Digital Tradition Mirror

Fighting for Strangers

Fighting for Strangers

cho: What makes you go away, fighting for strangers,
     When you could be save at home, free from all dangers?

A recruiting sergeant came my way,
To an inn nearby at the break of day.
He said: "Young Johnny you're a fine young man,
Do you want to march along behind a military band,
With a scarlet coat, a big cocked hat
And a muscet on your shoulder?"
A shilling he took and he kissed the book,
Oh 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 he fare when there's lead in the air,
Oh poor Johnny, what will happen to ya?

The sun shone high on a barren land,
As a thin red line took the military stand.
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 ya.
With your soldier deeds done, we're sending you home,
Oh poor Johnny, what have they done to ya?

Oh, they said he was a hero and not to grieve
Over two wooden legs and an empty sleeve.
They carried him home and they sat him down
With a military pension and a medal from the crown.
You haven't an arm, you haven't a leg,
The enemy nearly slew ya.
You'll have to be put with a bowl to beg,
Oh poor Johnny what have they done to ya?

cho: (2x)

recorded by Steeleye Span on "Rocket Cottage" (1976).
Note: This is one of the most intense 19th century anti-war
It seems to be a combination of pieces of several other songs, the
first two verses are reminiscent of the Irish recruiting songs like
"Twa Recruiting Sergeants" or "Arthur McBride" with a short hint
at the Broken Token theme ("with half a ring")
while the second half of the last verse is snatched as a whole
from "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya".

To the tune of "He Who Would Valiant Be".


Thanks to Mudcat for the Digital Tradition!

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