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Love Unbidden - love poems for Irene

by Peggy Seeger

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LOVE UNBIDDEN (1989) Love: unbidden, unwelcome friend, Wild bird in my hand - I hold you, trembling, terror-bound, Yet am at your command. Love: new-bidden, welcome foe, Bird forever wild - Love: one moment loose your hold, Let me rest awhile. Love: though I be one of those That dare not come to claim thee - Hold me till my heartbeat slows, Wild bird, you have tamed me.
The Storm 01:28
THE STORM (1989) Once again The storm breaks It’s there when I sleep It’s there when I wake I long for the calm that I dread To feel everything Yet expect nothing Who said that Beckenham was dull? I have whole plays in my head, Whole songs in my heart I'm becoming a whole By falling apart No craftsman, teacher or loyal friend Ever put Humpty together again He lies on the ground in a picture book And children with parents come to look At the egg, obscene, spilling its all At the foot of the wall I am fallen to the depths of my soul I poke in dark corners Abandoning pride It has its lighter side The ego, laughing, wills my downfall The id, more caring, bids me rise Every day The storm breaks I stand beneath it as ‘t were a mountain stream, Mixing tears of joy and pain. Like nightmare and dream It’s washing my senses clean It’s a storm in a teacup But it’s my teacup I live here (received in Australia January 4 1989)
I AM ILL WITH LOVE (1989) I am ill with love But hope to live I am sick with need My body will not forgive Your absence I have not seen you For two hours Flowers Have died in less time Life holds me Newborn In careless hands Love has washed And cleansed me And I must learn Once again The feeling of sky On my skin Fire - Air - Water - Earth All present at the birth Of their sister element Love Without which they remain Unperceived I love – therefore everything is Life: I am fragile Don’t drop me
Eight Lines 00:22
EIGHT LINES (1989) Tonight I have drunk too much Tonight I have thought too much Tonight I have wept too much I have not recently slept too much My mouth will let me drink too much My mind will let me think too much My heart will let me weep too much Love won’t let me sleep too much
I KEEP A PLACE I keep a place Where no one lives but you Somewhere in that non-space Between my flesh, blood and bone There is a place that’s just for you And you alone I keep your face Like a flower in that secret garden Your hands like the roots of trees Locked deep in my earth And if love brings me to my knees It is to beg your pardon If you did not want such power or worth Love is blind? I see you in that darkness Love is deaf? I hear you in that pure silence Love is dumb It can render me speechless Taste and touch? I keep you in that place And you will never know how much I visit you there To taste your mouth and comb your hair I keep a place Where no one lives but you With me Alone
FIRST AND LAST (1989) The last waking minute of every night Belongs to you That daily farewell That coda to today I am child-heavy with you I close my eyes and put myself around you Easing your body inside mine And say goodnight I carry you with me into the blind, dark preface To tomorrow Where the first waking minute of every morning Belongs to you
Irene 00:45
IRENE (1989) Irene - On the night we first sleep together May we have candles at the bed-head? I have seen your hair by sunlight By man-light But candlelight Is what I wish when we first lie together For it is moving light And it will touch you as I touch you Warm and gentle, a welcome home Irene - On the night that we first sleep together We will not sleep Nor will we be together For that implies plurality I will be one with you We can be two - But in the morning
Touch Me Not 00:50
TOUCH ME NOT (1989) Just this once Don’t touch me Sit on the floor Yoga style I will sit facing you Knees up over yours Arms on knees Very close But touch me not The hummingbird whirrs at the flower’s door Wings fan the petals The long slender beak enters the flower’s throat Touching at one point only Where food lies But still - touch me not Then If I touch only your mouth with mine Not a kiss Just a touch I might know how the flower feels When the hummingbird visits
SO WILL I BE UNTO THEE (1989) Be both calm and storm to me Be both rough and mirrored sea Be both bold and shy with me Be both root and leaf of tree Be past and future unto me Be both like and love to me Be present at the birth of we Be as you would have me be And so will I be unto thee.
Night Song 02:59
NIGHT SONG (1989) High in the hills where the valley hides Where the moon gleams on the quiet pool Deep in the rock the salmon glides Where water is clean and cool Deep in the earth where roots entwine Far below the night owl on the wing Down in the dark the field mouse lies And listens to her babies sing In the dark and dead of night A white cloud sails across the moon Deep in the warm and welcome bed I’ll lie and sleep with you
The Journey 00:52
THE JOURNEY (1989) There was a time, love When just to touch your hand Was like the final act of love And still I wanted more There was another time That first bewildered kiss Too new and strange to taste of love And still I wanted more Today, for a time Your breasts, bodywarm, filled my hands And we trembled, trembled O love, still I’m wanting more Perhaps there’ll come a time When we rest, replete and full What then of ever craving love Of always wanting more? Then - I’ll touch your hand And then - Start the journey once again
THINGS AS THEY WERE (1989) Translucent You shone like mother-of-pearl Body of a girl And I, your friend Observed you as a lover Afraid to make an end To things as they were Translucent You lay naked on a wooden shelf Confessing yourself Changing from friend To new-formed, hesitant lover Also afraid to make an end To things as they were Treasure these days As we lie by your fire Taking levels higher and higher Now friends Now familiar, unhesitant lovers Each day makes not an end But an addition To things as they were
The River 00:57
THE RIVER (1989) It began between the asphodel and the bog cotton I saw it Between the deer grass and the heather Below rocks and peat A tiny capillary It sang down rivulets Liquid flute and fiddle Into larger bed and path Over, between, around Singing down glass runways Waterfallen and sandy bottom When you walk beside it now you cannot converse For its passion drowns words There is no way to leap over it It cannot but come to rest in the valley Among the monkey flowers and watercress Where the waters are calm and deep And occasionally treacherous Like love
Quiet 00:21
QUIET (1989) The peace that precedes the dawn chorus The moment between bud and flower The breath between birth and the first cry of life The hush that reigns before a kiss
WE PITY THE BLIND (1989) Sightless creatures Hunt with precision On the sea-bed roof Of the earth’s deep crust I stalk you with body-vision In the dark bed-ocean As hunt I must With blade of the mind’s eye Sharpened and honed Touch the sounds of love Taste the scent that is yours And yours alone Only to know That ‘senseless’ stone Can hear the stars Taste the wind, Touch distant water And pleasure its skin Every surface of every being Serves as the world’s eye The world’s mind And yet We pity the blind
Broken Glass 01:33
BROKEN GLASS (1989) Around me lie the shards Of a wonderful life It's too hard I pick up this piece It's a child, now taken flight That piece, a friend Who no longer writes A once-new song Now out of date, forgotten How easy to conclude That life is rotten I am filled with broken glass Handle me gently For I am too full of the past Undigested, too fulfilled To find the present bearable Too ready to sleep Too willing to weep Unable to keep Always to the regimen Of today Right now Tomorrow's yesterday It will be a long time Before I can live for the moment I carry a burden of past happiness That is too heavy I cannot lay it down I cannot have done Because I have too many yesterdays I have too many tomorrows To choose just one You cannot see me properly Because you love me You look at my fragments As through a kaleidoscope And talk to me of patterns If I look at my world through your eyes I will not look for myself And I will learn to pick up the pieces (All the King's horses And all the King's men Couldn't do what the hen Did in the first place) Love, forgive me You should be my goal For that you need your lover young And whole
Detail 00:35
DETAIL (1989) Lying Depends on detail Laying a trail Of prevarication And some error in the relating Of two lies Or three tales May lead to over-elaboration Then self-betrayal Loving Is born of detail Lay a trail Of thorns and honey Of words honest but cunning Hoping to prise The heart’s grail From its fortress ‘ere morning But mind, now Detail must be all that loving and lying Have in common
Katy Cruel 01:00
KATY CRUEL I know who I love I know who does love me I know where I'm going And I know who's going with me O diddle lolly ay O a little lie o day O that I was what I would be Then would I be what I am not Here am I where I must be Go where I would I cannot O diddle lolly ay O a little lie o day Down the road I'll go Through the boggy mire Straightway cross the field And to my heart's desire Diddle lolly ay O a little lie o day O that I was what I would be Then would I be what I am not Here am I where I must be Go where I would I cannot O diddle looly ay O a little lie o day I know who I love I know who does love me
I LIVE NOT WHERE I LOVE (1989) I live not where I love (I did not coin the line) And though I love where I do live My heart is no longer mine It’s safe into your keeping, love It lives within your bed Bid me now to run or stand But not to cut the thread My heart is no longer mine, love It will not do my bidding Life is fraught with pain and hurt But ten times worth the living
MARCH 23 1989 I lie in bed beside one lover Writing poems to another Guilt is tidal, it runs in waves Forth by night and back by day I close your gate and ring your bell And my conscience? I could tell You many things you shouldn’t hear Of another life, of joy and fear Of time spent away from you Things you and I will never do I close your gate, you close your door Then we learn what clocks are for I lie in bed beside one lover Writing poems to another
POINTS OF REFERENCE (1989) The one: yesterday’s love, today’s sorrow The other: today’s love, love tomorrow
Time 00:34
TIME (1989) I cannot promise to leave you never But this I will confess Today without you seemed forever And I loved you none the less Your absence or presence can now define The length and breadth and worth of time. Girl with the red hair Never wantonly use your power To make hours minutes and minutes hours
CONTRADICTIONS (1989) Wednesday was bad Thursday worse You’ve already had A Friday verse Our time is up Love’s a curse Empty shop And laden purse
TIME, TAKE US ON AND ON (1989) Time, take us on and on And on to where time will be gone Tell me the story again Of how it was away back when We had sweet days and sweeter nights Opened our eyes and turned out the light Tell me the story again and again Tell it and tell it, right up to the end
Taste 00:58
TASTE (1989) Your mouth is delicious t has that satin inner skin Found in two places only on woman You smell of oranges Your hair is positive And my hands are drawn Strong and gentled Your mouth was not meant for kissing alone Now prim, now pursed Or tight (for better or worse Always ready for an argument) So when you wish to kiss It’s all the greater worth Your mouth is delicious It tastes of buttered toast You are too close to your mirror You will never know what you are like Until I tell you Over and over again
Sweet Rose 00:40
SWEET ROSE (1989) Sweet rose, I know you’re there Framed in curly auburn hair When I kiss her mouth I feel your petals share The knowledge of a promised land When I touch her hand Or the flesh beneath her upper arm I hear that centre, silky-warm Reply to instinct and to art Urgent, pulsing, a second heart The first one beats for her, hale and free The second answers, eloquent, to me
THE OTHER SIDE (1989) Come to bed and for a start Lie with your back to me And let me take the helm I know your back almost by heart Let it comfort me, belly and breast While I bathe my face in your hair And learn the other side, the rest of this The gold coin of my realm I have sat too long at my own trial So lie with your back to me And let me explore where And how and when and why The varied source of pleasures lie I have loved too long to practice guile Love creates explorers, dreamers, fools Awake, and find my Newfoundland Lies yet undiscovered All is as it was And my idle hands Lie yet at my side No school can teach As love does
ANY TIME, ANY PLACE (1989) Love won’t mend the baby’s clothes, Or take the garbage out Love won’t cure a runny nose Or wash a dirty clout Love won’t buy a cauliflower Love won’t pay the rent But love will buy a shining hour And thus should love be spent Love will lay me under you, Your hair about my face And that sweet task I’ll surely do Any time, any place
BIRDS OF A FEATHER Here and now is yours and mine If anything but love is on your mind Put it off until another time We’ve got things to do Love’s a bird, let it fly Love’s a baby, laugh and cry Love is cream on your apple pie When I’m laid back with you Mmmmm Mmmmm Birds of a feather Love to lay back together Tell the story, learn the dance Sing the song, take the chance Sip the honey of a sweet romance And still be wild and free Open the window, close the door Just like we did before Someone is coming back for more To be laid back with me Mmmmm, soon Mmmmm Birds of a feather Love to lay back together Mmmmm, moon Same old tune Birds of a feather Love to lay back together The story’s old, the ending’s new When I’m laid back with you It’s hard to tell who is who Or how long is forever 1 2 3 - 8 9 10 Anywhere, any when Take a little break and then Let’s lay back Sailing on the moon In a silver spoon Birds of a feather Just love to lay back together Sailing to the moon In the afternoon Birds of a feather Love to lay back together
Lucky Earth 00:38
31 LUCKY EARTH (1989) I bend to kiss the flower Red and white Kiss it till it opens I float in cool water Entwined in water-weed You lie below me Dappled on the stream-bed I spread my hand wide You rise, ripe beneath my fingers Cloud on the mountain Fruit in skin of fruit No space between us As I kiss the flower again Lucky earth And sky above Touch all Of all they love
Conversation 00:45
CONVERSATION (1989) I would make you pregnant, Bring you to fruition With a long, long kiss And one final caress Then we could see The best of you and the best of me Murmuring, finger-touch, Mind-locked, body-meshed oneness I will make you pregnant Do my breasts not grow beneath your hands? Is my belly not swollen with tenderness and joy? Am I not pregnant with my own pleasure? I bring forth myself each day anew All of me and the best of you. I conceived when you told me you loved me I give birth to love continually
Wrong 00:53
WRONG (1989) When I was younger I loved a woman Her hair was every colour of golden We lay in fields and kissed endlessly Her mouth was an oasis A sweet flower A fruit of exquisite taste and softness Her eyes spoke every language known on earth I am young and I love that woman who talks to spiders The world hears us The world hears us and creates rippling brooks The fields witness our delight in each other We are two women in love Nature uses us for a mirror and likes what she sees Humanity looks at us and tells us We're wrong
A CASE OF HUMAN HELIOTROPISM (1989) It was time to go In one swift, graceful move You laid me down Face up in the nest Little hungry bird, me, One of life’s chose Mouth ready for communion (Or one of a band of supplicants Blindly begging alms ?) No, simpler than that Yes, simpler than all that The sun shines And the flower forgets the night Leaning, straining It will crowd others To place its halo of tines To best receive the daily light Light (for the sun must rise) Dark (for I close my eyes And am lit by your hair) Leaning, waiting, Mobile yet rooted there My face-flower seeks Turns and opens Little hungry human, me It’s as simple as that
ACCORDING TO WIKIPEDIA (2009) According to Wikipedia "... the term Big Bang generally refers to the idea that the Universe has expanded from a primordial hot and dense initial condition at some finite time in the past and continues to expand into Deep Space to this day." It is a matter of debate as to whether the Universe has a purpose. According to Peggy ... the term Big Bang happened on November 30 1988 at about 10:30 a.m. when a hitherto undiscovered primeval atom in her Deep Heart expanded into a hot and dense universe whose sole purpose was to be as close to Irene as possible. According to Wikipedia (first entry, Universe Today) "The Universe is going to end on December 12 2012." Time and space would continue. According to Peggy ... the Universe would end if Irene stopped loving Peggy. November 30 1988, however, would continue in her Deep Heart Space. According to Irene Life would have been simpler without all this.
Sentinel 01:15
SENTINEL There was a time When I knew you well For I dreamed of you All the time Then there was a time When, thread by thread You dropped the veil And I saw into your eyes There was a time When I thought I knew you well When tending and harvest Seemed inextricably linked But O, the innocence of love! I thought that your will and my will Two minds and two bodies, Willing and wilful Could melt together as one For all we’ve said and done There are times when I feel utterly alone Robbed of your company By circumstance By propriety By custom and habit By consideration for inconsiderate others But finally robbed By you, yourself, you There is a door to the garden Where you stand guard
WHEN LOVERS HIDE THE KEYS (1994) My arm went round her waist and hip She never said me nay But when I sought her cheek and lip She turned her face away My love has gone I know not where O, let me follow you And if I am not welcome there I know not what to do Nor bar nor bolt nor cruel clock Can so destroy a lover’s ease As minds that close and hearts that lock When lovers hide the keys
VASE OF MEMORY The dried flower stands Frozen in a blue vase In the black hole Where I live The vase Ah--- the sinuous, liquid, living vase Changes shape and substance Curves like your breast Opens as you used to Has five senses, as I used to Curls around the flower Tasting, touching, seeing, hearing, Breathing ITS red-rose breath Of once-upon-a-time On the dead petals I cannot stop loving you I crush the flower in fury and sorrow It crumbles into dry tears That course silently Down the accursèd bowl Dissolving in the sweet venom And re-forming once again Into that barren bloom That cannot live and will not die The Vase of Memory And its cruel mantra: You will never forget You can never forget You will never forget In actual fact: I don't want to forget
Still Life 00:14
STILL LIFE Yesterday A word you uttered Cut me Like a knife through butter Today A still-life Your buttery voice Dissolves the knife
MIRROR, MIRROR Here am I, poet-lover Wanting to seem fair to thee But at home there’s another Less endearing side of me I floss my teeth. I scrape my toes I sometimes even pick my nose I used to roll it into balls And feed on it when I was small In the morning when I rise I wonder would you recognise The one with whom you freely mix On the rug at Number 66? Hair all flattened down one side Bits of sleep caught in my eyes Someday you’ll know I haven’t lied (Even Dracula had a bride) Now - if honest truth would have it Here are other filthy habits: I cough and spit Fart and shit Like all of high and lower worth On this farting, shitting earth Where vanity has entered in I pluck dark hairs from lip and chin Pick tidbits from the serving-dish With my fingers when I wish I blow my nose on wash-bound socks And drop them in the laundry-box But only when I really must And not when socks are odorous I sucked my thumb till I was thirty (My thumb was clean then - never dirty) And there are worse, much worse than these I don’t withold them just to tease They’d be too rough for one so simple Who thinks shame to squeeze a pimple
I LUST THEREFORE I AM (1989) We’re hungry We eat We’re thirsty We drink We’re lusty We kiss Then pause To think We honour The hunger We honour The thirst But passion’s Untrustworthy Thought should Come first We’re happy We laugh We’re sorry We cry Postpone Loving Too late We die I’m hungry I’m thirsty No caution No art I’m lusty Thinking Is not worth A fart
Overload 00:26
OVERLOAD (1989) (Error E12, disk full, press escape key) I try to work, I think of you I try to read, I think of you I try to sing, I really try I think of you When I think of you, I want to sing When I think of you, I want to work and read But not now, not right now Because I'm thinking of you Right now
S-O-W-I-N-G 00:40
S-O-W-I-N-G (1990) I ploughed a furrow In my mother’s face She loved me She’s in her grave Still awaiting The seed I never gave I ploughed a furrow In a man’s heart He loved me And from the start I, the seed, was mine I showed it to him From time to time I ploughed a furrow And with abandon Flung wide the seed Watched your heart Close round it And bring it to bud, blossom and fruit
Our Shirt 00:30
OUR SHIRT (1992) You and I wear the same shirt It fits and it’s white We sweat, we live and if dirt Appears, however slight, It goes to the sink The soap and water of our talk Dissolve each spot and stain Till damp and limp, hung high On the line of cooling anger It blows clean and dry We wear it again Our shirt is of unbleached cotton Made in Eden It could last a lifetime
YOU GAVE ME NEW LIFE Civil Union, December 15 2006 in the Woolwich Town Hall From the hot, liquid birth of love Came the turmoil of our planet's cooling Nights when we lay too close to make love Days when we were too apart to part Layer laid upon heavy layer Bound us together as we became truly One Some couples become diamonds Brittle, glittering, on guard They exhibit in public and declare (Methinks they protest too hard) 'See how together we are After all we have been through!' But you and I We stopped short of crystallisation Our layers softened and summered Holding us in evolutional safety Yesterday and the days before Throughout these eighteen years Today, my most dear love My other two-thirds I again vow my life to you Knowing that we have been compacted Not into a neat faceted jewel but into coal An uneven, glorious lump of anthracite Bright, black and ready for burning To keep us warm during the good years That lie ahead
PRIMROSE HILL (1991) I used to think that love was blind But love can surely see Among the flowers of the field I found one for me I found one for me Chorus: Come and walk in Richmond Park Come and walk in town Come sit on Primrose Hill And watch the sun go down Watch the sun go down The turtle dove longs for a mate Hear her mournful cry Long before I saw your face I dreamed of you and I Dreamed of you and I (chorus) Tomorrow’s sky is overhead Moon and stars combine Will you come and share my bed And join your life with mine Join your life with mine? (chorus) Every day begins anew With the rising of the sun Every time I look at you Love has just begun Love has just begun (chorus)


This is the story in poems of a journey through the first 20 years of a tumultuous love affair between two women - Peggy Seeger (then in her 50s) and Irene Pyper-Scott.

At the time their love affair started both were married with full, fulfilling lives. Neither women had expected their friendship to blossom into an emotional tsunami of love and passion yet their relationship has now endured for over 30 years.


released June 26, 2020

All performances by Peggy Seeger except:
Irene Pyper-Scott: vocals on Night Song and Primrose Hill
Calum MacColl: tin whistle on Primrose Hill
Neill MacColl: guitar on Birds of a Feather
Roy Dodds: percussion on Birds of a Feather
Sara Allen: Alto flute on Night Song

All poems and songs written by Peggy Seeger (except Katy Cruel - USA trad).
Publishing: Harmony Music Ltd
Produced and recorded by Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer
Mixed by Calum MacColl
Mastered by Mike Monseur


all rights reserved



Peggy Seeger Oxford, UK

Peggy is one of the most influential folk singers on either side of the Atlantic. She is Pete Seeger’s half-sister and Ruth Crawford Seeger’s daughter; her first life partner was the English songwriter Ewan MacColl, who wrote First Time Ever I Saw Your Face for her. She has made more than 22 solo recordings to date. Please check ewanmaccoll.bandcamp.com for other albums featuring Peggy. ... more


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