"Farewell, Farewell" as written by and Nicholas Talbot Richard Thompson....
Farewell, farewell to you who would hear
You lonely travelers all
The cold north wind will blow again
The winding road does call
And will you never return to see
Your bruised and beaten sons?
"Oh, I would, I would, if welcome I were
For they love me, every one"
And will you never cut the cloth
Or drink the light to be?
And can you never swear a year
To anyone of we?
"No, I will never cut the cloth
Or drink the light to be
But I'll swear a year to one who lies
Asleep along side of me"
Farewell, farewell to you who would hear
You lonely travelers all
The cold north wind will blow again
The winding road does call


Lyrics submitted by annazoff, edited by papple, chas146136, charles108

"Farewell Farewell" as written by Richard Thompson Nicholas Talbot

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Farewell, Farewell song meanings
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  • 0
    General CommentEach verse creates good imagery, but I'm not sure how they fit together. Nor do I understand what "cut the cloth" or "drink the light to be" mean, but it sure sounds good.

    BTW it's "they loathe me" not "they love me". An important distinction.

    This song is so pleasant. It's certainly among my favorite Fairport songs.
    Chard121on November 02, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentBeautiful song.
    Fosseon September 05, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSurely this is just a downtrodden and deserted woman asking her abusive and wandering man whether he will ever do right by her and the kids. It's the way Sandy Denny (sadly missed) sings it that makes it sound so unearthly and mysterious - it doesn't sound at all the same when the current Fairports perform it, even though their version is also excellent.
    elenoftheroadson January 03, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentRichard Thompson has openly confirmed that the song is partly in response to the death of his then girlfriend Jeanie Franklyn and the band's drummer Martin Lamble when their van crashed in 1969. Jeanie was a dressmaker. The reference to cutting cloth is literal.

    There is however plenty in the song for us to reflect on, regardless of whether they are estranged from us or us from them.
    PBAon August 24, 2014   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationThe dialog form of the lyric is very much like the original Willie O' Winsbury version as recorded by Sweeney's Men that Richard Thompson adapted with his own lyric.

    The first four lines (chorus) are the 2 deceased speaking to the survivors (the Band, and perhaps all roving minstrels who rise for the moon and risk their lives on the winding road).

    The next 2 lines are the survivors asking Martin the drummer if he will return to see his drums.

    And will you never return to see
    Your bruised and beaten sons?

    He answers.

    "Oh, I would, I would, if welcome I were
    For they loathe me, every one"

    - They loathe him since he's beaten them so regularly.

    The rest of the lines are for the seamstress. The dead sleep along side each other.

    The north wind beckons the survivors to take up the road again.
    charles108on August 06, 2017   Link
  • -1
    My InterpretationFAREWELL, FAREWELL:
    The Call of Hyperborea

    by Charles Upton


    The song “Farewell, Farewell”, by Richard Thompson of the folk-rock band Fairport Convention, is based on the traditional ballad “Will O’Willoby or “Willie O’Winsbury”; it’s in the form of a dialogue between an exiled or deceased father and his living sons:

    [THE VOICE OF THE FATHER]

    “Farewell, farewell to you who would hear
    You lonely travelers all
    The cold north wind will blow again
    The winding road does call.”

    [THE VOICE OF THE SONS, THE VOICE OF THE FATHER]

    “And will you never return to see
    Your bruised and beaten sons?”
    "Oh, I would, I would, if welcome I were
    For they love me, every one.”

    [THE VOICE OF THE SONS]

    “And will you never cut the cloth
    Or drink the light to be?
    And can you never swear a year
    To any one of we?”

    [THE VOICE OF THE FATHER]

    “No, I will never cut the cloth
    Or drink the light to be
    But I'll swear a year to one who lies
    Asleep along side of me.

    “Farewell, farewell to you who would hear
    You lonely travelers all
    The cold north wind will blow again
    The winding road does call.”

    The Father has died and gone to the next world; the principle of spiritual Guidance is now hidden behind the door of death. And so the sons lament. (This song could well have been written by the followers of a great spiritual Master after his passing.)

    “Cut the cloth and drink the light to be” could refer to the initiatory rites of the particular esoteric school the dead teacher guided, possibly (given the song’s British provenance) a school of Christian Hermeticism. “Drink the light to be” would be some act that symbol-
    ized and foreshadowed the final goal of the Path, maybe a shared cup of wine or some more powerful intoxicant. As for “cut the cloth”, this could indicate an “investiture” with a sacred initiatory robe or a piece of cloth with a similar significance -- perhaps a symbolic funeral shroud as is used in the initiation rites of some Sufi orders, indicating “death to the self”, or the apron or similar piece of cloth conferred upon the initiate in Freemasonry or in the futuwwah (chivalric) brotherhoods of the Muslim world. The meaning of this verse is that the dead master cannot initiate us from the other world; for that a living master is required. But we can still receive a helpful spiritual influence from him -- possibly in the dream state -- if we are willing, as it were, to sleep on his grave, to die spiritually to the world as he has died to it both spiritually and physically.

    But what is it for the father to “swear a year” to one of his sons? This would seem to refer to a lordly or royal custom, perhaps universal at one time in the Indo-European world, of the king who chooses to retire instead of waiting for death to overtake him, thereby
    dedicating himself (like the Persian calendars or perpetually wandering dervishes) to a “peripatetic” life of constant pilgrimage until death, accepting each year the hospitality
    of a different one of his children. In doing so he would return, as the Persians might say, from Iran to Turan, from sedentary city life to the primordial purity of the nomad -- from the life of Cain, the first murderer who founded the first city, to the life of Abel the herdsman, who was “too good for this world.” We can see the remnants of this custom in
    Shakespeare’s King Lear, where the old king retires in the foolish expectation of being sheltered and maintained by his three daughters, one after the other. This retirement would of course have had a spiritual significance; it would have been an initiation into the final ashrama or stage of life, that of the wandering wise man; in the I Ching the same
    transition is represented by the motion from line 5 of a given hexagram, that of the Ruler, to line 6, that of the Sage. And we can see the outlines of this role and function still faintly visible behind the tragedy of Lear’s exile; his madness is in one sense a symbol of death to the world and the attainment of a “crazy” wisdom, all foolishness to the “wise of this world”, that transcends the necessarily courageous and rational foresight of kings. In the present song the deceased Master is compared to a king who has retired from the world, but may yet visit his sons to impart the kind of wisdom the world can never understand or accept. Such wandering sages would function, in the words of Lear himself, as “God’s spies”.

    The North is the direction of the Hyperborean Paradise, the land behind the North Wind, the gate to which is the Pole Star, the “still point of the turning world” in T.S. Eliot’s phrase, the visible point of eternity in the temporal order. The South is the point of the natural order and the “natural man”, the place named by W. B. Yeats, in his poem Byzantium, “That dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented sea.” The West is the point of natural death, the destination of all who pass from this world uninitiated. But the North is the point of initiatory death; “I call it death-in-life and life-in death”, said Yeats. It is the hard road of purgation, the goal of all who have “died before they die”, of those travelers who fight upstream (like the spawning salmon) against the full force of the North Wind, that ascetic spiritual power that pacifies the passions and makes the soul ready for Hyperborea, the
    land of eternal Springtime; as William Blake put it in The Book of Thel, “The Eternal Gates’ terrific porter lifted the Northern Bar….” Dante, in his Divine Comedy, places the northern constellations of the Bears above the Terrestrial Paradise at the summit of the Mount of Purgatory, which represents the spiritual Path.

    In almost every symbolic system of the four directions, the whole world over, the North is
    a point of rigor; the Lakota call it the direction of purification where the White Giant lives. But in many systems it is simply regarded as the region of demonic evil. This is because, in our own age at least, no one can lawfully take the Northern road who has not first
    completed the Eastern mysteries of revelation and salvation -- the free gift by God, to a benighted humanity, of salvation and light. Whoever essays the North while despising the East, like so many self-styled “esoterists” nowadays, will slip, like Lear did, into the sin of hubris, and consequently enact a titanic inflation and fall.

    And on a more outer level, this song expresses the lament of the persecuted true sons of a King or Lord whose place has been usurped by a false power -- which, in terms of Britain, could well represent the plight of persecuted Catholics (perhaps as seen from the
    perspective of a specific Christian Hermetic school) after Henry XVIII usurped the powers of the Roman hierarchy and bombarded and closed the monasteries, including the Abbey at Glastonbury -- an event that Blake covertly lamented in his prologue to The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. In a specifically Christian context, the Lord who has passed on, whose sons still long for his return, would be a reflection of Christ the King.
    CharlesUon July 27, 2012   Link

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