Sunday, May 29, 2005

Memorial Day: two songs

Allied soldiers in the ruins of a church at Lucey-le-Bocage
In remembrance: two versions (with audio) of an antiwar song inspired by the mass graves of World War I.

The original text (1976) by Scottish-Australian folksinger Eric Bogle is titled "No Man's Land" or "The Green Fields of France." The German version, "Es ist an der Zeit" ("This Is The Time"), is Hannes Wader's 1980 interpretation of Bogle's song. Addressed in imagination to one of the soldiers whose name Bogle discovered on a forgotten grave in northern France, his song could have been written for any of the more than 1,900 Americans—including 75 in the past month—who have perished in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, as then, they were sent to war by leaders who told them they were making the world "safe for democracy."

The music

English version sung by June Tabor
English/German version*

*A live performance by Eric Bogle and the East German folkgroup Wacholder in 1985 in Berlin.

The texts

No Man's Land
Es ist an der Zeit

Do they know why they died? (Eric Bogle)

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.

The time now is right (Hannes Wader)

Es blieb nur das Kreuz als die einzige Spur
Von deinem Leben, doch hör meinen Schwur,
Für den Frieden zu kämpfen und wachsam zu sein:
Fällt die Menscheit noch einmal auf Lügen herein,
Dann kann es geschehen, daß bald niemand mehr lebt,
Keiner der die Milliarden von Toten begräbt.
Doch es finden sich mehr und mehr Menschen bereit,
Diesen Krieg zu verhindern, es ist an der Zeit.

(There's left just a cross as the only last trace
Of the life that you lost: so I'll swear in this place
To stand and to fight in the struggle for peace,
Lest we fall once again for their lies, their deceit.
For then it could happen that no one survived,
None to dig graves for the billions who'd died.
But, no, there are more and more ready to fight
To stop this new war: for the time now is right.)

Ja auch Dich haben sie schon genauso belogen
So wie sie es mit uns heute immer noch tun,
Und Du hast ihnen alles gegeben:
Deine Kraft, Deine Jugend, Dein Leben.

(Yes, just as they lied to you in your last days
They're still lying to us and they'll do it always,
And you gave them all you could give:
All your strength, all your youth and your life.)

[Translation by Andy Lang]

Eric Bogle's Home Page
Hannes Wader's Home Page


At 10:44 PM, Blogger RevJen said...

Peter, Paul, and Mary have a version of this song on their "Flowers and Stones" album. It's a haunting melody and lyric.

Thanks for the back story, Andy.

At 12:02 AM, Anonymous garret said...

Odd. Driving to New London, Conn. from West Hartford today, heard the Bogle song on the Connecticut College radio station -- part of an anti-war Memorial Day set. Got to my mother's house, where there was some kind of Memorial Day concert on the Washington Mall on PBS with Colin Powell and others of his ilk singing "Let There Be Peace on Earth." There's not enough negative capability on earth to embrace those two musical moments.


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