Listen for the Footsteps

From The Known Words 1, long out of print and replaced by The Known Words, which doesn’t include this (among others) due to it being not of sufficiently high standard:

Rowan Peregrine is legendary for the high death-toll in her songs, and I admire her for that. I decided to try my hand at writing one where everybody dies, and an eyewitness account of the effects of the black plague on Milan gave me the material I needed. Get out your garlic and hankies and get wailing!


Listen for the footsteps of the death in our land.
Fear the hooded angel where he stills the tiller’s hand.
Hear the morning’s children in the street;
They pass before the evening with the passing of the feet.

All we ever knew was in the sun and the earth,
Faith our only beacon from the day of our birth.
Now the beacon dies and all is dark,
The footsteps of the angel leave an everlasting mark.

Here there was a farming man, a woman by his side;
Here and there his children; now his family all has died.
See the face of one whose life is spent,
Have pity on a living ghost and share his heart’s lament.

Once there was a city, strong of wall and full of pride,
All the mortal armies could not force a way inside.
But death upon the air has conquered all,
For death is not confounded by a city and a wall.

Now the land is silent, hear the heart’s lamenting fade,
Death the final victor, and the final act is played.
But sing the song of all we were before,
And even after death you bear our lives forever more.