The Lost Words Blessing

The Bird Sings Oral Tradition Song Library

The Lost Words Blessing

Composer & Copyright

Original song by Julie Fowlis, Karine Polwart, Seckou Keita, Kris Drever, Rachel Newton, Beth Porter, Jim Molyneux, Kerry Andrew.

Recording

Lyrics

Enter the wild with care, my love
And speak the things you see
Let new names take and root and thrive and grow
And even as you travel far from heather, crag and river
May you like the little fisher, set the stream alight with glitter
May you enter now as otter without falter into water

Look to the sky with care, my love
And speak the things you see
Let new names take and root and thrive and grow
And even as you journey on past dying stars exploding
Like the gilded one in flight, leave your little gifts of light
And in the dead of night my darling,
find the gleaming eye of starling
Like the little aviator, sing your heart to all dark matter

Walk through the world with care, my love
And sing the things you see
Let new names take and root and thrive and grow
And even as you stumble through machair sands eroding
Let the fern unfurl your grieving, let the heron still your breathing
Let the selkie swim you deeper, oh my little silver-seeker
Even as the hour grows bleaker, be the singer and the speaker
And in city and in forest, let the larks become your chorus
And when every hope is gone, let the raven call you home

More About This Song

In 2018, Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris produced a book called The Lost Words Spells. The prompt of the book was the editing of the ‘Oxford Junior Dictionary’ in recent years. The junior edition of the Oxford Dictionary is aimed at readers ages seven and up and since 2007 the editors have removed from the book many words used to denote/describe things of nature– some of them relatively common words, such as: acorn, bluebell, ivy, fern, moss, blackberry, dandelion, lark, raven, heron, starling, hazel, heather, goldfinch, grey seal, otter and kingfisher.

The editing body of the OED had determined that the words were of little and lessening use to the modern child. Youngsters weren’t hob-nobbing with hedgehogs and wrens (also excised) and frogs and buttercups (another casualty!), and so needn’t be introduced to words that served well only with regards to the out-of-doors. They excused their actions on the grounds that they needed room for other, newer words with greater relevance to the modern child. Like: attachment, blog, broadband, chatroom, database, committee, and voice-mail.

In 2015, authors Margaret Atwood, Helen Macdonald, and Macfarlane, among other novelists and nature writers, expressed their dismay in an open letter to Oxford University Press. “Childhood is undergoing profound change; some of this is negative; and the rapid decline in children’s connections to nature is a major problem,” they wrote.

This song, The Lost Words Blessing was written in Scottish Gaelic folkloric form by a group of European musicians – Julie Fowlis, Karine Polwart, Seckou Keita, Kris Drever, Rachel Newton, Beth Porter, Jim Molyneux, Kerry Andrew. The form is inspired by blessings in Scottish Gaelic, particularly from a beautiful collection of charms and incantations called Carmina Gadelica. It is offered both in hope and light, and in grief for the losses yet to come.

Teaching Notes

Coming soon!

10

Level of teaching speed/ difficulty (1 = very easy, 10 = very challenging)

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25 Comments
  • Elisa

    Thanks from the bottom of my heart, now split open and quite raw.
    We ARE nature, without our connection to her, we’re truly lost!
    I hope one day we establish ourselves in a society that loves it and truly nurtures as its mother, soul, source of inspiration and home.

  • Doug Thiele

    I’m probably late to the ceremonies, but I’ve been moved by the song and the process.

    It was Russell Means who said “If you’ve forgotten the names of clouds you’ve lost your way.”

  • Joel Berman

    I’ve informed my wife that I want those who attend my funeral to sing this. It cracks my heart open!

  • I haven’t been able to cry this deeply in years. This touched something grown over in me and had completely broken me open.

    Searching for the lyrics I found this article, and the comments about this song, which apparently held so many others the same way it has me.

    For someone perpetually lonely that connection, even digitally, feels like a salve.

    Thanks to Robert MacFarlane and all of the musicians and everyone here, and to the human hearts that won’t stop loving.

  • Barb Gale

    Discovering and rediscovering this song, every time I listen to it brings tears of joy and resilient compassion Beyond Words, Beyond Worlds. Sharing this song is like sharing a united prayer for our Great Mother. I will put this song to good use sharing with others working with indigenous languages. Thanks Merci beaucoup, Miigwech ❤️ ♥️

  • Shauna Love

    These aren’t the exact original, but how I’m playing it on piano at beginner level:
    Em G G/D D
    Em G D
    C G G/E D C
    G/E D C (repeat as many times at end as verse requires)

  • Marisa Orth-Pallavicini

    I fell in love with this song at first listen! If there are chords available I would love to see them. Otherwise I will and am learning it a capella. I love and have the books which inspired it and Thanks to all who wrote and sang it!!

  • Su warner

    I heard this song last night on the NHM lost words event – I cannot stop listening to the Lost Words Blessing – such a beautiful and evocative piece of music – capturing the life lessons I have endeavoured to pass on to my children, when they were young. This song moves me to tears – it is a bittersweet song – hope for a better world where people will become more connected with nature (thus also save it), but also despair that this should have been lost in the first place. I thank you all – the musicians, the artist, the writer of these truly spellbinding arts works, in all their forms, creating a new imaginary for a saved world.

  • Finding this magical song in such a dark time. Thank you for hopeful words and beauty.

  • Catherine Scribner

    Was just sitting here at my desk in Montana, studying the Gàidhlig, listening to birds chirping out my window..and this beautiful song finds me. As a hospital chaplain, deep in the crazy grief of covid, Thank you for this blessing song.. for the tears and cleansing I’ve so very much needed. Mòran taing ..tha e cho brèagha.

  • Dave Hampton

    couldn’t be more grateful – for this exquisite creation of all your love
    thank you thank you thank you – may this healthily ‘haunt’ every human soul x

  • Penny Douglas-Barton

    Shame on the editors of The Junior Oxford Dictionary. Just when children are again getting involved with nature due mostly to climate change, they omit words such as buttercup; surely one of the first words a parent teaches a child when they go walking! As a grandparent and an English teacher I despair .
    May your truly beautiful song and music make them think again. Thank you

  • eleanor gibson

    is the music available anywhere? or the chords?

  • This is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard. I am a musician, a nature-lover, a writer, and a traveler, and I have never felt such a synthesis of these transportive modalities. It is breathtaking, tear-inducing, and I can’t stop playing it. I am so deeply grateful to have found it. Blessings to all the artists who wove their hearts together to make this come to life.

  • Jennifer French

    This is an inspiration and very calming. Cannot get enuf of it. I have lived for as long as I can remember in a bubble with my dog. I did donate it purchase the full deal and admire it all. Wish I could downloaf

  • Bethany Chos

    This is lovely! So glad a friend posted it! Bethany Chos

  • Iona River

    The Lost Words Blessing has cut deep into my soul in the most profound and beautiful way. It came to me at the exact moment my heart needed this care and healing last night and today. I am forever grateful.

  • Jan Keen

    I woke to the song on Radio 3 this morning (Elizabeth Alker’s thoughtful and inspiring breakfast show). It was so beautifully performed and the words so heartbreaking it had me in tears in the best possible way. It touched me deeply. Thankyou to all involved.

  • Hazel Rodgers

    love the song so looked for the words. I knew of the book but do not remember seeing I have been wiped from the dictionary 🙁

  • Absolutely lovely. Thanks for this.

  • Taylor Smith Kent

    Lovely

  • Margaret Boag

    Well done….this is wonderful and beautiful. It really touches my heart.
    Thank you.

  • Elizabeth Gowan

    So deeply moving!

  • This is really, really beautiful. The tune, the lyrics, the harmonies, the thoughts expressed. I have listened to it over and over. So, so good. Thank you for posting it.

    I referenced the final stanza in a FB post a few days ago:
    https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=10160324735552729&set=a.73521267728

  • Michal Raz Shahar

    Soooo beautiful

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