Soldier Songs for Baritone

Song Cycle by Hugo Weisgall (1912 - 1997)

Word count: 407

?. Shiloh [sung text not yet checked]

Skimming lightly, wheeling still,
  The swallows fly low
Over the fields in [clouded]1 days,
  The forest-field of Shiloh --
Over the field where April rain
Solaced the parched ones stretched in pain
Through the pause of night
That followed the Sunday fight
  Around the church of Shiloh --
The church, so lone, the log-built one,
That echoed to many a parting groan
      And natural prayer
  Of dying foemen mingled there --
Foemen at morn, but friends at eve --
  Fame or country least their care:
(What like a bullet can undeceive!)
  But now they lie low,
While over them the swallows skim,
  And all is hushed at Shiloh.

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1 Weisgall (?) : "cloudy" (needs to be confirmed)
Note: April 6th-7th, 1862, Shiloh, Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee: General Ulysses S. Grant, leading Union forces (Armies of the Tennessee and of the Ohio), defeated the Confederate Army of the Mississippi under Generals Albert Sidney Johnston and P. G. T. Beauregard. Almost 24,000 soldiers died in the battle.

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

?. The leveller [sung text not yet checked]

Near Martinpuisch that night of hell
Two men were struck by the same shell,
Together tumbling in one heap
Senseless and limp like slaughtered sheep.

One was a pale eighteen-year-old,
Girlish and thin and not too bold,
Pressed for the war ten years too soon,
The shame and pity of his platoon.

The other came from far-off lands
With bristling chin and whiskered hands,
He had known death and hell before
In Mexico and Ecuador.

Yet in his death this cut-throat wild
Groaned "Mother!  Mother!" like a child,
While that poor innocent in man's clothes
Died cursing God with brutal oaths.

Old Sergeant Smith, kindest of men,
Wrote out two copies there and then
Of his accustomed funeral speech
To cheer the womenfolk of each.

Authorship

First published in New Statesman, January 1919

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

2. Suicide in the trenches [sung text not yet checked]

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.

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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

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


Research team for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator] , Pierre Mathé [Guest Editor]

4. my sweet old etcetera [sung text not yet checked]

my sweet old etcetera
 . . . . . . . . . .

— The rest of this text is not
currently in the database but will be
added as soon as we obtain it. —

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This text may be copyright, so we will not display it until we obtain permission to do so or discover it is public-domain.

7. Futility [sung text not yet checked]

Move him into the sun -
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields [unsown]1.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning, and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know. 

Think how it wakes the seed -
Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides,
Full-nerved - still warm - too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
- O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break [earth's]2 sleep at all?

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

  • FRE French (Français) (Pierre Mathé) , "Futilité", copyright © 2015, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

View original text (without footnotes)
First published in Nation, 1918
1 in some editions, "half-sown"
2 Rands: "the earth's"

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]