Bill and I (a Picket Song)

Frank Wardlaw
Language: English

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Ignoro chi sia stato Frank Wardlaw, autore e compositore di questo brano, forse uno dei protagonisti, due soldati dell’Unione in turno di guardia notturno…
Testo trovato su Public Domain Music, nella sezione “American Civil War Music (1861-1865)”

”The Picket Guard” del pittore N.C. Wyeth, 1922
”The Picket Guard” del pittore N.C. Wyeth, 1922

Guerra civile americana. Accampamento dell’Unione. I soldati Bill e Frank (?) sono destinati ad un turno di sentinella. E’ una notte chiara, tranquilla, e i due pensano già a quando getteranno i fucili alle ortiche e torneranno dalle fidanzate… Poi, un rumore: è un attacco dei confederati! Frank scatta subito ma Bill rimane paralizzato dal terrore… Frank spara nel buio e ferisce un ribelle, un ragazzino (“a schoolgirl’s toy”), che gli muore tra le braccia invocando la mamma, mentre Frank cerca in qualche modo di confortarlo chiamandolo “Fratello”… Poi Frank torna verso il posto di sentinella e trova Bill ancora lì, impietrito, con gli occhi come velati dall’angoscia… Tornati al campo, nella loro tenda, Bill scoppierà a piangere come un bambino…

Se l’episodio cristallizzato in questa canzone fosse vero, chissà cosa sarà stato di Bill, il “vigliacco”, visto che il racconto di Frank è quello di un rapporto ai superiori…
The moon had just gone down, sir,
But the stars lit up the sky;
All was still in tent and town, sir,
Not a Rebel could we spy!
It was our turn at picket,
So we march’d into the thicket,
To the music of the cricket,
Chirping nigh.

O we kept a sharp look out, sir,
On Munson frownin’ nigh,
But no Rebel bein’ about, sir,
We sat down there by and by;
And we watched the brook a brawlin’.
And counted stars a’ fallin’,
Old memories overhaulin’,
Bill and I.

And says he, “Won’t it be glorious
When we fling our muskets by,
And home again victorious,
We hear our sweethearts cry
Welcome back”— A step! Who goes there?
A shot! By Heaven, the foe’s there!
Bill sat there all composure,
Bill not I.

By the red light of his gun, sir,
I marked the Rebel spy.
In an instant it was done, sir,
I had fired and heard a cry.
I sprang across the stream, sir,
O it seems just like a dream, sir,
The dizzy, dying gleam, sir,
Of that eye.

A youth— a very boy, sir,
I saw before me lie;
Some pretty schoolgirl’s toy, sir,
Had ventured there to die.
We had hated one another,
Yet I heard him murmur “Mother,”
So I stooped and called him “Brother”—
No reply.

I crossed the stream once more, sir,
To see why Bill warn’t by—
He was leanin‘ as before, sir,
But a film was o’er his eye.
I scarce knew what it meant, sir,
Till a wail broke from our tent, sir,
As into camp we went, sir,
Bill and I.

Contributed by Bernart Bartleby - 2015/8/26 - 10:43

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