Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Green Fields of France

Julie K. Rose interviewed me recently for her Writers and Sountracks podcast which ye'll find links to here on the associated blog. The interview won't be up for a while, but doing it got me thinking. One of the songs I put on the soundtrack is a song I remember from childhood, "The Green Fields of France" by Eric Bogle. My dad, as I recall, used to play one of the more traditional folk versions of this quite a lot, either The Fureys or The Corries, I guess, and I guess in a lot of ways it sort of sunk in, permeated my consciousness, and may well have a lot to do with the attitude to WW1 and war in general that comes through (rather strongly, I suspect) in VELLUM.

Anyway, as a result, having not heard the song in donkey's years, I thought I'd track down the lyrics which I only had the vaguest memory of, and see if the song itself was floating about on YouTube. And it was. Better still, I hadn't realised there's actually a Dropkick Murphys version of it. I'm not entirely averse to a bit of folk, but this more ragged and bitey version is definitely more up my street. I still think it's a fucking awesomely powerful song, so I thought I'd share it with yez. The two videos are both yer standard YouTube montage thingy, but I think their both pretty good. With the first, I think it's nicely put together, and I kinda found myself getting quite emotional towards the end. The second is rougher round the edges, and it uses some imagery that's not for the faint-hearted, to be honest, so be wared before you watch it. But I think the very end images of Curious George, the Chimp Who Became President, is... well... highly apt.

And the lyrics... well... they speak for themselves.



O, how do you do, young Willy McBride
Do you mind if I sit here down by your graveside
And rest for a while in the warm summer sun
I've been walking all day, and I'm nearly done
And I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen
When you joined the great fallen in 1916
Well I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean
Or, Willy McBride, was is it slow and obscene

Did they beat the drums slowly
Did they play the fife lowly
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down
Did the band play the last post and chorus
Did the pipes play the flowers of the forest

And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
In some loyal heart is your memory enshrined
And though you died back in 1916
To that loyal heart you're forever nineteen
Or are you a stranger without even a name
Forever enshrined behind some old glass pane
In an old photograph torn, tattered, and stained
And faded to yellow in a brown leather frame

Did they beat the drums slowly
Did they play the fife lowly
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down
Did the band play The Last Post and Chorus
Did the pipes play The Flowers of the Forest

The sun shining down on these green fields of France
The warm wind blows gently and the red poppies dance
The trenches have vanished long under the plow
No gas, no barbed wire, no guns firing now
But here in this graveyard that's still no mans land
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man
And a whole generation were butchered and damned

Did they beat the drums slowly
Did they play the fife lowly
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down
Did the band play The Last Post and Chorus
Did the pipes play The Flowers of the Forest

And I can't help but wonder oh Willy McBride
Do all those who lie here know why they died
Did you really believe them when they told you the cause
Did you really believe that this war would end wars
Well, the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame
The killing and dying it was all done in vain
Oh, Willy McBride it all happened again
And again, and again, and again, and AGAIN

Did they beat the drums slowly
Did they play the fife lowly
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down
Did the band play The Last Post and Chorus
Did the pipes play The Flowers of the Forest

2 Comments:

Blogger Pasi said...

A couple of other songs that get me into a very Vellumish mood, are "Mrs. McGrath" and "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda". I think Mrs. McGrath is quite an old tune, dating from the Napoleonic wars but was popular among the Irish during WWI (at least so says Bruce Springsteen who recorded it a couple of years ago).

I have the Pogues version of Waltzing Matilda, which is about an Aussie boy going to WWI, if I remember right. It has a very healthy attitude towards war and I can easily imagine a guy like Seamus telling his tale like that song.

6:46 pm  
Anonymous Harris Kuemmerle said...

Hello,I am the person who made that second video, I did it in a few hours, and to be fair the version I posted on youtube, is not very recent, and yes quite rough around the edges. but whatever, its still cool to be noticed regardless.

2:01 am  

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