Two Folk Songs

Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch 1863 (Bodmin, Cornwall) – 1944 (Cornwall)

I. THE SOLDIER

(Roumanian)

When winter trees bestrew the path,
Still to the twig a leaf or twain
Will cling and weep, not Winter's wrath,
But that foreknown forlorner pain-
To fall when green leaves come again.

I watch'd him sleep by the furrow-
The first that fell in the fight.
His grave they would dig to-morrow:
The battle called them to-night.

They bore him aside to the trees, there,
By his undigg'd grave content
To lie on his back at ease there,
And hark how the battle went.

The battle went by the village,
And back through the night were borne
Far cries of murder and pillage,
With smoke from the standing corn.

But when they came on the morrow,
They talk'd not over their task,
As he listen'd there by the furrow;
For the dead mouth could not ask-

How went the battle, my brothers?

But that he will never know:
For his mouth the red earth smothers
As they shoulder their spades and go.

Yet he cannot sleep thereunder,
But ever must toss and turn.

How went the battle, I wonder?

-And that he will never learn!

When winter trees bestrew the path,
Still to the twig a leaf or twain
Will cling and weep, not Winter's wrath,
But that foreknown, forlorner pain-
To fall when green leaves come again!

II. THE MARINE

(
Poitevin
)

The bold Marine comes back from war,
So kind:
The bold Marine comes back from war,
So kind:
With a raggety coat and a worn-out shoe.
'Now, poor Marine, say, whence come you,
All so kind?'

I travel back from the war, madame,
So kind:
I travel back from the war, madame,
So kind:
For a glass of wine and a bowl of whey,
'Tis I will sing you a ballad gay,
All so kind.

The bold Marine he sips his whey,
So kind:
He sips and he sings his ballad gay,
So kind:
But the dame she turns toward the wall,
To wipe her tears that fall and fall,
All so kind.

What aileth you at my song, madame,
So kind?
I hope that I sing no wrong, madame,
So kind?

Or grieves it you a beggar should dine
On a bowl of whey and the good white wine,
All so kind?

It ails me not at your ballad gay,
So kind:
It ails me not for the wine and whey,
So kind:

But it ails me sore for the voice and eyes
Of a good man long in Paradise.-
Ah, so kind!

You have fair children five, madame,
So kind:
You have fair children five, madame,
So kind:

Your good man left you children three;
Whence came these twain for company,
All so kind?

'A letter came from the war, Marine,
So kind:
A letter came from the war, Marine,
So kind:
A while I wept for the good man dead,
But another good man in a while I wed,
All so kind.'

The bold Marine he drained his glass,
So kind:
The bold Marine he drained his glass,
So kind.
He said not a word, though the tears they flowed,
But back to his regiment took the road,
All so kind.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch

Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch was a Cornish writer who published using the pseudonym Q. more…

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