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Queen of Spades (Extended)

by Ben Holland

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Snow was falling steady, heavy as a dream
Three Gamblers played a game of death in 1817

Lilly was an orphan, an unwanted baby girl
Abandoned at a station she came into the world
Brought up in a brothel where the wretched came to smoke
Who laughed to hear when ‘Opium' was the first word she spoke

Jonah was a gambler he was born to hold a card
With a smile quick and warm, with a heart cold and hard
Raised without a mother by a crooked drunken wreck
Who’d leave his boy for days often tied up by the neck

His father never liked him beat him black and blue for sport
And all the scars and broken bones were the only lessons taught

If the bottle didn’t kill him Jonah surely someday would
But his liver beat him to it and he shut his eyes for good
He watched his Father dying, no tears, no word, or prayer
He didn’t even dig a grave just left him lying there

Now old enough to chose to, he joined the national guards
By day he played at killing, by night he killed at cards
One night he heard them talking of a woman long ago
Of a card playing Countess, one he’d like to know

They said she was a devil, A demon with a deck
She’d leave opponents broken, sometimes swinging by the neck
They said she had a secret, three cards to beat them all
She’d beaten barons and crippled kings, even helped a nation fall

Jonah listened closely, he heard the Countess lives
He’d transfer to her county and her secret would be his
The Countess of Boldino was the rich and worthy kind
Made beggars out of Princes, more than one had lost their mind

But her days of youth were long gone, in her heart it only rained
The fires of love were over, only ash and dust remained
She never wanted children, took too much time and care
But she knew her years were numbered and she’d yet to name an hair

She called out for her driver and they took a trip to town
They searched the darkest corners of the darkest streets around
They were just about to turn in, put off by the rain
They saw a flower in the gutter and Lilly was her name

The Countess smiling kindly said 'I’ll free you from this mess
And back inside her chambers, she received a servants dress
You’ll one day earn my fortune, till then you’ll have to serve
If you think a title comes for free, my dear you have some nerve

The seasons passed like dancers, still the Countess made no will
But Lilly kept her patients; she had a role to fill
She lived behind a window, inside a velvet room
In service to the Countess, she withered in her bloom

Jonah now a soldier in the Countess’s pay
He’d yet to make his move, but this could be the day
Through the Countess’s window, he saw a girl his age
He pulled his pen and paper and with lies he filled the page

He waved up to the window and got down on one knee
He slid his card beneath the door for she would be the key
The letters soon were flying and spoke of love and ties
Lilly’s all so sweet and true, Jonah’s a pack of lies

They agreed upon a meeting at the big midwinter ball
They’d wait till every single soul was drunk inside the hall
The wait seemed almost endless but the day was finally here
All she longed to tell him she could whisper in his ear

Lilly took a silken dress from the Countess’s past
She braided up and bowed her hair, she’d feel real love at last
You’re dressed above your station said the countess with a glare
I pulled you from the dirt but you’ll always be down there
I’ll let you shine for tonight, tomorrow there’s work to do
Oh this strange ironic life where I rely on you

All the Lords and Ladies came in the fashions of their day
They twirled and talked of politics and drank the night away
The Countess made a speech, took a bow, and left the room
Lilly left the latch off and with this she sealed their doom

Jonah followed after, subtle as a snake
All that he’d been scheming, now close enough to take
The Countess saw him creep in, she didn’t turn around
She was taking off her make up in her golden dressing gown

I’ve come to learn your secret said Jonah with a gleam
And I’ll shoot you in a heartbeat if you even think to scream
The Countess like a statue, her face seemed so serene
Her body was as still as ice, eye’s distant in a dream

Jonah took her shoulder, the Countess dropped her head
He felt her neck for signs of life but the Countess was dead
He ran and climbed the staircase and opened Lilly’s door
He scowled without a word and he paced across the floor

I’ve saved myself in waiting said Lilly looking pale
I see you have your doubts, but my love will never fail
No shred of guilt felt for her or the body lay below
This world’s just filled with empty lies he said and turned to go

Your Mothers less than living, took her secret to the grave
All my plans are wasted so there’s nothing here to save
All my efforts useless and all my struggles vain
Don’t preach to me of love, or I’ll teach you of my pain

He went back down the staircase leaving Lilly’s tears behind
I hate to play the common thief, but I’ll rob the dead dog blind
He found her as he left her, heard barking from the yard
But in her hand he newly saw three upright playing cards

The three, the seven, the ace of spades, lay face up on her chest
He smiled and this was all he stole tucked inside his vest
Jonah looked back at the corpse, it winked a wrinkled eye
He laughed it off and left the scene, he’d seen the old dear die

Blood for blood said Lilly low, and stood up from her bed
I’ve nothing left to live for now my only reasons dead
Foolish heart that loved a man as cruel as fire to skin
I’ll take a walk and pay the debt for it's wicked fatal sin

The frost a cloth of diamonds lay gleaming on the ground
And from an empty heaven the snow came falling down
She lay down on the cold earth and felt her sad heart slow
And soon her sobs and pain were gone all buried in the snow

Jonah ran in laughter through the wind and through the cold
He burst into the tavern said I’ve come to claim my gold
He swaggered to the table, they shuffled up the pack
And all upon the three of spades he placed a golden stack

The three indeed the winner and Jonah drew a crowd
He bet his life upon the seven so certain and so proud
The seven did come after, a fortune now secure
His head said take the money, his heart said go for more

I’ll bet you everything I have, all on the ace of spades
And I could buy a kingdom for all the games I’ve played
Silence covered everything, and no one moved a hair
The dealer moved in closer and the last card cut the air

He turned the third card over, sweat streaming from his skin
The card was the queen of spades; it winked its eye at him
Jonah’s heart exploded in a beat skipped fifty years
He died that very instant, no time for grief or tears

So on that bleak midwinter night, three gamblers lost and gone But people come and people go, and the snow keeps falling on.


released September 27, 2020
Ben Holland: Vocals, Acoustic Guitar.
Babu: Bass Guitar.
Ben McClean: Drums.
Andrew Ridge: Electric Guitar.

Recorded in John McClean's house.


all rights reserved



Ben Holland London, UK

Staying one step ahead of my feet.

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