28 Mar 2015

God Friday, Sydney Carter and John Ball (again)

Good Friday Morning

From 2004/mar/17/guardianobituaries on Sydney Carter (1915-2004) -  famous Quaker, Londoner, composer of Lord Of The Dance (1963) - here is part of "Friday Morning", where the robber, crucified with Jesus, cries out: 
It was on a Friday morning that they took me from my cell
And I saw they had a carpenter to crucify as well.
You can blame it on to Pilate, you can blame it on the Jews,
You can blame it on the Devil, it's God I accuse.
It's God they ought to crucify, instead of you and me,
I said to the carpenter a-hanging on the tree.
Paul Oestreicher comments:
Classic theology says that it was God, but Sydney lets the irony stand. In this, as in the following stanzas, he piles on the guilt, piles it on to God. It leads to the deepest of all questions: is God in Auschwitz or the Twin Towers, the killer or the victim? If there is a God?

John Ball 

Sydney Carter wrote "John Ball" in 1981 to commemorate the six hundredth anniversary of the Peasant's Revolt (1381; also called “Wat Tyler's Rebellion”). John Ball himself was a priest who found in Wycliffe's translation of the Bible into English new hope for an egalitarian England. Ball's most famous poetic assertion, referred to in Carter's song, is: "Whan Adam dalf, and Eve span, Wo was thanne a gentilman?" [When Adam dug, and Eve spun, Who was then the gentleman?]
The implication here, of course, is that the existence of a landed gentry and a noble class have no justification in Scripture and should be overthrown. Ball was executed in 1381 for his efforts in behalf of English working people, and he has since become something of a folk hero. Victorian poet and artist William Morris wrote a story called “The Dream of John Ball” that used Ball as a focal point for Morris's own intense socialism.
Mark Olson sang John Ball in 2007 on Migrating Bird: The Songs of Lal Waterson.
Grace Notes (Maggie Boyle, Lynda Hardcastle, and Helen Hockenhull) sang John Ball in 2001 on their Fellside CD Anchored to the Time
I heard it at Quire's performance on Friday 20 March 2015 of "Revolution" – featuring Dorian Kelly as the hedgerow priest. Lyrics here.

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