Seasons - Magna Carta
"Minstrel of the ages sings of oh so long ago".
Magna Carta is a folk/rock group formed in 1969 that has been moseying along quietly ever since, their most recent album "The Fields of Eden" having been released in 2015. Their most successful record was their second, the 1970 "Seasons" which reached number 55 on the UK albums chart, and from which this eponymous track is taken.
There is a moment every year, the time between Christmas day and New Year's Day when everything pauses, work stops, people relax and take stock before starting anew, regenerated, brim full of resolutions and good intentions which are gradually worn away as the new year progresses. This is particularly so in 2020, the hiatus being social, political and ecological as never before in most of our lifetimes.
With the US Presidential inauguration a mere three weeks away, President Trump is still humming and hawing as to whether he accepts the democratic result and will indeed vacate the White House; after 47 years membership, the UK is set to leave the EU today, leaving the nation's future uncertain; the ravages 2020's plague, the coronavirus, have reached a new peak, with Wednesday the 29th December's death toll of 981 the highest daily figure yet, worryingly greeted by the public and in the media with far less concern than the similar statistics of last Spring, with no officially regimented displays of support for the NHS and other support agencies as there were before.
In the 2020 Spring lockdown, everyone, particularly those living in the country, noticed how clear the air had become, how wildlife was thriving and how the sea was bluer. Satellite photographs showed the increased clarity of atmosphere around cities all over the world. Sadly, no lessons have been learned from this and Western governments, particularly the US, have bailed out the pollutant industries. Global warming looks set to continue unabated, if and when the coronavirus is defeated.
The first pilgrimage that I can think of was that of the Magi, to the birth of Jesus Christ. Pilgrimage has been a staple of all the main religions ever since, a time set aside for perambulatory meditation (ie thinking as you walk) usually to the grave, birth or death place of some iconic sage or other. Here Magna Carta, a quintessentially English band, give us a "pilgrim of the year gone by" and a "pilgrim of the year to be" in the tradition of English pilgrims, those of Chaucer, Bunyan and Dickens' Scrooge, poised to make the journey from the birth to the death of the year. Their harmonies are exquisite, their tunes gently catchy, their words cosily memorable like the "faces by the fire".
Christmas is archly pious, spring joyous and bursting with life ("like a child (who) cares nothing for tomorrow"), summer hot and drowsy, then raucous, then back to autumn again.
Unusually for a rock album, the poetry is palatable, and the metaphor is exquisitely wrought, the pilgrim standing for both everyman and the year itself, and he begins where he finished:
"Falling leaves turn to gold,
silver flowers on my window.
Spirit of the fading year gently slips away -
he knows not where, he cannot say."
Neither can we. Let's just hope it's better than last year and we all try to make it so.
Happy New Year!