There’s a thin rain of music comes across the poppied corn,
Across the poppied corn and the sun-splashed sea,
Crying, ‘Who’s a-going venturing, a-venturing, a-venturing,
Who’s a-going venturing with all a man can be?’
O, listen, listen, listen, for it’s far, far away,
The dim remembered country where the ghostly pipers blow,
Across a world of sorrows to a green blue day
When boyhood went a-soldiering, a-soldiering, a-soldiering,
When boyhood went a-soldiering, twenty years ago.
So off the white starched collar
And the neat grey suit,
The crease in the trousers
And the pointed boot,
The rolled umbrella
And the bowler hat,
Make them in a bundle –
That’s the end of that.
For it’s polish for the buttons
And dubbin for the boots,
And a D.P. rifle
For the new recruits.
We’re learning ‘Tipperary’
And the squad drill hack,
And we’re breaking faulty bayonets
In a straw-filled sack.
We’re studying the language
That the bugles blow
. . . . . . .
Lad, can it be twenty years, twenty years, twenty years,
Lad, can it be twenty years, twenty years ago?
They made the boy a soldier in the passing of a day,
And Agamemnon’s warriors on the windy plains of Troy,
And Caesar’s legionaries and the guards of Marshal Ney,
Ay, even the Crusaders had nothing on the boy;
For he fought in France and Flanders mud, in Macedonian sand,
In Africa’s green jungle, and in the Russian snow,
And he marched against Jerusalem and made the Promised Land –
The boy that went a-soldiering, a-soldiering, a-soldiering,
The boy that went a-soldiering, twenty years ago.
With poisoned gas they choke him,
With shell and shock and flame
The beauty of his body
They mangle and they maim.
And when it all was over,
They worship for an hour,
And build him a memorial,
And bring to him a flower.
And as the years piled higher,
They dipped a bloody pen
Into a well of filthiness
And killed the boy again.
They branded him a libertine,
A coward and a sot.
The wrong things were remembered,
And the promises forgot.
Yes, round his grave they watched unmoved
The weeds of horror grow,
The boy they swore they’d ne’er forget
Just twenty years ago, just twenty years ago, just twenty years ago.
The boy is dead in all of us, and War’s an ugly thing,
And the pacifist is right no doubt, and the service man is ex.,
And ‘Tipperary’ nowadays is no great song to sing,
And there isn’t much romance about shell-shock and nervous wrecks.
But still we hear the music across the poppied corn,
Across a world of sorrow the ghostly pipers blow.
And thank God we went soldiering, a-soldiering, a-soldiering
With that boy that went a-soldiering twenty years ago!