Song or Story
Livermore Falls, ME
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"Guy Reed" is one of several songs by one of the great woods songmakers in Maine and the Maritimes, Joe Scott. Guy Reed, son of Joseph and Remember Mitchell Reed, was born in 1874 in the Byron, Maine area, and died in a logging accident just a few miles above Livermore Falls, Maine, on September 9, 1897.
1. Oh, well do I remember one dark and stormy night, The rain it fell in torrents and the lightning flashed so bright; The moon and stars above me could not their light reveal, Dark clouds so gloomy their welcome light concealed.
2. The post brought me a letter I hastened to purpose, ‘Twas written by a friend of mine, it bore me startling news; Of once I knew a fine young man as e’er you wished to see, All in an instant he was hurled into eternity.
3. While him and his companions where the waters they do roar, Were breaking in a landing on the Androscoggin shore; They worked the face of one of them from the bottom to the top, ‘Til thirty feet this landing had a perpendic’lar drop.
4. To work the face much longer ‘twould be a foolish part, When a jar so slight you see it might that lofty landing start; Then all the crew decided that one of them should go To roll a log from off the top to start the logs below.
5. This young man he among them with a heart so stout and brave, Not thinking that before night he’d be all straightened for his grave; Not thinking that the almighty hand was soon to lay him low, To leave the ones he loved so dear in sorrow, grief, and woe.
6. Oh, a log he quickly canted, the landing creaked below, Until it sped unto the verge, it would no further go; Then this young man he approached the verge of landing high, While all the crew with pale cheeks and trembling limbs stood by.
7. Up went the shout of warning to warn him of his fate, And for an instant he did pause, he seemed to hesitate; He rolled the log ‘bout halfway off when the landing broke like glass, And quick as thought he disappeared into that rolling mass.
8. The logs they quickly canted from off his mangled form, The birds were sweetly singing and the sun shone bright and warm; Strong men knelt down beside him, and their grief could not command, Unhidden tears that fell like rain and rolled into the sand.
9. His comrades bore him gently and laid him on the green, Beneath a spreading spruce that stood beside the burbling stream; The burbling sparkling water fled o’er her rocky bed, It seemed to sweetly softly say farewell unto the dead.
10. This young man he was buried by the order of K.C., A funeral more attended you would very seldom see; The church and yard was crowded by people young and old, Once more to view that face so fair now forever pale and cold.
11. His mother she died early when he was but a child, They laid her down to slumber near that forest fair and wild; A sister and a brother’s now sleeping by her side In the village churchyard near that river’s dancing tide.
12. His poor old aged father he’s stricken now with grief, The joys of earthly pleasure cannot bring him no relief; His untold gold and silver, procession wealth in store, Sunny skies or music sweet cannot the dead restore.
13. The blackbird and the swallow, the sunshine and the rain, The robin and the thrushes in the springtime come again; The songbird and the sparrow in foreign lands may soar, But loved ones in death that sleep will come again no more,
14. Come all ye friend kidren [sic] pray for him who’s dead and gone, To a better home in heaven far away beyond the sun; Of him you loved most dearly you’ll never again see more, Until you cross death’s valley to that great eternal shore.
Philip Walsh, Sandy Ives, Livermore Falls, Byron, Maine, Northwest Bridge, New Brunswick, Guy Reed, Joe Scott, ballad, lumberwoods, lumbercamp, river drive, death on the job, breaking landing, keylog, Androscoggin River, 1890s, Bright Eyed Little Nell of Narragansett Bay, Roud, Laws
Ives, Edward D., ed. “Twenty-One Folksongs from Prince Edward Island,” Northeast Folklore5 (1963), 63-68; and Ives, Edward D. Joe Scott: The Woodsman-Songmaker. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1978, 140-77. “Guy Reed” also appears in several other collections, including Ives, Edward D. Folksongs of New Brunswick. Fredericton, N.B.: Goose Lane Editions, 1989, 183-86; Ives, Edward D. Drive Dull Care Away: Folksongs From Prince Edward Island. Charlottetown, PEI: Institute of Island Studies, 1999, 96-99, 246; and Gray, Ronald Palmer. Songs and Ballads of the Maine Lumberjacks with Other Songs from Maine. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1924, 24-28.
Ethnomusicology | Folklore | Oral History
Walsh, Philip. 1961. “Guy Reed.” NA3614, CD2065.3. Northeast Archives of Folklore and Oral History, Raymond H. Fogler Special Collections Department, University of Maine.