For those serving at Christmas
Each year at this time, we reprint for you the lyrics from John McCutcheon’s "Christmas in the Trenches," a story of men far from home in a time of war. With the world as it is, and the generals taking more power in Washington, we think that this year, it is even more poignant:
"My name is Francis Tolliver, I come from Liverpool,
"Two years ago the war was waiting for me after school.
"To Belgium and to Flanders to Germany to here
"I fought for King and country I love dear.
" ‘Twas Christmas in the trenches where the frost so bitter hung,
"The frozen fields of France were still, no Christmas song was sung,
"Our families back in England were toasting us that day,
"Their brave and glorious lads so far away.
"I was lying with my messmate on the cold and rocky ground
"When across the lines of battle came a most peculiar sound
"Says I, ‘Now listen up, me boys!’ each soldier strained to hear
"As one young German voice sang out so clear.
" ‘He’s singing bloody well, you know!’ my partner says to me
"Soon one by one each German voice joined in in harmony
"The cannons rested silent, the gas clouds rolled no more
"As Christmas brought us respite from the war.
"As soon as they were finished and a reverent pause was spent
" ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ struck up some lads from Kent
"The next they sang was ‘Stille Nacht,’ ‘ ‘Tis "Silent Night," ‘ says I
"And in two tongues one song filled up that sky.
" ‘There’s someone coming towards us!’ the front line sentry cried
"All sights were fixed on one lone figure coming from their side
"His truce flag, like a Christmas star, shone on that plain so bright
"As he bravely strode unarmed into the night.
"Soon one by one on either side walked into No Man’s land
"With neither gun nor bayonet we met there hand to hand
"We shared some secret brandy and we wished each other well
"And in a flare-lit soccer game we gave ’em hell.
"We traded chocolates, cigarettes and photographs from home
"These sons and fathers far away from families of their own
"Young Sanders played his squeeze box and they had a violin
"This curious and unlikely band of men.
"Soon daylight stole upon us and France was France once more
"With sad farewells we each began to settle back to war
"But the question haunted every heart that lived that wondrous night
" ‘Whose family have I fixed within my sights?’
"’Twas Christmas in the trenches, where the frost so bitter hung
"The frozen fields of France were warmed as songs of peace were sung
"For the walls they’d kept between us to exact the work of war
"Had been crumbled and were gone for evermore.
"My name is Francis Tolliver, in Liverpool I dwell
"Each Christmas come since World War I I’ve learned its lessons well
"That the ones who call the shots won’t be among the dead and lame
"And on each end of the rifle we’re the same."
Go to YouTube and watch him perform it. And then remember these lyrics from 1943, about soldiers wishing they were home:
"I’ll Be Home For Christmas"
By Kim Gannon Walter Kent
"I’ll be home for Christmas; you can plan on me.
"Please have snow and mis-tle-toe, and presents on the tree.
"Christmas eve will find me where the love light gleams.
"I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams."
These songs are for all men and women risking their lives today, and for those who will probably have to risk their lives in the future.