Margery Grey

From the Redwing Album-"A Sense of Place"

Words & Music by Steve Gillette
(c) 2000 Compass Rose Music, BMI

On Margaret MacArthur's recording Vermont Ballads & Broadsides, she sings a setting of a poem entitled Margery Grey, written by Julia C. Dorr in the late 19th century. The poem, in Ms. Dorr's words, was "founded on a half a dozen lines that caught my eye in some newspaper, simply stating the fact that a woman of the pioneers, being lost in the woods and unable to cross the Connecticut River, had wandered northward round its source and come down the other side." Steve has rewritten the story, with the poem and Margaret MacArthur's generous help as guides.

Long before the roads and walls in a place that's now Vermont
A days walk west of Bellow's Falls once lived Margery Grey
Returning from a neighbors house, in her arms her infant child
In the forest dark and wild the young mother lost her way

So many times she'd heard the warnings, keep the river on the right
Find the blazes in the trunks of hemlock, but in the fading light
The world spun in green confusion, no mark or track or path in sight
And in the quickly falling darkness she resigned to stay the night

She heard a shout and in the distance she could see a torch agleam
But for all she could not reach it and it vanished like a dream
Another shout and then another, but she shrieked and sobbed in vain
Rushing wildly toward the searchers whose presence she could never gain

By the cold remains of a campfire late that second day
She saw husband's footprint in the scattered ashes, but none to show the way
So mother and daughter clung together and on their weary way they went
‘Til like dark and brooding battlements the storm clouds came to stay

The heavy raindrops found them and chilled them to the bone
Until the shaking and the shivering that she felt were hers alone
She knelt beside a fallen log and scoured out the rocky ground
And there she laid her baby down ‘neath wood and mud and stone

With only ferns and berries and mosses, for miles and days she traveled on
'Til the goldenrod and the aster told her summer would soon be gone
And the noisy flocks of geese would call that the darkening days were turning cold
And the maples and birches wrapped themselves in robes of red and gold

One October morning in the cold New Hampshire dawn
Into the little village of Charlestown she stumbled out of the frost
Looking more like some poor wounded bird, gaunt and ghostly, ragged and stained
In tears she told the frightened faces, "I'm not mad, but lost."

They were amazed to find her on the eastern shore
Of the river she swore she never crossed
But had somehow forded the headwaters far in the distant North.

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Bennington, VT 05201

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