Song Lyric Sunday – another protest song

Can I get two bites of the cherry with Song Lyric Sunday?  My Dad suggested the first one, but if my Mum were still with us I think this one would have been her choice. I can still remember the songs of the Fureys coming through the ceiling from the kitchen as she cooked dinner:

This song just absolutely kills me. There was a very sugary version of it by Joss Stone released for Remembrance Day a few years ago which I strongly advise you NEVER listen to. I have and it made me want to rip my ears off.  Lines like “The killing and dying was all done in vain – it happened again and again and again” need to be sung bitterly by a grizzled old man who sounds like he’s singing in a bar, in between sips of beer and drags of a cigarette, not some pretty girl in a floaty dress mincing around an installation of ceramic poppies. Here’s the lyrics anyway. Thanks Mum xx

“The Green Fields Of France”
(originally by Eric Bogle)

Oh 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 obsceneDid 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 forestAnd 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

Lyrics courtesy of AZLyrics.com
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9 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday – another protest song

  1. Pingback: Song Lyric Sunday – another protest song – Meritings

  2. Aww, this song always makes me tear up, even though I didn’t experience WWI and don’t know anyone who was affected by it.

    It’s a powerful, beautiful song.

  3. So sad. My great-uncle William (Willy), who was my grandmother’s favourite brother, was killed in France in September 1916. She never ceased to mourn him. He lied about his age in order to join up, but I think he may have been 20 (not 19) when he was killed.

    • I’ve been trying to trace my family tree and think I’ve found my grandmother’s uncle who died in WWI. If it’s the same person he was scandalously underage when he joined up.

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