Gratified to meet you, sir;
I trust God keeps you well:
I doff my cap to you, sir;
A brass-topped tortoise shell.
In God’s armour I am dressed, sir;
I think it suits me fine:
My surcoat to the neck, sir;
My medals proudly shine.
There’s one for a gun that can shoot a whale,
One for a train on metallic rails,
One for a balance tipped by a spring,
One for a carriage fit for a king,
One from a duke and one from a queen,
One for a magnificent flying machine,
One for a High Level Bridge o’er the Tyne,
And one for the praise that should have been mine.
You’ve been kind to lend an ear, sir;
Buy this pamphlet if you please:
To keep the wolves at bay, sir;
And melt winter’s cruel freeze.
Some have judged me mockingly;
There is laughter in their eyes:
But I am genuinely honoured, sir;
For these medals tell no lies.
There’s one for curing wood of its dry rot thirst,
One to show my fan ventilator was first,
One for a prophet and critic also,
One for a poet and his natural flow,
One for canals cut with flawless ease,
And one for a unique mind, if you please;
One for putting out fires at sea,
And one for the staggering genius in me.
But does a man need medals like a jockey needs a horse,
Like a mountain needs foundations, like a river needs its course,
Like a planet needs an orbit, like a lion needs its pride,
Or does it simply signify there’s nothing left inside?
For there’s more to searching than searching alone,
More to a king than a crown or throne,
More to a dog than chasing a bone,
And more to me than these medals alone.
There’s one for the left breast, one for the right,
One for my wisdom’s guiding light,
One of silver and one of gold,
One for each philosophy told,
One for each step of progress made,
One for ideas that never made the grade,
One for the learning by which snakes shall fall,
For I am the wisest man of them all.
© 2017 Whippet Records
Copyright Control MCPS/PRS
William was a great reader but his writings, like his brother Jonathan’s, tended to be ungrammatical.
"You see gentlemen I am not a learned Man;
my grammar bad, my spelling the same;
yet nevertheless my God doth cause
my pen to go with a heavenly flame.”
In his latter years, throughout the 1840s, William was a very conspicuous figure on the streets of Newcastle, where he would parade continually, dressed in an eccentric and peculiar manner, hawking his various pamphlets to passers-by.
William Bell Scott, poet, artist and master of the School of Design in Newcastle, described a chance meeting with William Martin, on the streets of Newcastle in the 1840's. William, at the time in his 70's, was nearing the end of an extraordinary career which had seen him budding as a philosopher, a poet and an inventor. As Bell Scott testifies, William was wearing on his head a tortoise shell and the breast of his overcoat was festooned with a great many 'military' medals, most of them apparently presented to him as a joke by Newcastle's Quayside clerks and regarded by William as genuine. In fact, William had become the subject of great ridicule. Who indeed would have believed that a quiet and innocent place such as Tow-house, near Bardon Mill, Northumberland, could have spawned one of Tyneside's greatest characters?
This song is part of the 'Mad Martins' project.
'Mad Martins' depicts the extraordinary lives and times of the Martin brothers, William (self-proclaimed “natural philosopher and philosophical conquerer of all nations”), Jonathan (incendiary of York Minster) and John (eminent painter, engraver, town-planner and host), who were born in the late eighteenth century in the South Tyne area of Northumberland.
Other songs from 'Mad Martins' include 'A Painting for Charles', 'A Thin Veneer', 'At the Assizes', 'The Dandy Horse', 'Drainage Scheme', 'Four Bare Walls', 'God and Air', 'In Dreamtime', 'In the Navy (Jonathan's Chantey & Hornpipe)', 'The Leaping Swordsman', 'Madhouse Martin', 'Maria's Testimony', 'My 'Life'', 'The Paint and the Pain', 'Pandemonium', 'Picture the Scriptures', 'Searching for the Waters of Oblivion', '"Shoot the Bishop!"', 'Three Mad Martins (Epitaph)', 'Three Mad Martins (Prophecy)', 'Wicked Old World', 'William, You Were Really Something'.