MEN OF HARLECH
Music c.1794, Words: various versions. Some say the words refer to the siege of Harlech Castle which lasted from 1461 to 1486 – the longest in British history; others say it refers to an earlier shorter siege of the Castle in 1408. Anyway, lyrics were added some four decades after the march tune was first published, and there are several different versions of these, some in Welsh. Thomas Oliphant (1799-1873) wrote his in 1862 (he also wrote the Christmas carol Deck the Halls, the English lyrics of many of Schubert’s lieder and a huge amount of other now standard songs). These are by John Oxenford (1812-77), dramatist and translator, published in The Songs of Wales (1873).
Men of Harlech, march to glory,
Victory is hov’ring o’er ye,
Bright-eyed freedom stands before ye,
Hear ye not her call?
At your sloth she seems to wonder;
Rend the sluggish bonds asunder,
Let the war-cry’s deaf’ning thunder
Every foe appall.
Echoes loudly waking,
Hill and valley shaking;
‘Till the sound spreads wide around,
The Saxon’s courage breaking;
Your foes on every side assailing,
Forward press with heart unfailing,
‘Till invaders learn with quailing,
Cambria ne’er can yield!
Thou, who noble Cambria wrongest,
Know that freedom’s cause is strongest,
Freedom’s courage lasts the longest,
Ending but with death!
Freedom countless hosts can scatter,
Freedom stoutest mail can shatter,
Freedom thickest walls can batter,
Fate is in her breath.
See, they now are flying!
Dead are heap’d with dying!
Over might hath triumph’d right,
Our land to foes denying;
Upon their soil we never sought them,
Love of conquest hither brought them,
But this lesson we have taught them,
“Cambria ne’er can yield!”
These are the lyrics (by whom?) when the song was used, famously, in the film Zulu:
Men of Harlech stop your dreaming!
Can’t you see their spear points gleaming?
See their warrior’s pennants streaming
To this battle field!
Men of Harlech stand ye steady.
It cannot be ever said ye
For the battle were not ready
Stand and never yield.
From the hills rebounding
Let this war cry sounding!
Summon all at Cambria’s call
The mighty force surrounding.
Men of Harlech onto glory –
This shall ever be your story.
Keep these fighting words before ye!
Cambria (Welshmen never) will not yield.
But I prefer this version by William Hope-Jones, an Eton housemaster, penned sometime before 1914. It is variously titled The Woad Ode and Song of the Ancient Britons, and became a popular camp fire songs for the Boy Scouts.
THE WOAD ODE or SONG OF THE ANCIENT BRITONS
What’s the use of wearing braces?
Vests and pants and boots with laces?
Spats and hats you buy in places
Down the Brompton Road?
What’s the use of shirts of cotton?
Studs that always get forgotten?
These affairs are simply rotten,
Better far is woad.
Woad’s the stuff to show men.
Woad to scare your foemen.
Boil it to a brilliant hue
And rub it on your back and your abdomen.
Ancient Briton ne’er did hit on
Anything as good as woad to fit on
Neck or knees or where you sit on.
Tailors you be blowed!
Romans came across the channel
All dressed up in tin and flannel.
Half a pint of woad per man’ll
Dress us more than these.
Saxons you can waste your stitches
Building beds for bugs in britches
We have woad to clothe us which is
Not a nest for fleas.
Romans keep your armours,
Saxons your pyjamas!
Hairy coats were made for goats,
Gorillas, yaks, retriever dogs and llamas
Tramp up Snowdon with your woad on,
Never mind if you get rained or snowed on
Never want a button sewed on.
Go it Ancient B’s!
I cannot hear the Men of Harlech tune without thinking of the Woad version!