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Songbook of the War

Word count: 1201

Song Cycle by Michael Ippolito (b. 1985)

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1. Prologue


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[--- Tacet ---]

2. Aftermath [ sung text checked 1 time]

Language: English

Translation(s): FRE

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • FRE French (Français) (Pierre Mathé) , "Suites", copyright © 2016, (re)printed on this website with kind permission


Have you forgotten yet?...
For the world's events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked awhile at the crossing of city ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heavens of life; and you're a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same -- and War's a bloody game....
Have you forgotten yet?...
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you'll never forget.
  
Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz, --
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench -- 
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, "Is it all going to happen again?"
  
Do you remember that hour of din before the attack -- 
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads, those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?
  
Have you forgotten yet?...
Look up, and swear by the green of the Spring that you'll never forget.


Confirmed with Siegfried Sassoon, PICTURE-SHOW and other poems, E.P. Dutton and company, 1920, page 47.


Submitted by Emily Ezust [Administrator] and Pierre Mathé [Guest Editor]

3. France [ sung text checked 1 time]

Language: English

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She triumphs, in the vivid green
Where sun and quivering foliage meet;
And in each soldier’s heart serene;
When death stood near them they have seen
The radiant forests where her feet
Move on a breeze of silver sheen.
  
And they are fortunate, who fight
For gleaming landscapes swept and shafted
And crowned by cloud pavilions white;
Hearing such harmonies as might
Only from Heaven be downward wafted—
Voices of victory and delight.


Submitted by Malcolm Wren [Guest Editor]

4. I Stood with the Dead [ sung text checked 1 time]

Language: English

Translation(s): FRE

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • FRE French (Français) (Pierre Mathé) , "J'étais avec les morts", copyright © 2017, (re)printed on this website with kind permission


I stood with the Dead, so forsaken and still:
When dawn was grey I stood with the Dead.
And my slow heart said, 'You must kill, you must kill:
'Soldier, soldier, morning is red'.

On the shapes of the slain in their crumpled disgrace
I stared for a while through the thin cold rain...
'O lad that I loved, there is rain on your face,
'And your eyes are blurred and sick like the plain.'
  
I stood with the Dead ... They were dead; they were dead;
My heart and my head beat a march of dismay:
And gusts of the wind came dulled by the guns.
'Fall in!' I shouted; 'Fall in for your pay!'


Confirmed with Siegfried Sassoon, PICTURE-SHOW and other poems, E.P. Dutton and company, New York, 1920, page 11


Submitted by Emily Ezust [Administrator] and Pierre Mathé [Guest Editor]

5. How to Die [ sung text checked 1 time]

Language: English

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Dark clouds are smouldering into red
  While down the craters morning burns.
The dying soldier shifts his head
  To watch the glory that returns;
He lifts his fingers toward the skies
  Where holy brightness breaks in flame;
Radiance reflected in his eyes,
  And on his lips a whispered name.
  
You’d think, to hear some people talk,
  That lads go West with sobs and curses,
And sullen faces white as chalk,
  Hankering for wreaths and tombs and hearses.
But they’ve been taught the way to do it
  Like Christian soldiers; not with haste
And shuddering groans; but passing through it
  With due regard for decent taste


Submitted by Malcolm Wren [Guest Editor]

6. Base Details [ sung text checked 1 time]

Language: English

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If I were fierce, and bald, and short of breath,
  I’d live with scarlet Majors at the Base,
And speed glum heroes up the line to death.
  You’d see me with my puffy petulant face,
Guzzling and gulping in the best hotel,
  Reading the Roll of Honour. ‘Poor young chap,’
I’d say—‘I used to know his father well;
  Yes, we’ve lost heavily in this last scrap.’
And when the war is done and youth stone dead,
I’d toddle safely home and die — in bed.


Submitted by Malcolm Wren [Guest Editor]

7. Suicide in the trenches [ sung text checked 1 time]

Language: English

Translation(s): FRE

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • FRE French (Français) (Pierre Mathé) , "Suicide dans les tranchées", copyright © 2017, (re)printed on this website with kind permission


I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.

 *       *       *       *       *

You snug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.


Confirmed with Siegfried Sassoon, COUNTER-ATTACK and other poems, E.P .Dutton and company, New York, 1918, page 31


Submitted by Emily Ezust [Administrator] and Pierre Mathé [Guest Editor]

8. Hero (from Glory of Women and Hero)

Note: this is a multi-text setting

You love us when we’re heroes, home on leave,
Or wounded in a mentionable place.
You worship decorations; you believe
That chivalry redeems the war’s disgrace.
You make us shells. You listen with delight,
By tales of dirt and danger fondly thrilled.
You crown our distant ardours while we fight,
And mourn our laurelled memories when we’re killed.
You can’t believe that British troops ‘retire’
When hell’s last horror breaks them, and they run,
Trampling the terrible corpses—blind with blood.
  O German mother dreaming by the fire, 
  While you are knitting socks to send your son
  His face is trodden deeper in the mud.

Authorship

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Submitted by Malcolm Wren [Guest Editor]

'Jack fell as he'd have wished,' the Mother said,
And folded up the letter that she'd read. 
'The Colonel writes so nicely.' Something broke
In the tired voice that quavered to a choke.
She half looked up. 'We mothers are so proud
Of our dead soldiers.' Then her face was bowed.

Quietly the Brother Officer went out.
He'd told the poor old dear some gallant lies
That she would nourish all her days, no doubt.
For while he coughed and mumbled, her weak eyes
Had shone with gentle triumph, brimmed with joy,
Because he'd been so brave, her glorious boy.

He thought how 'Jack', cold-footed, useless swine,
Had panicked down the trench that night the mine
Went up at Wicked Corner; how he'd tried 
To get sent home, and how, at last, he died,
Blown to small bits. And no one seemed to care 
Except that lonely woman with white hair.

Authorship

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Submitted by Malcolm Wren [Guest Editor]

9. Does it Matter? [ sung text checked 1 time]

Language: English

Authorship


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Does it matter? — losing your legs?...
For people will always be kind,
And you need not show that you mind
When the others come in after hunting
To gobble their muffins and eggs.

Does it matter? — losing your sight?...
There’s such splendid work for the blind;
And people will always be kind,
As you sit on the terrace remembering
And turning your face to the light.
  
Do they matter? — those dreams from the pit?...
You can drink and forget and be glad,
And people won’t say that you’re mad;
For they’ll know you’ve fought for your country
And no one will worry a bit.


Submitted by Malcolm Wren [Guest Editor]

10. Song-Books of the War [ sung text checked 1 time]

Language: English

Authorship

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In fifty years, when peace outshines
Remembrance of the battle lines,
Adventurous lads will sigh and cast
Proud looks upon the plundered past.
On summer morn or winter’s night,
Their hearts will kindle for the fight,
Reading a snatch of soldier-song,
Savage and jaunty, fierce and strong;
And through the angry marching rhymes
Of blind regret and haggard mirth,
They’ll envy us the dazzling times
When sacrifice absolved our earth.
  
Some ancient man with silver locks
Will lift his weary face to say:
‘War was a fiend who stopped our clocks
Although we met him grim and gay.’
And then he’ll speak of Haig’s last drive,
Marvelling that any came alive
Out of the shambles that men built
And smashed, to cleanse the world of guilt.
But the boys, with grin and sidelong glance,
Will think, ‘Poor grandad’s day is done.’
And dream of lads who fought in France
And lived in time to share the fun.


Submitted by Malcolm Wren [Guest Editor]

11. Epilogue [ sung text checked 1 time]

Language: English

Translation(s): FRE

List of language codes

Authorship


See other settings of this text.

Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • FRE French (Français) (Pierre Mathé) , "Suites", copyright © 2016, (re)printed on this website with kind permission


Have you forgotten yet?...
For the world's events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked awhile at the crossing of city ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heavens of life; and you're a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same -- and War's a bloody game....
Have you forgotten yet?...
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you'll never forget.
  
Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz, --
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench -- 
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, "Is it all going to happen again?"
  
Do you remember that hour of din before the attack -- 
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads, those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?
  
Have you forgotten yet?...
Look up, and swear by the green of the Spring that you'll never forget.


Confirmed with Siegfried Sassoon, PICTURE-SHOW and other poems, E.P. Dutton and company, 1920, page 47.


Submitted by Emily Ezust [Administrator] and Pierre Mathé [Guest Editor]

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