BlogExplosion

Monday, April 07, 2008

My Grandfather's Clock (and the Neighbors in the Barn)


My mother taught me the Grandfather's Clock song when I was little, about 35 years ago....

My grandfather's clock was too high for the shelf,
So it stood 90 years on the floor;
It was taller by half than the old man himself,
Though it weighed not a pennyweight more.
It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born,
And was always his treasure and pride;
But it stopped short
Never to go again,
When the old man died.




CHORUS:
Ninety years without slumbering,
Tick, tock, tick, tock,
His life seconds numbering,
Tick, tock, tick, tock,
It stopped short
Never to go again,
When the old man died.

In watching its pendulum swing to and fro,
Many hours had he spent while a boy;
And in childhood and manhood the clock seemed to know,
And to share both his grief and his joy.
For it struck 24 when he entered at the door,
With a blushing and beautiful bride;
But it stopped short
Never to go again,
When the old man died.
CHORUS

My grandfather said that of those he could hire,
Not a servant so faithful he found;
For it wasted no time, and had but one desire,
At the close of each week to be wound.
And it kept in its place, not a frown upon its face,
And its hand never hung by its side.
But it stopped short
Never to go again,
When the old man died.
CHORUS

It rang an alarm in the dead of the night,
An alarm that for years had been dumb;
And we knew that his spirit was pluming for flight,
That his hour of departure had come.
Still the clock kept the time, with a soft and muffled chime,
As we silently stood by his side.
But it stopped short
Never to go again,
When the old man died.
CHORUS

The Grandfather clock song is known to many people (like me) who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s. The song was written in 1876 by Henry Clay Work, the author of "Marching Through Georgia". It is a standard of British brass bands and colliery bands, and is also popular in bluegrass music. What I didn't know was that the song was also recorded by Boyz II Men in 2004!

Most accounts give the origin of the song as a wayfarers' inn in Piercebridge on the border of Yorkshire and County Durham called the George Hotel. The hotel was owned and operated by two brothers called Jenkins, and in the lobby was an upright longcase clock. The clock kept perfect time until one of the brothers died, after which it lost time at an increasing rate, despite the best efforts of the hotel staff and local clockmakers to repair it. When the other brother died, the clock stopped, never to go again. It is said that in 1875 Henry Clay Work visited the hotel and based "My Grandfather's Clock" on the stories he heard there. It is said that the song is responsible for the common name "grandfather clock" for what are properly called "longcase clocks." The beauty in the picture is a traditional-style Ridgeway Fairfax Grandfather's Clock.

When we first moved out here to the Roxiticus Valley, we were welcomed by wonderful neighbors who live down the street in a renovated barn with clocks in every room. Our neighbor collects grandfather's clocks from around the world, repairs them, and resells them....but he loves them so much that I bet there are at least twenty he will never part with in his clock room. One time, we were there for a party that lasted into the wee hours of the morning, and every single clock bonged 12 times at the stroke of midnight.

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