Henry's Songbook

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If You Want To See The General

  • (Trad)

    If you want to see the general I know where he is
    I know where he is
    I know where he is
    If you want to see the general I know where he is
    Sitting in the Folies Bergères
    I saw him, I saw him sitting in the Folies Bergères
    I saw him sitting in the Folies Bergères

    If you want to see the colonel I know where he is
    Knocking off the adjutant's wife

    If you want to see the sergeant I know where he is
    Fiddling the company's rum

    If you want to see your husband I know where he is
    Dying on the old barbed wire

    (as sung by Iain MacKintosh & Hamish Imlach)

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1976:] Ein Lied aus dem 1. Weltkrieg. Angeblich hat der Dichter Robert Graves es 1917 geschrieben. Meine Version habe ich in einer Kneipe in Motherwell [Schottland] von einem alten Mann bekommen. (Hamish Imlach, notes 'Scottish Sabbath')

  • [1988:] The front-line soldiers of 1914-18 saw things that people should not see. Among them were hideously wounded men. [...] But what made at least as deep an impression was [...] the persistent presence of the dead. In previous wars battles had lasted a few days at most. [...] But this war was different: combat went on for months; artillery fire dismembered men in a flash; and the front line hardly moved at all. Consequently, the line of trenches stretching from Switzerland to the English Channel was littered with the remains of perhaps one million men. [...]. It is difficult to imagine the nature of this ghastly environment.

    [The] war in the trenches was terrifyingly new. Not only were there the innovations in weaponry but also the unprecedented degree of stress faced by hundreds of thousands of men. [...] But where could a soldier go when he had reached the limits of his endurance at Verdun or Passchendaele? It is true that most soldiers saw limited and intermittent duty in the trenches, but eight days could last a lifetime. And the fact of prior experience may not have made it any easier [...]. What is most remarkable is not that some broke under the strain, but that so many did not. Their resilience is one of the mysteries of the war. (J.M. Winter, The Experience of World War I, 145ff)

  • [1990:] Lyn Macdonald suggests that this song, originally critical of officers and NCOs, had the bitter final verse [The whole battalion ... hanging on the old barbed wire] added after the Battle of the Somme. Officers discouraged men from singing it on the march, but it nevertheless became widely known to British and (later) American troops. It stuck in the minds of such soldier-writers as [...] J.B. Priestley, who considered 'the best' of the songs 'sharply concerned with military life from the view-point of the disillusioned private'. Of the last line, Priestley added: 'To this day I cannot listen to it unmoved. There is a flash of pure genius, entirely English, in that "old", for it means that even the devilish enemy, that death-trap, the wire, has somehow been accepted, recognised and acknowledged almost with affection, by the deep rueful charity of this verse. I have looked through whole anthologies that said less to me.' Some continued to sing the song even during the Second World War. (Palmer, Lovely War 118 - totally different lyrics)

Quelle: England

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Layout : Henry Kochlin  (Schwerin)

aktualisiert am 09.08.2000