28 May 2018

Memorial Day 2018 and William McBride

A lot of people think Memorial Day is the same as Veteran's Day.  It's not - Memorial Day honors those who died fighting for their respective countries, whereas Veteran's Day honors all veterans, living and dead.  Not that there is anything wrong with honoring veterans, period, you know. :-)

Anyway, every single year I think of the poem/song below all day on this day.  I posted it a while back, but I'm sharing it again.  It is so beautiful, and so poignant, and I think it captures the feeling of all of us that are still here among the land of the living.

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Well, how do you do, Private William McBride, 
Do you mind if I sit down here by your graveside? 
And rest for awhile in the warm summer sun, 
I've been walking all day, and I'm nearly done.

And I see by your gravestone you were only 19 
When you joined the glorious fallen in 1916, 
Well, I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean 
Or, Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did the play the pipes lowly? 
Did the rifles fire o'er you as they lowered you down? 
Did the bugles sound The Last Post in chorus? 
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind 
In some loyal heart is your memory enshrined? 
And, though you died back in 1916, 
To that loyal heart are you forever 19?

Or are you a stranger without even a name, 
Forever enshrined behind some glass pane, 
In an old photograph, torn and tattered and stained, 
And fading to yellow in a brown leather frame?

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did the play the pipes lowly?
Did the rifles fire o'er you as they lowered you down? 
Did the bugles sound The Last Post in chorus? 
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?


The sun's shining down on these green fields of France; 
The warm wind blows gently, and the red poppies dance. 
The trenches have vanished long under the plow; 
No gas and no barbed wire, no guns firing now.

But here in this graveyard that's still No Man's Land 
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man. 
And a whole generation who were butchered and damned. 

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 all happened again, 
And again, and again, and again, and again.

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did the play the pipes lowly?
Did the rifles fire o'er you as they lowered you down? 
Did the bugles sound The Last Post in chorus? 
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

-- "The Green Fields of France"

Eric Bogle


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I find it even more poignant when sung, so I'm sharing my favorite version with you.

8 comments:

Tired Teacher said...

Nice! This poem/song was new to me. Thanks for the lyrics and the video.

Kym said...

Just perfect, Bridget. XO

Patty said...

Thank-you Bridget. Beautiful.

Mereknits said...

I try to honor both as I think those who came back had a tough time, I know my Father did and although he did not die in WWII he fought his demons with what he did and saw for the rest of his life.

AsKatKnits said...

I love that song, but did not know it was a poem! Thank you for sharing!

Araignee said...

So beautiful. I spent the weekend watching old WW2 movies on TCM. What a generation they were. We'll never see the likes of them again.

Vera said...

Beautiful (and new to me as well). Thanks for sharing!

elns said...

"A lot of people think Memorial Day is the same as Veteran's Day." I said this VERY THING on Sunday to my Husband as we were watching the news in the morning w/our coffee. Indeed.