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Stewart, JE - The Messines Road Print E-mail

J. E. Stewart

The Messines Road


The road that runs up to Messines
Is double-locked with gates of fire,
Barred with high ramparts, and between
The unbridged river, and the wire.

None ever goes up to Messines,
For Death lurks all about the town,
Death holds the vale as his demesne,
And only Death moves up and down.


Choked with wild weeds, and overgrown
With rank grass, all torn and rent
By war's opposing engines, strewn
With débris from each day's event!

And in the dark the broken trees,
Whose arching boughs were once its shade,
Grim and distorted, ghostly ease
In groans their souls vexed and afraid.

Yet here the farmer drove his cart,
Here friendly folk would meet and pass,
Here bore the good wife eggs to mart
And old and young walked up to Mass.

Here schoolboys lingered in the way,
Here the bent packman laboured by,
And lovers at the end o' the day
Whispered their secret blushingly.

A goodly road for simple needs,
An avenue to praise and paint,
Kept by fair use from wreck and weeds,
Blessed by the shrine of its own saint.


The road that runs up to Messines!
Ah, how we guard it day and night!
And how they guard it, who o'erween
A stricken people, with their might!

But we shall go up to Messines
Even thro' that fire-defended gate.
Over and thro' all else between
And give the highway back its state.

Magee, John Gillespie Print E-mail

John Gillespie Magee Jr. (1922-1941)

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, -- and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of -- wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air ....

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark nor ever eagle flew --
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Royal Canadian Air Force died in an accident on 11th December 1941.  He is buried Scopwick Church burial Ground, Lincolnshire alongside 49 Commonwealth and five German airmen who lost their lives in the Second World War.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission http://www.cwgc.org/

Trad - Famous Flower of Serving Men Print E-mail

This song has several variations and like all folk songs changes and evolves.  In brief it is number 106 of the 300+ Ballads collected by Francis Child at the end of the 19th century. 

The lyrics describe a mother having her daughter's husband and baby murdered. The distraught daughter changes her name from Eleanor to William, covers up her femininity, cuts her hair and gets work in the Kings Court where (s)he eventaully becomes the King's chamberlain.  The King goes off hunting and follows a magical white hind and gets lost/led to a clearing where the king hears the murderous tale from the dead husband, who has taken the magical form of a dove.  The King zooms off home and sweeps up William / Eleanor much to the surprise of the court.  The King orders the mother tracked down and she's burned at the stake (hurrah)!.  The King marries Eleanor and she lives happily ever after.

In the Martin Carthy verson on the CD "Waiting for Angels" the beginning and end is cut and there are differences in words here and there. 

Traditional Arr

Famous Flower of Serving Men

Tawney, Cyril - Grey Funnel Line Print E-mail

Cyril Tawney (1930-2005)

Grey Funnel Line

Brooke, Rupert - The Soldier Print E-mail

Rupert Brooke (1887-1915)

The Soldier

If I should die, think only this of me:
    That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
    In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
    Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam;
A body of England's, breathing English air,
    Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
    A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
        Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
    And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
        In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Yeats, WB - When You Are Old Print E-mail

W. B. Yeats

When You Are Old

When you are old and gray and full of sleep
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true;
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face.

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead,
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

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