April 15, 2024

Kris Kristofferson by Fans, for Fans

In appreciation of the Silver Tongued Devil

Sabre and the Rose

About an enigmatic song, an enigmatic dog and my little girl

Sabre and the Rose wasn’t my favourite song from the Easter Island album, but it was the one that cost me the most to import.  Needless to stay, that LP record was kept in pristine condition despite being played so often that my Dad said that one day I would take it off the turntable and discover it had become a spring.

Initially, I bought the album for one track, Forever in your Love, when I was working for a small newspaper, The Durban Mirror – Part of Mirror Publishing, a company run, ruled and stylishly managed by the least materialist businessman/newspaperman I ever met, Fred Schroeder. Fortunately, we shared a business-savvy friend, Ben Roets, and I am sure it was him that kept the paper just to the left of the red for a good few years!

Around a year after marrying and moving towns and becoming a mum I set off in search of the right dog.  I found one at the local sanctuary, a 9-month-old black Dobie cross who was due to be euthanised the next day.  The SPCA in Empangeni had decided she was not a candidate for re-homing as she was dropped off by her previous owners for biting a priest.

We looked at many gorgeous dogs that day, but there was just something about this one.  It took a lot of talking, persuading, donating and haggling before the lady who was on duty reluctantly handed me a lead and told me I could take her home.

I might have been brainwashed after listening to Easter Island so many times, but her name came to me before we even got to the car.

She was Sabre.

What a beautiful animal.  She was protective, and adjustments had to be made. The post box had to be moved to the outside of the fence so the postman could deliver mail, and we never could trust her around strangers, but she never showed anything but love and adoration for the family, especially my daughter who was 12 weeks old at the time.  From day 1, Sabre slept under Holly’s cot.  Later, she took my young daughter to the park and if she could get out she would follow her to school, and wait for her in the afternoons.  Some days, she’d get out and walk her home.  She was a faithful companion for over 13 years.  What a song, what a dog!  I still don’t fully understand the lyrics any more than I understood Sabre, but I love them both.

Song lyrics are below the now old and faded photographs of Sabre.



Sabre and the Rose Lyrics

Feet hit the ground; feet leaving town, quicker than a bullet or a knife
Falling ain’t no fun when you’re on the run, Honey we was runnin’ for our life

When Stagger Lee had drunk his fill of moonlight, he turned his burnin’ eyes upon my soul
“It’s time, by God, to spend this night with someone else”, he said
“Squeeze a little pleasure from the gold” (love and glory, children)
We can take it easy when we’re old

He said, “We’ll take us into town, lay our money down, I’ll bring you to the sweetest thing that grows
Because the fairest ones in sight are bloomin’ every night at a tavern called the Sabre and the Rose.”

We swang into the saddle slick as breathing and slapped ’em once for pleasure with the reins
The horses snorted frosty in the moonlight, somethin’ dark was singing in my veins
Older than the voices in my brain

He said, “This place you’re gonna see is where they live and breathe and sink down a little bit deeper every day
And sometimes at night, when the wind is runnin’ right, you can hear it suckin’ thirty miles away”

Then the light was crimson and I found her, all naked and eternal and insane
Sacred as the mysteries around her like a veil, nothin’ but her prison was profane
All we had in common was our chains

Ah-burn it down boys, burn it to the ground, boys

All the way she ran holdin’ to my hand, runnin’ for the river and our life
Slidin’ from the moonlight into shadows, silent as the river as it flows
Swimmin’ to the place they’ll never find us, all we left behind us was our clothes
And the stories,

Children, sing about The Sabre and the Rose

3 thoughts on “Sabre and the Rose

  1. I’ve always thought The Sabre and the Rose was a song about a “house of ill repute”. With the name of the establishment making a clever reference to the male and female genitalia. The hero of the song then rescues one of the women from a life of bondage.

  2. What a beautiful story! Made me well up! There’s life in an old dog yet, and so it seems. . . As for the meaning of the song Sabre and the Rose, Kris seemed to enjoy his time spent in Oxford, England and many old English pubs (ale houses) had names like this The King and Crown, the Horse and Cart, the Cow and Calf and indeed The Sabre and the Rose it always drew a picture for me of the clientele of such a Tavern, The beautiful barmaid (The Rose) and the Tough rugged patrons (The Sabre) that frequented it! and the adventure that entailed . . . Kris always draws a picture in my mind with his lyrics An incredible wordsmith!

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