The fleas that tease

Do you remember an Inn,

Do you remember an Inn?
And the tedding and the spreading
Of the straw for a bedding,
And the fleas that tease in the High Pyrenees,
And the wine that tasted of tar?

So begins Hilaire Belloc’s mysterious mini-epic, Tarantella.

This is a justifiably famous poem from the person who penned Cautionary Tales for Children. He was known as a writer, orator, poet, sailor, satirist, man of letters, soldier and political activist. Originally French, he became a naturalised British subject in 1922, and was President of the Oxford Union and later MP for Salford from 1906 to 1910.

He was famous for his vigorously disputative nature and running feuds with various other strong minded personalities. H.G.Wells remarked that “Debating Mr. Belloc is like arguing with a hailstorm“.

What is less well known is that he actually wrote a bit of music and sang to his poems, including Tarantella.

I was naturally excited to see the following instruction on the top of the page, which was presented to me by Pam Spooner, one of Betty Roe’s singing students (at the age of 85!) and the possessor of a fine high soprano voice.

Miranda clip

So I set about arranging it.I haven’t been able to get further copies of the original, published by J.W.Cramer in 1930, so I will ask them if they would be interested in my guitar arrangement!
Here is the opening, in the more guitar friendly key of E minor (obviously what was intended?!)


Who was Miranda? Was it a woman as many suppose, or was it the Duke of Miranda when he was fighting the Peninsula War?



2 thoughts on “The fleas that tease

  1. This is good! Are you prepared to reveal the rest of the score? If so I’d love a copy, this is one of my mum’s favourite poems and she often quotes it, would be great to treat her to a guitar rendition. No worries if no go, well done anyway.
    All the best
    Chris Hampshire

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