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Friday, November 11, 2005

November 11

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 the armistice began that ended the fighting in World War I. In 1926, Armistice Day, as November 11 came to be known, officially became a holiday in the United States. On June 1, 1954, the name was changed to Veterans Day to honor all U.S. veterans. In 1968, new legislation changed the national commemoration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. It soon became apparent, however, that November 11 was a date of historic significance to many Americans. Therefore, in 1978 Congress changed the observance to back to the traditional date of November 11th.

That is the history of today and I could write many words about it. However, sometimes poetry is more expressive than prose. And poetry set to music—i.e., a song—can occasionally be even more expressive. So below are links to some songs that I associate with what we are celebrating today. If I could determine how to put audio into this blog, I’d unpack my guitar and play and sing them for you. (I have played and sung each of these many times). Lacking that ability, I offer you these links and my hope that the songs touch something in you as they have touched something in me. I urge you to go beyond reading the lyrics and follow the links to hear to the songs.

Terry Kelly: A Pittance of Time

They fought and some died for their homeland.
They fought and some died, now it's our land.
Look at his little child; there's no fear in her eyes.
Could he not show respect for other dads who have died?

Take two minutes, would you mind?

It's a pittance of time,
For the boys and the girls who went over.
In peace may they rest, may we never forget why they died.
It's a pittance of time.

God forgive me for wanting to strike him.

Give me strength so as not to be like him.
My heart pounds in my breast, fingers pressed to my lips,
My throat wants to bawl out, my tongue barely resists.

But two minutes I will bide.It's a pittance of time,

For the boys and the girls who went over.In peace may they rest.
May we never forget why they died.It's a pittance of time.

Read the letters and poems of the heroes at home.

They have casualties, battles, and fears of their own.
There's a price to be paid if you go, if you stay.
Freedom's fought for and won in numerous ways.

Take two minutes, would you mind?It's a pittance of time,

For the boys and the girls all over.
May we never forget, our young become vets.
At the end of the line,
It's a pittance of time.

It takes courage to fight in your own war.

It takes courage to fight someone else's war.
Our peacekeepers tell of their own living hell.
They bring hope to foreign lands that hate mongers can't kill.

Take two minutes, would you mind?

It's a pittance of time,
For the boys and the girls who go over.
In peacetime our best still don battle dress
And lay their lives on the line.
It's a pittance of time

Eric Bogle: No Man's Land or The Green Fields of France

Well, how'd you do, Private Willie McBride,
D'you mind if I sit down down here by your graveside?
I'll rest for awhile in the warm summer sun,
Been walking all day, Lord, and I'm nearly done.
I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen
When you joined the glorious fallen in 1916,
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 sound the fife lowly?
Did the rifles fire o'er ye as they lowered ye down?
Did the bugles sing "The Last Post" in chorus?
Did the pipes play the "Flowers O' The Forest"?

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

Well, the sun's shining down on these green fields of France;
The warm wind blows gently, the red poppies dance.
The trenches have vanished long under the plow;
No gas and no barbed wire, no guns firing now.
But here in this graveyard it'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 who 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, the dying, it was all done in vain,
For Willie McBride, it's all happened again,

And again, and again, and again, and again.


Eric Bogle: The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

Now when I was a young man I carried me pack
And I lived the free life of the rover.
From the Murray's green basin to the dusty outback,
Well, I waltzed my Matilda all over.
Then in 1915, my country said, "Son,
It's time you stop ramblin', there's work to be done."
So they gave me a tin hat, and they gave me a gun,
And they marched me away to the war.

And the band played "Waltzing Matilda,"
As the ship pulled away from the quay,
And amidst all the cheers, the flag waving, and tears,
We sailed off for Gallipoli.

And how well I remember that terrible day,
How our blood stained the sand and the water;
And of how in that hell that they call Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter.
Johnny Turk, he was waitin', he primed himself well;
He showered us with bullets, and he rained us with shell --
And in five minutes flat, he'd blown us all to hell,
Nearly blew us right back to Australia.

But the band played "Waltzing Matilda,"
When we stopped to bury our slain,
Well, we buried ours, and the Turks buried theirs,
Then we started all over again.

And those that were left, well, we tried to survive
In that mad world of blood, death and fire.
And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive
Though around me the corpses piled higher.
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head,
And when I woke up in me hospital bed
And saw what it had done, well, I wished I was dead --
Never knew there was worse things than dying.

For I'll go no more "Waltzing Matilda,"
All around the green bush far and free --
To hump tents and pegs, a man needs both legs,
No more "Waltzing Matilda" for me.

So they gathered the crippled, the wounded, the maimed,
And they shipped us back home to Australia.
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane,
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla.
And as our ship sailed into Circular Quay,
I looked at the place where me legs used to be,
And thanked Christ there was nobody waiting for me,
To grieve, to mourn and to pity.

But the band played "Waltzing Matilda,"
As they carried us down the gangway,
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared,
Then they turned all their faces away.

And so now every April, I sit on my porch
And I watch the parade pass before me.
And I see my old comrades, how proudly they march,
Reviving old dreams of past glory,
And the old men march slowly, all bones stiff and sore,
They're tired old heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask "What are they marching for?"
And I ask meself the same question.

But the band plays "Waltzing Matilda,"
And the old men still answer the call,
But as year follows year, more old men disappear
Someday, no one will march there at all.

Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda.
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?
And their ghosts may be heard as they march by the billabong,
Who'll come a-Waltzing Matilda with me?








5 comments:

  1. the one is a vedio i saw on tv but didnt know the words. thnx for the words

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  2. Those songs do say something to me. Thanks!

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  3. A bunch of my favorites, right there. Thanks for posting them.

    Unfortunately, German is one of the numerous languages that I'm cursed with, so I actually understood the drivel that completely ruined No Man's Land for me.

    Not to worry. I still have the original to wash out my ears with.

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  4. Jody & Mike: You are welcome.

    Misha: They are three of my favorites, too. I think I understand the “why” of the alternating English and German in “No Man’s Land.” Although I, too, understand German, it does nothing for me and rather undermined the power of the last verse’s statement about the “war would end wars.”

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  5. Thank you for the links.

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