The Song Collector
by Carol Ann Duffy
The first song I gathered was that of a man locked up
in a cell, who sang to the mournful toll of the prison bell
as I walked by: This morning I’m going to die, to die,
and only the girl who loved me once knows why.
The second song was sung by a lad in a lane
where I swayed on a stile, swigging my ale,
so I asked him to sing it again for a coin and he did:
This is simply the simple song of a simple kid.
Song three was trilled by a bunch of nuns- that
was a Latin one, dominus, dominum - outside a church,
and four, five, six, I picked from a farm, eye-high
in corn, as I chanced my tatooed arm at harvesting.
Stopped counting then, when I got to ten, and the next
I knew I had more than a few to my repertoire;
so I bought a guitar, played four to the bar, wandered
wide and far, with an ear for a humming lad or a yodelling girl.
With an ear for a whistling train, for a foghorn ship.
With an ear for percussion rain, for the tune the wind blows
through the trees. With an ear for the birds and bees,
yippees, for quavers, crotchets, minims, doh ray mis.