Illustrated Lady

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I dip my pen into the well and draw up
An indolent Princess, insolent soldiers and invisible garments thrown over old tyrants
A heart that beats within a spinning top
Scratched upon blank paper
Stain it with Indian ink
Now let me think

How does a glass containing ruby wine fill up once it is drunk?
Why does that song come from branches of a lightening blasted trunk?
Friends said I would recognise her by her silhouette
And that I’d be sorry for that merry day before we met

But where on earth is my ideal?
Is this she the latest one who makes me feel my heart, my heart
My heart is set upon?
But if my past I should reveal then I may well be undone

My mother was laundress
Wading in the icy river
The blue veins raised upon her skin like carnival tattoos
Washing out of secrets found in other people’s dirt
Gin to cheer her when the waters were turbulent
And laughing at the scandal of a noble mistress beaten by her servant

Her sister ran a wanton house of dubious repute
Her daughter fell into the arms of every brute
Who offered her a tiny fist of coins and drunken punches
Blows and blessings raining down in bunches
And I gathered up these splinters put them in my tales and misadventures

Where is the one that I hold sacred
Everything that I hold dear
Anyone that I wanted but can’t hold near for fear
For fear, for fear, for fear
Anyone one that I wanted
Anyone that I hold dear
For fear
For fear

They said that Jenny, too was once an ugly wretch
And how her dress was torn and ragged
Back when her life was bleak and rugged
She had no sense for fine perfume
And still her eyes cast down as she walks through each gilded room

You’ll note her gowns are never hung with a strings of pearls
No one who sees her, plain and modest, senses the illegitimate girl
Hidden within…
So, hark and hail “The Swedish Nightingale”

Illustrated Lady (unreleased song)
Written byElvis Costello
Performed byElvis Costello

 Written for Elvis' unfinished chamber opera The Secret Songs.
Known performances:
October 8, 2005, Copenhagen, Denmark
October 9, 2005, Copenhagen, Denmark
October 10, 2005, Aarhus, Denmark
     (3 known performances)

Category:Unreleased songs1999-00-00 live.jpg

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