In a Sow’s Ear | TheFencePost.com
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In a Sow’s Ear

“When Johnny Comes Marching Home” was written by Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore, an 1848 Irish immigrant to Boston. Attached to the 24th Massachusetts Infantry during the Civil War, Gilmore composed the words and music in 1863. But the original tune derives from the Irish melody: “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye” which dates back to 1802 when the British used to conscript men into the British Army for East India service.

Regardless of origin, the song has been popular in every war and parodied often, always mingling pathos and mockery. When I hear the mounting tally of soldiers dying in the grisly conflict in Iraq/Afghanistan, I weep. When I read of the young men and women returning home with body parts missing, I think of “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye” ” and I cry.  

Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye … 

While going the road to sweet Athy, Hurroo … Hurroo

While going the road to sweet Athy, Hurroo … Hurroo

While going the road to sweet Athy,

A stick in me hand and a drop in me eye

A doleful damsel I heard cry

Johnny, I hardly knew ye …

 

Chorus

With their drums and guns and guns and drums, hurroo, hurroo

With their drums and guns and guns and drums, hurroo, hurroo

With their guns and drums and drums and guns

The enemy nearly slew ye

O, Johnny me dear, you look so queer,

Johnny, I hardly knew ye …

 

Where are your eyes that used to smile Hurroo … Hurroo …

Where are your eyes that used to smile, Hurroo … Hurroo

Where are your eyes that used to smile

When my poor heart you first beguiled

Why did you run from me and the child?

Johnny, I hardly knew ye …

Chorus

 

Where are the legs that used to run, Hurroo … Hurroo

Where are the legs that used to run, Hurroo … Hurroo

Where are the legs that used to run

When you went off to carry a gun?

Indeed your dancing days are done

Johnny, I hardly knew ye …

Chorus

 

I’m happy for to see you home, Hurroo … Hurroo

I’m happy for to see you home, Hurroo … Hurroo

I’m happy for to see you home,

All from the Island of Sulloon

So low in the flesh, so high in the bone

Johnny, I hardly knew ye …

Chorus

 

You haven’t an arm, you haven’t a leg, Hurroo … Hurroo

You haven’t an arm, you haven’t a leg, Hurroo … Hurroo

You haven’t an arm, you haven’t a leg,

You’re an eyeless, boneless, chickenless egg

And you’ll have to be put with a bowl to beg

Johnny, I hardly knew ye …

Chorus

 

They’re rolling out the guns again, hurroo … hurroo

They’re rolling out the guns again, hurroo … hurroo

They’re rolling out the guns again,

But they never will take our sons again,

No, they never will take our sons again,

Johnny I’m swearin’ to ye …


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