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Butchers Sleep Little - Songs for the Chalk Circle

by The One and Only Matt Miller

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Once upon a time, A time of bloodshed When the city was the city of the damned It had a governor His name was Georgi Abashvili He was very rich He had a pretty wife They had a healthy child Once upon a time. No other governor in Grusinia had as many horses in his stable, beggars on his doorstep, soldiers in his service or petitioners on his courtyard Georgi Abashvili, how would I describe him? He enjoyed his life. On Easter Sunday morning the Governor and his family went to church, One more once upon a time. And for the first time, on that Easter Sunday, the people see their heir. Two doctors never leave the child The noble child The apple of the governors eye. Even the mighty Prince bows before the boy at the church door
The city lies still. The pigeons preen themselves in the courtyard A soldier of the palace guard is jesting with the kitchen maid As she comes up from the river with a bundle
The city lies still. But why are there armed men? The Palace lies at peace. But why is it a fortress? The Governor returned to his palace But the fortress was a trap And they plucked and cooked the goose. They didnt eat the goose, for now was not the time. Noon was not the time to eat. Noon was now the time to die.
Oh, blindness of the great With big bent over backs, they walk like gods. Sure of hired fists, Trusting in their power which Has already lasted so long. But long is not forever. Oh Wheel of Fortune, Hope of the People! Walk, Your Highness, even now with your head up From your palace. The eyes of all your foes on you. You no longer need an architect, a gravedigger will do. You will not be moving into a new palace, but rather a hole in the ground. Look around you one more time, Blind Man. Does all you once possessed still please you? Between the Mass and Banquet you are walking to that place from which the rich and the poor alike do not return. When the houses of the great collapse, Those inside are slain, alas. He would never share his fortune with the poor but now they are sure to share his fate. Then the plunging wain will drag The sweating beasts of burden with him, into the abyss.
Go calmly into battle, The bloody, bitter battle From not which everyone returns. But when YOU do, I will be there waiting for you. Under the green elm tree I will be there waiting for you. Under the bare elm tree Simon, I am waiting for you. I will wait until every soldier marches home. Longer, if I have to. When you are away at battle, No boots shall lie before my door. The pillow next to me will be empty. My lips will stay unkissed. When you return, When the battle is done, You will see it on my face, And you will know you are safe, And we can say it all Is as it was.
As she was standing in between the courtyard and the gate She heard, Or thought she heard, A Voice. Calling out to her, Not crying, but sensibly, It seemed, Or so it seemed to her, To say, Help me. Dont you know that she who plugs her ears, ignoring A cry for help will never hear The whisper of her lover Or the blackbird when it sings Or the happy sigh at the Angelus? Hearing this, She went back to the child, For one last look goodbye Until somebody came along. The danger was too great. The city was in flames. She had stayed already longer than she should. Terrible is the temptation to do good! She sat down with the child Through evening Til the dawn Til morning when temptation grew too strong Like a thief, she sneaked the babe away.
As Grusha Vaschnadze left the city on the Grusinian Highway, Towards the Northern Mountains, She sang a song, she bought some milk. How will the merciful escape the merciless? The bloodhounds? The trappers? Into the deserted mountains, she wandered. Along the Grusinian Highway, she wandered. She sang a song. She bought some milk.
4 Generals 00:31
4 generals went to Iran. 4 generals, but not 1 man. The 1st did not strike a blow. The 2nd did not beat the foe. For the 3rd, the weather was not right. For the 4th, the soldiers would not fight. 4 generals went to attack. 4 generals turned back.
As Grusha Vaschnadze wandered northwards, She was pursued by the Princes Ironshirts. How will the barefoot girl escape the Ironshirts? They are hunting even by night. The bloodhounds. Pursuers dont get tired. The trappers. Butchers need little sleep. Butchers sleep little.
When Grusha came to the river, The flight grew much too much to bear. When Grusha came to the Sirra, The helpless child grew too heavy to carry. Oh, the rosy dawn rising over the fields is nothing but the cold to the sleepless. And oh, the happy smoke rising out of the farmhouse is nothing but a threat to the fugitives. She who drags the child feels nothing, but its weight.
Why so happy? Why so gay? You who turns away... Because the child, with just a smile, Has won himself his place. Because Im done with the one I love. Why so happy? Why so sad? You who cant look back... Im sad because Im finally free Of the little burden and his heartbeat. Like one robbed, Im gone... Oh sadly, one morning, One morning in May, I kissed my darling and rode far away. Protect her, dear friends, until home from the war I come riding, in triumph, alive on my horse. WHEN I LIE IN MY GRAVE AND MY SWORD TURNS TO RUST, MY DARLING SHALL BRING ME A HANDFUL OF DUST. FOR THE FEET THAT SO GAILY RAN UP TO HER DOOR AND THE ARMS THAT WENT ROUND HER SHALL PLEASE HER NO MORE.
Run, kind heart The killers come. Help the helpless child, helpless girl. And so she runs! In the bloodiest times, there are still good people.
After her escape from the Ironshirts, After twenty two days of wandering the glacier, Grusha became mother to the child. Oh, the helpless girl became the mother of the helpless child. Nobody wants to take you, so I will. Thats why Im carrying you still. Ive come to love you, though my feet are sore. I wont walk without you anymore. Ill throw away your fine shirt. Ill wrap you in rags. Ill give you everything you have. The water from the glacier will clean and save your soul. You will have to bear the cold. On this black day in this bitter year, no one else is here But me And you, my dear. As Grusha Vaschnadze, pursued by the Ironshirts, came to the narrow footbridge on the eastern slope, she came across the rotten bridge and risked two lives.
If the gulf is deep, And the rotten bridge sways, Its not for us, my son, to choose our ways. But the way I know Is easy on your feet. The bread I find is all that you will eat. For every four morsels, youll have three. I would that I knew how big those bites would be... Your father was a thief, Your mother was a whore. Itll only make the people love you more. The son of the tiger brings the foals their feed. The snake-child milk, to mothers in need.
For seven days, the sister walked Across the glacier, down the hill. When my brother sees my face, she thought, He will rise and hell embrace me. Is that you, my sister? He will say Youre safe. Ive been expecting you so long! Come meet my wife! Come see my farm Come to me by marriage. This is where we keep the cows. See the horses in their stable. See the table in the house. Sit down and eat with your child. From seven days of wandering Across the glacier, down the hill, When the sister made it to her brothers place, she was ill.
The sister was too ill. The coward brother had to help. The autumn passed. The winter came. The winter was so long. The winter was so short. The people mustnt know. The rats mustnt bite. The spring must never come.
The lover went to leave. His girl began to plead with him and cry. Dearest mine, dearest mine. I know you have to fight. Dont lead the charge. Dont fall behind. Dearest mine. The front is reddest fire. The back is blackest smoke. Only those soldiers at the center make it home. The front are sure to die. The back are sure to go. Only those in the middle make it home. Only those in the middle make it home. Make it home.
The groom was lying on his deathbed when the bride arrived. His mother was waiting at the door, saying, make the most of little time. The bride brought along her child, who would have to hide When the wedding bells chime.
When pretty Miss Plushbottom wed A rich man with no teeth in his head, They inquired, Was it fun? No! Its None! But theres still some candles to take to bed, and soon he will be dead.
O Confusion! 01:03
Oh, confusion! The wife discovers she has a husband. By day there is the child. By night there is the man. Her soldier marches home Day and night.
As she sat by the stream to wash the linen, She saw his face in the water. And his face grew dimmer As the months passed by. As she raised herself to wring the linen, She heard him murmur in the trees. And his voice grew fainter As the months passed by. Excuses and sighs grew more numerous. Tears and sweat flowed faster As the months passed by. As the child grew up.
Many words were spoken. Many words were not. Here now the words the soldier only thought: The charge began at dawn. The fields were blood by noon. Only soldiers at the center stayed alive. The first man died ahead of me. The next, behind my back. The third was murdered by my side. I trampled on the first, gave the next no second thought, watched the captain stab the third before my eyes. My brother died of smoke. Another died by steel. The sun burnt my neck. The winter froze me to my bloody clothes. We only ate the aspen bud, washed it down with maple brew. My pillow was a stone in a shallow stream. And I dreamed of you the only time I dreamed. Now the oath was broken. The reason so was not disclosed. Here the reason so that Grusha only knows: While you were gone to battle, The bloody, bitter battle, I had an uphill battle of my own. Someone left a child behind Who surely wouldve died if I had Just left well enough alone. My back is sore from bending down To pick up breadcrumbs from the floor. I tore myself to pieces Trying to believe youd make it home. While carrying for a child thats not my own.
The Ironshirts came and took the precious child away. The real mother demanded back her child. The poor, unhappy girl had to follow, had to race To the City, where she faced her trial. Who will try the case? Who will win the child? Who will be the judge? A good man, or a bad? The City was in flames. On the Judges Throne sat Azdak...
Listen now to the story of the Judge How he turned Judge, and what kind of judge he was. On the Easter Sunday of the Great Revolt, When the Grand Duke was overthown, And his Governor, Abashvili, the father of our child, Lost his head. A village clerk found a fugitive in the woods, and hid him in his hut.
Thus Azdak gave shelter to the beggar Only to find out he was that butcher, the Grand Duke. He was ashamed of himself. He accused himself And he ordered the policeman To take him to Nukha, to court to be judged.
Why dont our sons bleed any longer? Why dont our daughters cry anymore? The only ones who weep are the willows. The only blood is on the slaughterhouse floor. The Grand King must pass a brand new rule. The poor must give it all. If we are to sit on the top of the world, The cottage roofs must fall. Our men are scattered in every direction So that the great may eat at home. And while the soldiers kill each other, The marshals salute and say, hello! The widows tax money must be ours. The swords must break. The battle has been lost, But the helmets have been paid for. Is that right? Is that right? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, thats right.
Azdak pt1 01:10
There was a civil war in the land. The rulers were unsafe. Now Azdak was made a judge by the Ironshirts Now Azdake remained a judge two years. Great houses turned to ash, and blood runs down the streets. And the rats come up from the sewer, And the maggots out of their meat. The thug and blasphemer lounge by the alterstone. Now, now, now Azdak sits on the Judgement Throne.
Azdak pt2 00:28
Beware of willing judges, For the truth is a black cat In a windowless room at midnight. And justice a blind bat, A third and shrugging party alone can right our wrongs. This, this, this Azdak does merely for a song.
Azdak pt3 01:25
No more did the lower orders Tremble in their shoes At bellows of their betters At come here and listen, yous. HIs balances were crooked but they shouted in the streets, Good good good is Azdak and the measure that he metes! He took from wealthy Peter to give to penniless Paul. He sealed illegal judgements with a waxened tear and all. The ragtag and the bob-tail went crying up and down, Cheer, cheer, cheer for Azdak, the darling of this town! To love thy next door neighbor, approach him with an axe. For goods and saws and sermons are unconvincing facts. What miracles of preaching a good sharp blade can do. So, so, so, so Azdak made miracles come true!
To feed the starving people, He broke laws like we break bread. There on the seat of justice with the gallows over his head. For more than 700 days he calmed their wails. Oh, oh, oh Azdak measures with false scales! Two summers and two winters, A poor man judged the poor. And on the wreck of justice He brought them safe to shore. For he spoke a language the mob can understand. I, I, I, cried Azdak, take bribes from empty hands. Then the era of disorder ended. The Duke returned. The Governors wife returned too. A judgement was held. Many people died. The suburbs burned anew And fear seized Azdak.
Listen now to the story of the trail Concerning the child of the Governor. To resolve, once and for all, Who can call herself mother. Determined by that famous test, The Chalk Circle.
Sisters, hide your faces. Brothers, find your knives. The times are out of joint. The noblemen are full of complaints. The simple folk are full of joy. The City says: Lets drive out the strong, burn the buildings down and rip the lists of the serfs. The jailers hide in darkness those whove never seen the daylight have emerged. The poor-boxes of ebony are broken. The precious sesame is used for beds. He who lived on charity now owns the barn and measures out the bread. Oh, oh, oh, oh. Please, General, you need to put these people in their place. The bastards are the masters now. The sons of noble blood are now their slaves. He who used to row the boat now steers the ship. When the owners go to look for them they are no longer his. Five men are sent out on a mission by their master one last time. They say: Go yourself. We have arrived. Go yourself. We are here to stay. Oh, oh, oh, oh. Please, General, restore the order.
Little Mother (I almost called you Mother Grusinia) The woe-begotten one Whose beaten down with fists But still full of hope. Whose sons are in the war Who cries when shes rewarded Surprised she isnt beaten Little Mother, pass merciful judgement on the souls of us, the Damned.
He who wears the shoes of gold Tramples on the weak and old. Does evil all day long And mocks at wrong. Oh! To carry as ones own Heavy is the heart of stone. The power to do ill Wears down the will. Hunger he will dread But not the ones who go unfed. Fear, fear, fear the fall of night. But not the light.
Thus Azdak disappeared And was never seen again. But the people of Grusinia Have not forgotten him. No, some say they recall His brief and easy reign As close enough to just. A Golden Age. But you who listened to The story of the Chalk Circle You must pass along The meaning of the ancient song. Take note of the meaning of the ancient song: That what there is shall belong to those who are good for it. Thus, the children to the truly maternal, so they may truly thrive. The carriages to the good drivers, so they may be driven well. So they may actually get us there. And the valley, to the waterers, that they may bear its fruit.


I started a band with Bertolt Brecht and W.H. Auden. We are called Butchers Sleep Little.

These are the first songs (Act 2) for a University of Pittsburgh Johnstown production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle, directed by Kathryn Castner-Davis.


released February 9, 2015

The Caucasian Chalk Circle is a play written by Bertolt Brecht. It was first performed in 1944.
Original lyrics by Brecht, translation from the German by W.H. Auden
All Music and additional lyrics and butcherings by The One and Only Matt Miller, written from January 4th to January 19th.
Recorded at the House of One Accord by the 1s & Ohs and Zach Spellman, performed by MM from January 20th to January 22nd
Mixed at my house, by me, from January 23rd to January 26th
Mastered by Brandon Locher on February 5th
Uploaded to the Internets beginning on February 9th
UPJ production to occur from February 25th to March 1st, 2015

Thanks to Kate for the commission, The House of One Accord for the space, Dan Oatman for the keyboard, and Laci Hess for putting up with 15 solid days and nights of noise, cursing, and gloating. Butchers sleep little.


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