Peggy Seeger – Thoughts Of Time (two weeks with Ewan MacColl, day eleven)

• “Thoughts Of Time” set to a picture of the housing album cover. Thanks to Various Artists – Topic.

8.9 “Excellent Country from the USA”

From their LP “Cold Snap” (Blackthorne Records BR-1057), the first issue of which was released in 1977.

If you’ve been following this Ewan MacColl series you’ll have picked up that I’m mad for Peggy’s autoharp accompaniments – yep, here’s another one. The closing track on the album is a real family affair, Peggy being accompanied by her son Callum on guitar, at the age of just 14. I’ve heard of getting the kids to do some chores around the house but that’s surely taking it too far!

Ewan sits this one out, but he’s very much still in the frame as it’s a love song written especially for him. At the time of release Peggy was 42, Ewan 62. Thoughts of time are to the fore: “If we join the dream we also join the fear, That one will be left behind the other will depart”. It’s a real personal heart-on-the-sleeve moment, and all the better for it. Of course, the song also works beautifully on a broader scale; the themes of birth, hopes, dreams, fear and death are evergreen and universal. It’s a powerful piece…

When first we loved and when our life was new,
Time lay around us like the space around the stars,
But time moves faster than it used to do,
Thoughts of time will break my heart.

We’ve been through every weather you and me,
Forever ‘twining ourselves together ’til death will us part,
But death is nearer than it used to be,
Oh, thoughts of time will break my heart.

We know our children will take wing and fly,
Ties will be broken and the circle torn apart,
But to know our children will grow old and die,
Thoughts of time will break my heart.

When our time is gone and ‘nothers time begun,
Our lives swept aside and other’s lives about to start,
Then we’ll join the past as countless more have done,
Thoughts of time will break my heart.

If we join the dream we also join the fear,
That one will be left behind the other will depart,
But we’ve been in love for more than twenty years,
Thoughts of time will break my heart.

Our dream is old, the dream is always new,
A dream ever with us, it was with us from the start,
The dream that all who live as lovers do,
A dream coming nearer though it always seems so far,
But to die before we see our dream come true,
Only that could break my heart.

As a wee added bonus, here’s Peggy singing the song in person some time later. Note “we’ve been in love for more than twenty years” has now become “more than thirty years” so I’m guessing this was performed in the second half of the 1980s.

You can read my album review here.


Ewan MacColl is known to most people as a songwriter and singer, but he was also of significant influence in the worlds of theatre and radio broadcasting. He was a committed socialist all his life and his political sensibilities underpinned all his creative activities. His art reached huge numbers through the folk clubs, greater numbers through his recordings and untold millions through the radio. Although The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face and Dirty Old Town remain his biggest ‘hits’, MacColl wrote songs for many different contexts: incidental songs for theatrical productions, commissioned pieces for labour unions or political causes, songs stitched together from vernacular speech recorded for the radio documentary series The Radio Ballads, songs for rallying, striking, marching… and, of course, songs for singing in folk clubs.

For sixty years he was at the cultural forefront of numerous political struggles, producing plays, songs and scripts on the subjects of apartheid, fascism, industrial strife and human rights. It has been said that he was an enormous fish in a small pond – but the ocean of traditional song and speech upon which he navigated and hunted owes him a great debt for the treasures that he returned to it.


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