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The Centurion

from The Journey by Harvey Andrews

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The end of life can never be good, but it can be better. This and the preceding song, The Waiting Room, present two stories of contrasting lives nearing their end - one in isolation but with memories, the other with family after having soldiered on no matter what.


I was born in 1900,
Victoria was queen
The first of seven children
Only three made sweet sixteen
It was hard but it was happy
It was roses around the door
'Till we all saluted father
As he went of to the war
I was tea boy in the factory
The day the news arrived
Making mother one more widow
But together we survived

Now the century's near over
I've watched it wax and wane
And as I recall it
All in all
It's a life I'd live again

At 18 I was courting,
Mary filled my heart with pride
20 saw us married
Stepping out there side by side
The work was never easy
But we did it day by day
Saving halfpennies and farthings
Till we'd ten pounds put away
Then the slump took jobs and savings
And I had a lot of time
So I learned the old mouth organ
Buddy, can you spare a dime?

With two sons fast a'growing, 1925
Mary wanted so a daughter
But her health it didn't thrive
She died that distant summer
But our daughter made it through
Until the influenza took her
At the age of two

In the 30's I was busy
Like all other folk deprived
Picking coal from off the slagheaps
My two sons and me survived

'36 and I met Lucy
We were married in the spring
The boys were new apprenticed
And we didn't fear a thing
It was hard but it was happy
It was roses around the door
Till we both saluted my sons
As they went off to the war
I lost one in the navy
A convoy in the med
Once again for king and country
Our name numbered with the dead

The other lad was lucky
And in 1945
Me and Lucy lit a candle
Giving thanks he was alive
I turned 50 then and wondered
What the future held in store
I'd work on to the pension
If we all avoided war
Soon my son walked down the aisle
With a sweet girl as his bride
She made me think of Mary
As she stood there by his side

I retired in the 60's
To a bungalow downtown
Did the gardening with Lucy
Till the years just wore her down
I lost her then with sorrow
But remember her with joy
And I'll take her flowers tomorrow
When I go there with the boy

For he is a fine great grandson
Wears his cap the wrong way round
And what I bought with a farthing
Seems to cost the kid a pound
And he asks me have I really
Really lived the century
And I wink and whisper ‘nearly’
And that's good enough for me

I was born in 1900
Victoria was queen
The first of seven children
Only three made sweet sixteen


from The Journey, released October 1, 1997


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Harvey Andrews Shropshire, UK

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