Christmas in the Trenches - John McCutcheon

    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 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 toward us!" the front line sentry cried
    All sights were fixed on one lone figure trudging 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 squeezebox 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 farewell we each prepared to settle back to war
    But the question haunted every heart that lived that wonderous night
    "Whose family have I fixed within my sights?"
    'Twas Christmas in the trenches where the frost so bitter, hung
    The frozed 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 forevermore

    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

    © 1984 John McCutcheon - Appalsong


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