Drink Ye Every One The Waters Of His Own Cistern, Until I Come And Take You Away

“Drink Ye Every One The Waters Of His Own Cistern, Until I Come And Take You Away”. As we have learned, this was the title of a song written by the out of print pamphleteer Dobson, one of several appalling stabs he made at the form. No one with any sense has ever listened to a Dobson song more than once, for the experience is excruciating, as I can avow. That is by no means all I avow, and if we had but world enough and time I would give you a list of every single avowal I have ever made, which I am sure you would find interesting reading. Alas, time presses, heavy as a big lump of iron, and you will have to be satisfied with that single avowal of the frankly horrifying nature of the Dobson songbook, beside which the Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred is like an infant’s picture book devoted to perky piglets and bunny rabbits.

“Drink ye every one the waters of his own cistern, until I come and take you away” is also a line from the Book of Isaiah (Authorised Version, chapter 36, verses 16 and 17). Most of the lyrical content of Dobson’s wretched songs was taken from Isaiah, for no apparent reason. One would have thought so prolific a pamphleteer would have been capable of penning his own words, even keen to do so. Not Dobson. What he appears to have done, so far as we can tell, is to pick phrases pretty much at random from the book Peter Ackroyd has called “a series of incandescent utterances”, to shove them together with no regard for sense or metre or singability, and then to set them to music so woefully inadequate that it beggars belief. No wonder Marigold Chew took to wearing a pair of reinforced cork earplugs. Discovering that the standard earplugs sold at Hubermann’s failed to block out completely the din from Dobson’s rehearsal room, the resourceful Marigold located a cork reinforcing atelier hard by the banks of the Great Frightening River. On her first visit, she was surprised to discover the workshop populated entirely by gnomes, some Swiss, some Austrian, and some claiming citizenship of Gondwanaland. “They may have been disturbingly-proportioned little men wearing pointed caps,” she later wrote, “but they certainly knew how to reinforce cork.” As with all his fads, Dobson’s songwriting shenanigans petered out after a couple of months, and peace once more reigned in the house, but Marigold Chew, enchanted, continued to visit the little people by the river for the rest of her life.

“Drink ye every one the waters of his own cistern, until I come and take you away” are the words the Grunty Man roared at a cowering tangle of orphans he waylaid one terrible Thursday afternoon. The pallid tinies were foraging for roots and scraps in a noisome ditch beyond Blister Lane when cracks of lightning rent the sky, thunderclaps boomed, and before they could run back to the safety of the orphanage, the Grunty Man was there! They had thought him a mere figment of nightmares, but here he was, all too real, solid and hairy and brutish and grunting. They trembled as the Grunty Man repeated his strange and evil plan, all except one precocious orphan who put her hand up to ask a question, as if she were in a classroom rather than in a noisome ditch. This disconcerted the Grunty Man, who was impatient for the nippers to glug down the water from their cisterns so he could carry then away to his horrible lair up in the hills, as his scheme dictated. “We did not bring our cisterns with us on our foraging expedition,” piped up the brave tot, “So may we be excused to go back to the orphanage and there to drink from them every one?” As soon as the Grunty Man had grunted his confused agreement, off they all scampered, back to Pang Hill Orphanage, where they armed themselves with pitchforks and shovels. Then they burst out through the iron gates as one, and ran back to the ditch, and chased the Grunty Man back into the hills from whence he had come. For many long years after that fateful Thursday afternoon he sat stewing in his lair trying, in his slow-witted way, to work out the flaw in his plan, which as I said before, was both strange and evil.

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