Mudcat Café message #315558 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #11671   Message #315558
Posted By: Lonesome EJ
10-Oct-00 - 12:44 PM
Thread Name: Richard Thompson: Your Favourite Song?
Subject: RE: Richard Thompson: Your Favourite Song?
Shambles, the only verse of Devonside I find particularly cryptic is the first.

By Devon Side she was a-marching
It was a gang of no great size
And surrender was the banner that she carried
And hungry was the shiver in her eyes

I have a scene pictured in mind of a labor (labour) march in the early 1900s. The "banner" may be symbolic of her attitude, i.e. resigned, but I believe RT is actually describing a physical banner here, since he mentions her dropping it in the next verse. That leaves the "gang of no great size", which is puzzling, but perhaps refers to the rest of the marchers.

She met a boy, his health was failing
She dropped the banner and took her prize
And the only food she had was bread and morphine
But he fed on the shiver in her eyes

She gives up her social quest and falls in love with a young man. For some reason, I think he has consumption. Bread for his hunger, morphine for his pain, the shiver in her eyes for his soul.

By Devon Side, his love was drifting
He looked for comfort otherwise
And there never was a rope or chain about him
She held him with the shiver in her eyes

After some time, he begins to stray. They are not married, but something in her eyes holds him to her.

She said My John, I'll be your pillow
I'll be your lover, mother, Whore and wife
And he knew that he had loved and never seen her
When the light fell from the shiver in her eyes

She speaks to him from her soul, and he realizes no one can give him more. "He knew that he had loved and never seen her" ... he now sees past the initial excitement, and sees her beauty as it is.

Anyway, that's what I take from it.