Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, October 13, 2014

James Reese Europe: War Poet

Lt. James Reese Europe, bandleader for the Harlem Hellfighters, 369th Infantry, wrote this song while recovering from gassing after an attack.  Below is a link to a YouTube video with a recording of the musical performance of 1919, but try reading the lyrics first as a war poem.  To me it has the authenticity that comes from someone who has been there and done that.

Lt. Europe (left) with the 369th Infantry Band

On Patrol in No Man's Land

What the time? Nine?
Fall in line
Alright, boys, now take it slow
Are you ready? Steady!
Very good, Eddie.

Over the top, let's go
Quiet, lie it, else you'll start a riot
Keep your proper distance, follow 'long
Cover, brother, and when you see me hover
Obey my orders and you won't go wrong

There's a Minenwerfer coming —
        look out (bang!)
Hear that roar (bang!), there's one more (bang!)
Stand fast, there's a Very light 
Don't gasp or they'll find you all right
Don't start to bombing with those hand grenades 

There's a machine gun, holy spades!
Alert, gas! Put on your mask
Adjust it correctly and hurry up fast
Drop! There's a rocket from the Boche barrage
Down, hug the ground, close as you can, don't stand
Creep and crawl, follow me, that's all

What do you hear? Nothing near
Don't fear, all is clear
That's the life of a stroll
When you take a patrol
Out in No Man's Land

Ain't it grand?
Out in No Man's Land

Color Guard, 369th Infantry

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