk this forest floor
To bring you gifts from nature’s store

A sailing boat of leaves and hay
A silver coat of moonlight rays
A jeweled string from drops of dew
A star to light the path for you
She spun a ruby web from the berries
One day you’ll grow, one day you’ll grow, one day you’ll grow

You wake up on a city street
With fuzzy head and aching feet
Then hurry on and feed the till
And wonder if she sleeps there still
One day you’ll grow, one day you’ll grow, one day you’ll grow

When Christmas comes they clear the path
The forest deeps and blossoms swoon
A snow lamb waits beneath the hill
Her frosted breath cuts the night
One day you’ll grow, one day you’ll grow, one day you’ll grow

Italo Calvino’s Italian Folktales has influenced elements of The Snow Lamb, this time in the ability of animals to speak and in the setting of a deepening forest with illuminated hollows. And as in Haricot Bean and Bill two children enter a strange world and return changed. In Calvino, young Princes or maids often embark on journeys through a wood or forest, returning each night only to travel further next day until events explain the reasons for their obsession. Sometimes a talking animal will point the way or present the denouement in the form of a transformation. The Snow Lamb doesn’t offer marriage or endless riches to the children of this story, instead the eternal child who ‘saw the Lord and kissed his tears’ at Bethlehem opens a door, offering a glimpse of the past in the simple light of nature. Christian iconography depicts Jesus as a sacred lamb or the ‘holy lamb of God’, and the creature of the song is part of his family: gentle, simple and, in this incarnation, playful. The magical gifts she offers, among them a sailing boat, a necklace, a silver coat and a lantern of stars reference the poem Sang by William Soutar.

Hairst the licht o’ the moon tae mak a siler goun
And the gowden licht o’ the sun tae mak a pair o’ shoon
Gither the draps ‘o dew tae hing aboot yer throat
And the wab o’ the watergaw tae work yersel’ a coat”

The clearing the children enter at the Snow Lamb’s bidding is the same  “open door in the wa’ at the world’s end” of Soutar’s poem – a passage into the hidden truths of dreams. “God knows the secrets of your heart” says Bob Dylan on Under The Red Sky, “He’ll tell them to you when you’re asleep”. Secrets are also present in the music track of The Snow Lamb, originally recorded as Magic Reader and inspired by a 1988 publication and exhibition by the Scottish artist Alan Davie. Davie’s Magic Reader extemporises a magical language of dreams and secrets through gestural brushstrokes, iconic symbols and text, which at a glance might be Latin, Spanish and English together in a kind of erotic Esperanto. The music of Magic Reader / The Snow Lamb apes Davie’s visual gestures with repeated patterns, themes and motifs rendered in marimba, glockenspiel and synthesizer.

“One day you’ll grow” chimes the lamb repeatedly and when we next meet the children they are indeed grown, suddenly awake, dazed in the seasonal chaos of Sauchiehall or Oxford, unsure of their memory, haunted by the secret language of their dreams but newly and richly aware of the frosted breath of nature cutting their city night.

© David Scott 2009

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2 comments

  1. tony

    thanks for this. this track is every bit as holy sounding as silent night. the imagery you created mixed with the lyrics makes the hair stand up on me especially when I play it the most during the chirstmas season.
    I especially enjoy the line I saw the lord and kissed his tears. you seem to have certain lines in your songs that are short…yet somehow are so powerful.

    even a line in ordinary day in the suburbs. I love that line about “if it rains we’ll just stay in drinking cofffee”.
    on the surface it sounds so mundane but who hasnt had a day stuck in the house due to weather with someone when love is new and simple pleasures are every bit as fun as going out. just being on the porch drinking coffee as the rain taps the windows. its so great you came up with that line. you probably dont even think about it much, but I do.

    anyways I heard the song how do you start again…..whoa…thats beautiful. you should do something with that!
    soooo looking forward to the next pearlfishers album!!!

    • Tony
      We have a full Pearlfishers recording of ‘How Do You Start Again’. I wrote that song with Boo Hewerdine a few years ago; one of my favourite collaborations. Maybe it will make the cut for Pearlfishers 8, maybe it will hang on for that compilation we keep meaning to do. I love the little things you can say in a song that mean a wee bit more. There’s a line in there about ‘can you just get somebody in, to fix the phone and make it ring’ that made Boo and I happy when it came round the corner…
      Thanks for your comments
      D

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