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Eddi's Service

[words Rudyard Kipling, music Peter Bellamy]

Eddi's Service is a poem from Rudyard Kipling's book Rewards and Fairies. Peter Bellamy sang it on his second album of songs set to Kipling's poems, Merlin's Isle of Gramarye. He commented in the album's sleeve notes:

Eddi's Service comes from the story The Conversion of St. Wilfrid, and takes the form of a ballad concerning the somewhat eccentric piety of a priest of Wilfrid's mission to the South Saxons. The meody stems from that of a much later piece, The Sheffield Apprentice.

Lyrics

Eddi, priest of St Wilfrid
In the chapel at Manhood End,
Ordered a midnight service
For such as cared to attend.

But the Saxons were keeping Christmas,
And the night was stormy as well.
Nobody came to service
Though Eddi rang the bell.

“Wicked weather for walking,”
Said Eddi of Manhood End.
“But I must go on with the service
For such as care to attend.”

The altar candles were lighted,—
An old marsh donkey came,
Bold as a guest invited,
And stared at the guttering flame.

The storm beat on at the windows,
The water splashed on the floor,
And a wet yoke-weary bullock
Pushed in through the open door.

“How do I know what is greatest,
How do I know what is least?
That is My Father's business,”
Said Eddi, Wilfrid's priest.

“But, three are gathered together—
Listen to me and attend.
I bring good news, my brethren!”
Said Eddi, of Manhood End.

And he told the Ox of a manger
And a stall in Bethlehem,
And he spoke to the Ass of a Rider
That rode to Jerusalem.

They steamed and dripped in the chancel,
They listened and never stirred,
While, just as though they were Bishops,
Eddi preached them The Word.

Till the gale blew off on the marshes
And the windows showed the day,
And the Ox and the Ass together
Wheeled and clattered away.

And when the Saxons mocked him,
Said Eddi of Manhood End,
“I dare not shut His chapel
On such as care to attend.”