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

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Soldiers' Lyrics for Popular Songs

Surely readers of Roads to the Great War are familiar with the risque optional lyrics to "Mademoiselle from Armentieres".  Not all the such treatments, though, were of the naughty character.  Here, one veteran — a chaplain — remembers that love ballads received similar adjustments.

The Tommies came out of England singing "Tipperary," but they dropped it in France, and the only one on whose lips I have heard it was a little French boy sitting on the tail of a cart. The chorus alone gave it popularity for it was the expression, ready to hand, of a long farewell; and with its "long long way to go" showed that, like Kitchener, the soldiers were not deceived by hopes of an early peace.

Now another song with verses more expressive of their sentiments has taken its place. The chorus runs:

"There's a long, long trail a-winding
             Into the land of my dreams,
Where the nightingales are singing
             And a white moon beams;
There's a long, long night of waiting
            Until my dreams all come true;
Till the day when I'll be going down
             That long, long trail with you."

Then the mood changes and we hear the lads piping out,

"Taffy's got his Jennie in Glamorgan,
             Sandy's got his Maggie in Dundee,
While Michael O'Leary thinks of his dearie
             Far across the Irish Sea.
Billy's got his Lily up in London,
             So the boys march on with smiles;
For every Tommy's got a girl somewhere
             In the dear old British Isles."

Again the mood veers round, and we hear,

 "Every little while I feel so lonely,
            Every little while I feel so blue,
I'm always dreaming, I'm always scheming,
            Because I want you, and only you.
Every little while my heart is aching,
             Every little while I miss your smile,
And all the time I seem to miss you;
I want to, want to kiss you,
            Every, every, every little while."

From: The Soul of The Soldier: Sketches from the Western Battle-Front
By Thomas Teplady

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