The Land


Another of Bellamy’s settings of a Kipling poem of which Jon says,  “A hell of a song this. Kipling lived in Rottingdean for many years and would almost certainly have come across the Copper family. Although this poem was written once he had moved to Batemans, it may be that the character of Hob could have been influenced by characters like James ‘Brasser’ Copper. As is sometimes the case with Kipling the sentiment does verge on patronising, but overall I think it comes down on the side of respect, deference and reverence for the old farming families of England.” I realise that Kipling can be controversial and not everyone approved of Bellamy’s bringing him into the folk fold, but I’d also say that Kipling nails his colours to the mast of this poem with the verse…

Georgii Quinti Anno Sexto, I, who own the River-field, / Am fortified with title-deeds, attested, signed and sealed, / Guaranteeing me, my assigns, my executors and heirs / All sorts of powers and profits which are neither mine nor theirs.

The details of the passing ownership, so gleefully documented are an irrelevance as Hob, an ever-present force in tune with the arcane laws of nature, is the only one fit to be called master. Those more sage than I might have more to say on the Kipling conundrum, but as a poem and then as a song, this is brilliant and it fills me with joy! You can of course Mudcat away here.

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39 Responses to “The Land”

  1. Piers Cawley says:

    Nailed it! Well sung Jon!

  2. edith lewis says:

    what a wonderful song and brilliantly sung. Definitely my favourite so far and gets my vote for August.

  3. muzza says:

    Well done that man!!!!!!!!…………loved the poem and the performance……..It was so long and I presume Jon would be using an aide memoir to get through! I had a chuckle to myself as can imagine his eyes glazing over and a slight panic setting in as he neared the end of the song, hoping that he wouldn’t make a mistake in the last verse.
    I have posted a few songs on youtube and they took about 10 takes each for just such a reason.
    Hey….haven’t had a post from ADMIN for a while…not on holiday surely.

  4. Neil Spurgeon says:

    Fantastic – have been waiting for this ever since the beginning – what a brilliant cover of a fantastic poem and of course Bellamy’s tune really gives it even greater depth

  5. Piers Cawley says:

    @muzza: I don’t know about Jon, but I find this one surprisingly easy to hold in memory – the narrative carries me through.

    I know Jon has it from memory ‘cos I saw him do it with the Remnant Kings at Nettlebed a couple of months back.

  6. Andy says:

    THAT is the type of song Jon sings so well!

  7. admin says:

    Hi Muzza – Thanks and no, but I will be going on holiday next week, so I’m frantic with trying to get everything scheduled before I go with a couple of curve balls in my inbox as well. Besides you all seem to be getting on and enjoying things (well mostly.) I’ll always try to answer any direct questions, but there are people on here who know far more than I do and I like to let the discussions run with minimum interference, although if I disagree with someone I’ll also say so. As I said in the above intro, however, this one is a joy. I have the Bellamy/Kipling CD at home at the moment and shared this track with a friend on one of our regular and extremely wayward musical explorations on Saturday night (6.30AM abed.) Suffice to say it went down very well and the rest of the CD will be getting closer inspection. I think Piers’ point about the narrative being so strong is telling, although I simply revel in language being used in this way and then again, I think the singing of it is what brings it to life.

  8. OxfordClareB says:

    Superb. Nuff said.

  9. Simon Dewsbury says:

    a standout, Neil I suspect quite few people have been waiting for this one since seeing the Remnant Kings. Had to take a deep breath at the end.

    maybe to be sung together with ‘A place called England’
    and ‘World turned upside down’ ; maybe not as radical as those songs about land and what we do with it but I don’t see the Kipling lyrics as patronising, more wry. Made me want to go and reread ‘Puck of Pook’s Hill’

  10. StephenH says:

    All Kipling aside, a mighty song, mightily sung!

  11. Peter Reynolds says:

    Well sung, and some challenge to come. My dad gave me Puck of Pook’s Hill and Rewards and Fairies in the mid 50s (I’m now 63) and the poetry stayed with me. Never enjoyed Bellamy’s singing but the tunes are great.
    Was it not Kipling who wrote that music hall was the modern folk song? If so, even more strength to to Dave and Dan Sealey.
    Whatever, just sing!

  12. Brian says:

    I had never heard this song before nor read the poem. Clearly I have a lot to learn about Rudyard Kipling as I was not aware that he was so in tune with how the land should be respected in terms of what it has to offer without our artificial interference. John Clare would have loved this song. There is evidence here that Kipling did some historical research before writing this poem as the said William de Warenne was indeed the holder of the manor of Rottingdean in 1086.

  13. Andrew Smith says:

    Exceedingly good songs!

  14. Jane Ramsden says:

    I don’t think Kipling ever intended to be patronising. For such as he was, he saw what he wasn’t, as well as what was, and was able to translate that power of observation into sthg well-written and accessible.
    Having said that, I am the odd one out here in that I do not care for the song, though Jon sang it brilliantly. My attention wandered at the wordiness, but I think I could have followed on paper what I couldn’t in tune, which didn’t quite work for me. To be fair, I will give it a harder listening to, but I doubt it will get my August vote.

  15. Shelley says:

    I remember the first time I heard Jon singing this – he was the support act for the Fay Hield Trio (!) I was stunned at the length of the song, loved the story, and was so intrigued that I had to look it up when I got home.

  16. Maureen Musson says:

    Heard Jon do this one at Sidmouth last week, and BettySlippers and I were hoping it would find its way on to AFSAD. Came home and there it was! Thanks Jon.

  17. John Burton says:

    Well sung, I actually prefer Jons to The PeterB version. Only the third longest to date though, regardless of the verbosity (and all the words too)

  18. Joy Toole says:

    A great song well sung.

  19. Piers Cawley says:

    The thing that keeps me singing this, and which gives me goosebumps every time is the couplet in the last verse: “Hob what about that river bit?” I turn to him again / With Fabricius, and Ogier, and William of Warrenne.

    The payoff couplet is fabulous, of course, but that’s the bit that gets me. Kipling becomes another interloper beholden to his Hob. As he puts it in Sir Richard’s Song, “England hath taken me”

  20. Linda says:


  21. Simon says:

    Still one of my favourites form the whole project. Brilliant!

  22. Diana says:

    Another great Kipling poem assisted musically so well by Bellamy and then sung so brilliantly By Jon.

  23. Old Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    The way one thing leads to another reminded me of Flanders and Swann…’
    The gasman cometh’
    Top marks to Jon and Piers the way they remember the words.

  24. Diana says:

    @Muzza: That pair certainly performed some funny ditties.
    Are you still peeling your nanas the same way or have you tried my suggestion of pulling the stalk to peel. It’s so much easier than your method me dear.

  25. Linda says:

    Still love this song but could somebody explain the meaning. to spile?

  26. Joe Fineman says:

    I regret to say that I think the last stanza *is* patronizing. It makes me squirm to imagine Kipling reading it to “Hobden” & perhaps explaining “I would sooner summons Pan” to him. But by now they are both resting in peace, and we, his executors & heirs, are free to enjoy

    And in drouthy middle August, when the bones of meadows show,


    And drew back great abundance of the cool, grey, healing chalk.

    and above all,

    Till out of blossomed Normandy another pirate came.

    I suspect no other poet has dared to follow up “blossomed” with “pirate”. It gives me a thrill every time, and it shows Kipling’s great virtue (noticed by Orwell): keeping in touch with reality.

  27. Joe Fineman says:

    Linda: Spile, v…. To furnish, secure, or strengthen with timber or iron piles, says the OED.

  28. Jeremy Main says:

    It has long been in my mind that the story has not ended yet. The Environment Agency has flood warnings all over West Sussex and Hampshire, because Hob’s hedges, which held back the rains and the soil, were grubbed out to attract subsidies. Anyone up to adding a verse?

  29. Linda says:

    Still love listening to Jon sing this.

  30. Old Muzza(N.W.Surrey) says:

    Ref Jon memorising the words…………..he wrote a paper on the very subject and Linda gave a link to it yesterday….very interesting and well worth a read…and you can make your own comments

  31. Old Muzza(N.W.Surrey) says:

    Ha….listened again and very nearly made the same comment I made in 2012…at least I’m consistent!

  32. Linda says:

    6 years on and we’re discussing memorising words see yesterdays link. Love listening to this song…

  33. Old Muzza(N.W.Surrey UK) says:

    I know lots of songs by heart but you really have to go over them, regularly, in your mind to retain them…………they have been a great comfort to me…..time flies when you are stuck somewhere (Doctors waiting room/trolley in hospital) and you can go through your repertoire in your head. I always remember Terry Waite, chained to a radiator for five years and survived mentally with his vast knowledge of the scriptures.
    Ref learning songs…’s a secret…….plug away at it…you’ll think that you’ll never remember the words…..then suddenly they click into place. ….and strangely enough…I find learning the words of two songs at the same time works for me!

  34. Linda says:

    Have you noticed how conversations continue from one year to the next….Love listening to this song and I now know the meaning of to spile !

  35. Linda says:

    Have you memorized this yet Muzza…….it is still one of my favourites

  36. Old Muzza (NW Surrey-UK) says:

    Linda……………beeeehaaave……..I have trouble remembering what day it is!

  37. Linda says:

    Sneaking a peek at this one its one of my favourites

  38. OldMuzza (NWSurrey UK) says:

    Linda…….beeeehaaaave…..peeking three days ahead is really naughty

  39. Linda says:

    Having moved to Lincolnshire last year am still unpacking boxes but have just unpacked a box of “folk” books including the Bob Copper books… next on the reading list……… Now for a quick this to this old friend…

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