Wednesday, October 8, 2014


To listen to Troubadour, click here 


You used to sit in sidewalk cafés, reading Whitman and Verlaine
Among a crowd of poets, painters, tradesmen of the arts
Singing songs of joy and freedom*, every one the same refrain
About those pimps and whores and other would-be healers of the broken heart


Be my bird of paradise, my maid of hearts
My Dulcinea, Beatrice, paramour
Be my rose by any name, my song of songs
And I will be your troubadour

Half a mile of smoke and ash would trail from a stale cigar
Flying like a flag of conscience, cynical yet pure
Meanwhile you pawned your empty slogans - by God you sold them by the yard -
Preaching “Fight Them To The Death” while you were making “Love Not War”

Where were you when they stopped the protests? Where were you when they closed the streets?
Where were you when they took your friends and threw them into jail?
And on the night they set the dogs free your face was whiter than your sheets
In the arms of another of your two-bit lovers screwing in some cheap hotel

O Dulcinea, Beatrice, is our salvation very far, 

Can we expect to receive word from your Messiah soon?
You bore our trust like Cleopatra - each of us still bears the scar -
Can you hear my guitar strumming, can you hear me barking at the moon?

* In the third line of the opening stanza, I originally wrote “light and darkness”, thinking to make it the title of a whole collection of my songs. “Joy and freedom” scans better musically - the Spanish feel is in the assonances - and extends the clichés in the second stanza, but “light in darkness” conveys the tone more accurately: for most revolutionaries of the Paris ’68 variety (the kind who believe that ‘free love’ simply means not having to pay for it, emotionally or financially), the aesthetic would be spoiled by real bloodshed, the ideal by the expediencies of action, the end by the means; and so the sidewalk café is as far as mauvaise foie can go.

My dear friend Lesley and I argued the thesis behind this song for three long years, the first at Randall Lines, our hall-of-residence at Wolverhampton Polytechnic, the last two sharing student rooms in Allen Rd, after we had spent our year out in France. I followed Camus as fervently and loyally as she did Sartre, and their debates became our debates, between bouts of proofreading her essays for Howard Jacobson (he refused to mark them for the atrociousness of her spelling), and evenings of wine and Virginia Woolf à trois chez Maggie Gee. Four would-be writers and world-changers! Howard left to publish his dreadful first novel, in which Maggie was the principal butt of his satire; she left soon after, one of 20 “Young British Novelists” advanced by Faber and Faber. Lesley the Marxist headed off to Brighton, where she became Lesley the Lesbian Feminist, amour of debutantes and socialites, and disappeared from my life (Debbie ran into her once and had the impression that phase had ended too). Then, one day, her name turned up - it must have been there for a year or two, but I had gone to Israel in the interim and lost all touch. Headhunted by Rupert Murdoch to be the editor of some woman-oriented rag, having served her apprenticeship on the Daily Mail. The picture in the paper was of her - and yet, no, it couldn’t be, the pedigree was wrong. Not the Daily Mail. Not Murdoch. It would have been a case of sleeping with the enemy. I sent a sheet of scrawl, a subversive broadsheet in the style of Breton, quoting Leonard Cohen and Camus and accusing her in most sardonic terms of letting down the working classes. She didn’t reply. When the magazine folded she became “The Lesley White Interview” in the Sunday Times, and Val Pelka and I decided on a joint assault, he writing and I e-mailing to suggest a triple tryst in the cafés of Canary Wharf. This time she did reply, saying she had been in Jungian analysis for several years, wanted to forget her past, and please stop trying to make contact. I made one last attempt, facetiously suggesting that I had been in Prashkerian analysis for even longer and was trying to recover my future, so please do make contact with us. She never came back on line, and I have ever since adopted the entirely noble stance of refusing to read her column, lest I be accused of seeking to maintain a hold on her by some subliminal psychic process. It’s a great shame, because I fancy we could now make of Freud versus Jung what we once made of Camus versus Sartre. With or without the glass of Bordeaux wine. With or without the apfelstrudel.

As to the heroine of the actual song, it isn’t really Lesley. Alongside Ayishah, and possibly Durrel’s Justine, Dulcinea and Beatrice make for the ideal Muses. I have never gone for that paedophile’s fantasy Juliet nor the spoiled princess Portia; Anna Karenina like Hedda Gabler would be too unbearably morose to live with; and as to Dorothea Casaubon! Who does that leave, unless Isidora Duncan or Rosa Luxemburg?

Copyright © 2015 David Prashker
All rights reserved
The Argaman Press

If you would like to include "Troubadour" in your repertoire, either for paid public performance or to record for commercial purposes, or if you would like to re-use the recordings attached to this blog-page for commercial purposes, contact 
Use of this song, and/or these recordings, for non-commercial purposes, is not simply permitted but invited.

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