The Joy Of Living

Ewan MacColl

Farewell, you northern hills, you mountains all, goodbye
Moorland and stony ridges, crags and peaks, goodbye
Glyder Fach, farewell, Cùl Beag, Scafell, cloud-bearing Suilven
Sun-warmed rock and the cold of Bleaklow’s frozen sea
The snow and the wind and the rain of hills and mountains
Days in the sun and the tempered wind and the air like wine
And you drink and you drink till you’re drunk on the joy of living

Farewell to you, my love, my time is almost done
Lie in my arms once more until the darkness comes
You filled all my days, held the night at bay, dearest companion
Years pass by and are gone with the speed of birds in flight
Our life like the verse of a song heard in the mountains
Give me your hand then, love, and join your voice with mine
We’ll sing of the hurt and the pain and the joy of living

Farewell to you, my chicks, soon you must fly alone
Flesh of my flesh, my future life, bone of my bone
May your wings be strong, may your days be long, safe be your journey
Each of you bears inside of you the gift of love
May it bring you light and warmth and the pleasure of giving
Eagerly savour each new day and the taste of its mouth
Never lose sight of the thrill and the joy of living

Take me to some high place of heather, rock and ling
Scatter my dust and ashes, feed me to the wind
So that I will be part of all you see, the air you are breathing
I’ll be part of the curlew’s cry and the soaring hawk
The blue milkwort and the sundew hung with diamonds
I’ll be riding the gentle wind that blows through your hair
Reminding you how we shared in the joy of living

Ewan MacColl wrote this song in 1986. He noted in The Essential Ewan MacColl Songbook:

“The last time I climbed Suilven, or to be more precise, failed to climb it, was in my seventy-second year. I was with Peggy and our fourteen-year-old daughter, Kitty. “You go ahead,” I told them. “I’ll meet you at the top.” But the flesh is bruckle and the fiend is slee and I hadn’t gone more than half the distance when my legs refused to carry me further. I sat down on a rock, knowing that my mountain days were over. For the first time I was conscious of the full weight of my years. My desolation lasted for several days and then my grief and sense of loss gave way to nostalgia and I wrote The Joy of Living. In an odd way it helped me to come to terms with my old age.”

Glyder Fach is a mountain in Snowdonia, north-west Wales, and is the second highest of the Glyderau and the sixth highest in Wales.

Cùl Beag is a mountain in Coigach, in the Northwest Highlands of Scotland.

Scafell Pike is a mountain in the Lake District region of Cumbria, England.

Suilven (Scottish Gaelic: Sùilebheinn) is a mountain in Scotland. Lying in a remote area in the west of Sutherland.

Bleaklow is a high, largely peat-covered, gritstone moorland in the Derbyshire High Peak near the town of Glossop.

Ling is common heather, Calluna vulgaris.

Milkwort (Polygala) is a large genus of flowering plants belonging to the family Polygalaceae. Also commonly known as snakeroot.

Sundew (Drosera) is one of the largest genera of carnivorous plants, with at least 194 species.