My Nomination for Anti-War Anthem

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“Fighting for Strangers.” Here’s a performance from Steeleye Span, and here are the magnificent lyrics (thanks to Rodney Lenz for introducing me to this haunting masterpiece):

What makes you go abroad fighting for strangers
When you could be safe at home free from all dangers?

A recruiting sergeant came our way
To an Inn nearby at the close of day
He said young Johnny you’re a fine young man
Would you like to march along behind a military band,
With a scarlet coat and a big cocked hat,
And a musket at your shoulder,
The shilling he took and he kissed the book,
Oh poor Johnny what will happen to ya?
The recruiting sergeant marched away
From the Inn nearby at the break of day,
Johnny went too with half a ring
He was off to be a soldier he’d be fighting for the King
In a far off war in a far off land
To face a foreign soldier,
But how will you fare when there’s lead in the air,
Oh poor Johnny what’ll happen to ya?
What makes you go abroad fighting for strangers
When you could be safe at home free from all dangers?

The sun shone hot on a barren land
As a thin red line took a military stand,
There was sling shot, chain shot, grape shot too,
Swords and bayonets thrusting through,
Poor Johnny fell but the day was won
And the King is grateful to you
But your soldiering’s done and they’re sending you home,
Oh poor Johnny what have they done to ya?
They said he was a hero and not to grieve
Over two wooden pegs and empty sleeves,
They carried him home and set him down
With a military pension and a medal from the crown.
You haven’t an arm and you haven’t a leg,
The enemy nearly slew you,
You’ll have to go out on the streets to beg,
Oh poor Johnny what have they done to ya?
What makes you go abroad fighting for strangers
When you could be safe at home free from all dangers?

9:26 am on October 19, 2012