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Old Enough to Kill a Man

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[2008]
Lyrics by Donna Devine
Music by Billy Playle.

In November 2007, I visited a number of locations where battles had been fought in WW1 at Ieper/Ypres (Flanders, Belgium). The image of the simple grave of a 15-year-old British soldier, Valentine Joe Strudwick, haunted me for months. I wrote the lyric to honour him and all "child" soldiers who have died anywhere and at any time in senseless wars.
My gravesite at Ieper is simple and neat,
Someone's placed poppies, they lie at my feet.
There's a faint scent of lilacs on wind from the west,
And I'm here with my friends who are also at rest.


I no longer remember the fear and the pain,
The bitter cold wind and the mud and the rain,
The stretchers of canvas all stiffened with blood,
Or the screams of the men who were drowning in mud.

My mam wept at the window
When they marched me off to France,
I was old enough to kill a man,
But still too young to dance.

They sent me to Flanders where thousands had died,
The Generals made speeches, but they were all lies,
And if God was watching, He'd covered up His face,
And abandoned us there in that grim, wretched place.

I fought like a man but I was only fifteen,
With a tin full of rations and a heart full of dreams,
Like any young lad with a future to build,
I never believed that I could be killed.

My mam wept at the window
When they marched me off to France,
I was old enough to kill a man,
But still too young to dance.

It wasn't the worst when the bullets spun past,
But the swiftness of death when the trench filled with gas,
And the shriek of the shells as they shattered the sky
Or of men who were broken and hung on barbed wire.

The South Downs of Sussex are far, far away,
The mist still drifts down from the scarp to the bay,
It's a much different landscape from what we saw here,
With the scorched, mangled trees and the earth that was bare.


Sometimes I wish I could sit up and breathe,
Tell you how you've all been deceived,
Because if you kill one man, you murder them all,
And there'll be no end to heartache and war.

I see it's still greed and it's hatred and fear,
And I ask myself why did I need to die here.
I was too young for love but so hopeful of joy,
I fought like a man but I was only a boy.

I'd throw off this tombstone that's pinning me down
And dance like a fool wearing Life as my crown!
But my gravestone at Ieper sits heavy and deep,
And someone's placed poppies, blood red, at my feet.

My mom wept at the window
When they marched me off to France,
I was old enough to kill a man,
But still too young to dance…

inviata da giorgio - 13/10/2009 - 08:15


At the end of the song is a spoken piece from Laurence Binyon's 1914 poem "For the Fallen":

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Laurence Binyon (1869-1943) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laurence_Binyon

giorgio - 13/10/2009 - 08:22



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