Thursday, April 12, 2007

Willie McBride

"No Man's Land" is the actual title of this song by Eric Bogle, a well-known Scottish-Australian songwriter. Whether you know this song under the title "No Man's Land", "The Green Fields of France" or "Willie McBride", it is a song which tugs at the heart.

Here's a YouTube version.

Well, how do you do, young Willie 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 nineteen-sixteen.
Well, I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean
Or, Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?

Chorus :
Did they beat the drum 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 o' 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 nineteen-sixteen
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 a old photograph, torn and tattered and stained
And faded to yellow in a brown leather frame?

The sun's 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 Man's 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.

And I can't help but wonder now, Willie 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, Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.

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