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Richard Thompson – Strange Affair lyrics

This is a strange affair
The time has come to travel but the road is filled with fear
This is a strange affair
My youth has all been wasted and I'm bent and grey with years
And all my companions are taken away
And who will provide for me against my dying day
I took my own provision, but it fooled me and wasted away

Oh where are my companions?
My mother, father, lover, friend, and enemy
Where are my companions?
They're prisoners of death now, and taken far from me
And where are the dreams I dreamed in the days of my youth
They took me to illusion when they promised me the truth
And what do sleepers need to make them listen,
Why do they need more proof?
This is a strange, this is a strange affair

Won't you give me an answer?
Why is your heart so hard towards the one who loves you best?
When the man with the answer
Has wakened you, and warned you, and called you to the test
Wake up from your sleep that builds like clouds upon your eyes
And win back the life you had that's now a dream of lies
Turn your back on yourself and if you follow,
You'll win the lover's prize
This is a strange, this is a strange affair

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  • s
    Like all great poetry & Lyrics, I am sure it means many things. To me it felt deeply reflective and introspective, with a hopeful conclusion.

    And curious how much of this is a strange reflection on "meet on the ledge". I can only imagine how intrigued Richard Thomson must have been when he read this and why he was motivated to translate it and accompany it with music. A Strange Affair indeed.

    And like so many Richard Thompson songs although most versions sound sombre, there is always more beneath the surface, and the delivery is intended to get the words heard and thought about.
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  • u
    For me, this is a song about regrest for lost time, steps that can't be retraced and being the survivor when all known things are gone. In their absense, who is at hand? Nothing in the singer is left. Where is the man he uised to be when he was young? He can no longer find that person and, worse, even if he did, he would not find anyone apart from himself as he is now. There is, then, no point s trying to wake up the young person in the old man. Although dreams are worthless they enable the young to derive some purpose and cause against the older people they will all too soon become and the old to have a distant memory of what they thought they could have become.
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  • n
    Nan K. Nye
    Perhaps it's best to be seventy-ish, but so far as I am concerned, the lyric simply addresses aging. Companions gone, dreams spent, no one left to take care of you and all you'd planned for that now gone.
    And by the by - the version I know and has gained such popularity is by Dolores Keane, admittedly now singing an octave or three lower than she used to. She tho, not he.
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  • u
    Based on a Sufi poem by a Persian mystic whose name slips my mind at the moment. I think he's confronting and conversing with the inner self. In Rumi's poems, the higher self, the "friend" is referred to as "shams." A mysterious song that reminds me of Gurdjieff also. Richard Thompson gave it a beautiful musical setting, bravo!
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  • u
    A great song up there with the best of Cohen's spiritual songs such as If It Be Your will. I think it is about the lonely road, mistakes, self deception, reaching a turning point, talking to your inner self. As with many rt songs it confronts despair and is ultimately optimistic 'Turn your back on yourself and if you follow you'll win the lovers prize'. There is a superb live performance on YouTube.
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