[Country Joe's Place]

War . War. War


[War . War . War Cover]

If you're interested in the works of Robert W. Service, the inspiration of this album, check out the Original RWS Page.

Side 1:
  1. Foreword (4:39)
  2. The Call (2:35)
  3. Young Fellow, My Lad (3:47)
  4. The Man from Athabaska (6:28)

Side 2:
  1. The Munition Maker (4:22)
  2. The Twins (1:53)
  3. Jean Desprez (9:48)
  4. War Widow (2:02)
  5. The March of the Dead (6:27)




I've tinkered at my bits of rhymes
In weary, woeful, waiting times;
And doleful hours of battle-din
Ere yet they brought the wounded in;
Through vigils of the fateful nights
In lousy barns by candle-light;
And dug-outs, sagging and aflood,
On stretchers stiff and bleared with blood;
By ragged grove, by ruined road,
By hearths accursed where love abode,
By broken altars, blackened shrines
I've tinkered at my bits of rhymes.

I've solaced me with scraps of song
The desolated ways along:
Through sickly fields all shrapnel-sown,
And meadows reaped by death alone;
By blazing cross and splintered spire,
By headless Virgin in the mire;
By gardens gashed amid their bloom,
By guttered grave, by shattered tomb;
Beside the dying and the dead,
Where rocket green and rocket red
In trembling pools of poising light,
With flowers of flame festoon the night.
Ah me! by what dark ways of wrong
I've cheered my heart with scraps of song.

So here's my sheaf of war-won verse,
And some is bad, and some is worse.
And if at times I curse a bit,
You needn't read that part of it;
For through it all like horror runs
The red resentment of the guns.
And you yourself would mutter when
You took the things that once were men
And sped them through that zone of hate
To where the dripping surgeons wait;
And wonder too if in God's sight
War ever, ever, can be right.

Yet may it not be, crime and war
But efforts misdirected are.
And if there's good in war and crime
There may be in my bits of rhyme,
My songs from out the slaughter mill:
So take or leave them as you will.

The Call

Far and near, high and clear,
Hark to the call of War.
Over the gorse and the golden dells,
Ringing and swinging the clamorous bells,
Praying and saying of wild farewells:
War! War! War!

High and low, all must go:
Hark to the shout of War!
Leave to the women the harvest yield;
Gird ye, men, for the sinister field;
A sabre instead of a scythe to wield;
War! Red war!

Rich and poor, lord and boor,
Hark to the blast of War!
Tinker and tailor and millionaire,
Actor in triumph and priest in prayer,
Comrades now in the hell out there,
Sweep to the fire of War!

Prince and page, sot and sage,
Hark to the roar of War!
Poet, professor and circus clown,
Chimney-sweep and fop of the town,
Into the pot and be melted down:
Into the pot of War!

Women all, hear the call
The pitiless call of War!
Look your last on your dearest ones,
Brothers and husbands, fathers, sons:
Swift they go to the ravenous guns,
The gluttonous guns of War.

Everywhere thrill the air
The maniac bells of War.
There will be little of sleeping to-night;
There will be wailing and weeping to-night;
Death's red sickle is reaping to-night:
War! War! War!
War! War! War!
War! War! War! War!
War! War! War! War!
War! War! War! War!
War! War! War! War!

Young Fellow, My Lad

"Where are you going, Young Fellow My Lad,
On this glittering morn of May ?"
"I'm going to join the Colors, Dad,
They're looking for men, they say."
"But you're only a boy, Young Fellow My Lad,
You aren't obliged to go."
"Well, I'm seventeen and a quarter, Dad,
And ever so strong, you know."

"So you're off to France, Young Fellow My Lad
And you're looking so fit and bright."
"I'm terribly sorry to leave you, dad,
But I feel that I'm doing right."
"God bless you and keep you, Young Fellow My Lad,
You're all of my life, you know."
"Don't worry. I'll soon be back, dear dad,
And I'm awfully proud to go."

"Why don't you write, Young Fellow My Lad ?
I watch for the post each day;
And I miss you so and I'm awfully sad,
And it's months since you went away.
And I've had the fire in the parlor lit,
And I'm keeping it burning bright
Till my boy comes home, and here I sit
Into the quiet night."

"What is the matter, Young Fellow My Lad ?
No letter again to-day.
Why did the postman look so sad,
And sigh as he turned away ?
Well, I hear them tell that we've gained new ground,
But a terrible price we've paid:
God grant, my boy, that you're safe and sound;
But oh I'm afraid, afraid."

"They've told me the truth, Young Fellow My Lad,
You'll never come back again:
(Oh God! the dreams and the dreams I've had,
And the hopes I've nursed in vain.)
For you passed in the night, Young Fellow My Lad,
And you proved in the cruel test
Of the screaming shell and the battle hell
That my boy was one of the best."

"So you'll live, you'll live, Young Fellow My Lad,
In the gleam of the evening star,
In the wood-note wild and the laugh of the child,
In all sweet things that are.
And you'll never die, my wonderful boy
While life is noble and true:
For all our beauty and hope and joy
We will owe to our lads like you."

The Man from Athabasca

Oh the wife she tried to tell me that 'twas nothing but the thrumming
Of a woodpecker a-rapping on the hollow of a tree;
And she thought that I was fooling when I said it was the drumming
Of the mustering of legions and 'twas calling unto me;
'Twas calling me to pull my freight and hop across the sea.

And a-mending of my fish-nets sure I started up in wonder,
For I heard a savage roaring and 'twas coming from afar;
Oh the wife she tried to tell me that 'twas only summer thunder,
And she laughed a bit sarcastic when I told her it was War:
'Twas the chariots of battle where the mighty armies are.

Then down the lake came Half-breed Tom with russet sail a-flying
And the word he said was "War" again, so what was I to do ?
Oh the dogs they took to howling and the missis took to crying,
As I flung my silver foxes in the little birch canoe;
Yes, the old girl stood a-bubbling till an island hid the view.

Says the factor, "Mike, you're crazy! They have soldier men a-plenty.
You're as grizzled as a badger and you're sixty year or so."
"But I haven't missed a scrap," says I, "Since I was one and twenty.
And shall I miss the biggest ? You can bet your whiskers — no!"
So I sold my furs and started ... and that's eighteen months ago.

For I joined the Foreign Legion and they put me for a starter
In the trenches of the Argonne with the Boche a step away;
And the partner on my right hand was an apache from Montmartre;
And on my left there was a millionaire from Pittsburgh, U.S.A.
(Poor fellow! They collected him in bits the other day.)

Well I'm sprier than a chipmunk, save a touch of the lumbago,
And they calls me Old Methoosalah, and blagues me all the day.
I'm their exhibition sniper and they work me like a Dago,
And laugh to see me plug a Boche a half a mile away.
Oh I hold the highest record in the regiment, they say.

And at night they gather round me, and I tell them of my roaming
In the Country of the Crepuscule beside the Frozen Sea,
Where the musk-ox run unchallenged and the cariboo goes homing;
And they sit like little children, just as quiet as can be:
Men of every clime and color, how they harken unto me!

And I tell them of the Furland, of the tumpline and the paddle,
Of secret rivers loitering, that no one will explore;
And I tell them of the ranges, of the pack-strap and the saddle,
And they fill their pipes in silence, and their eyes beseech for more;
While above the star-shells fizzle and the high explosives roar.

And I tell of lakes fish-haunted where the big bull moose are calling,
And forests still as sepulchers with never trail or track;
And valleys packed with purple gloom, and mountain peaks appalling,
And I tell them of my cabin on the shore at Fond du Lac;
And I find myself a-thinking: Sure I wish that I was back.

So I brag of bear and beaver while the batteries are roaring,
And the fellows on the firing steps are blazing at the foe;
And I yarn a fur and feather when the marmites are a-soaring,
And they listen to my stories, seven poilus in a row,
Seven lean and lousy poilus with their cigarettes aglow.

And I tell them when it's over how I'll hike for Athabaska;
And those seven greasy poilus they are crazy to go too.
And I'll give the wife the "pickle-tub" I promised, and I'll ask her
The price of mink and marten, and the run of cariboo,
And I'll get my traps in order, and I'll start to work anew.

For I've had my fill of fighting, and I've seen a nation scattered,
And an army swung to slaughter, and a river red with gore,
And a city all a-smolder, and ... as if it really mattered,
For the lake is yonder dreaming, and my cabin's on the shore;
And the dogs are leaping madly, and the wife is singing gladly,
And I'll rest in Athabaska, and I'll leave it nevermore,
And I'll leave it nevermore.


The Munition Maker

I am the Cannon king, behold!
I perish on a throne of gold.
With forest far and turret high,
Renowned and rajah-rich am I.
My father was and his before,
With wealth we owe to war on war;
But let no potentate be proud ...
There are no pockets in a shroud.

By nature I am mild and kind,
To gentleness and ruth inclined;
And though the pheasants over-run
My woods, I will not touch a gun.
Yet while each monster that I forge
Thunders destruction from its gorge.
Death's whisper is, I vow, more loud ...
There are no pockets in a shroud.

My time is short, my ships at sea
Already seem like ghosts to me
My millions mock me, I am poor
As any beggar at my door.
My vast dominion I resign,
Six feet of earth to claim as mine,
Brooding with shoulders bid bitter-bowed
... There are no pockets in a shroud.

Dear God, let me purge pure my heart,
And be of Heaven's hope a part!
Flinging my fortune's foul increase
To fight for pity, love and peace.
Oh that I could with healing fare,
And pledged to poverty and prayer
Cry high above the cringing crowd ...
"Ye fools! Be not by Mammon cowed ...
There are no pockets in a shroud."

The Twins

There were two brothers John and James,
And when the town went up in flames,
To save the house of James dashed John,
Then turned, and lo! his own was gone.

And when the great World War began,
To volunteer John promptly ran:
And while he learned live bombs to lob,
James stayed at home and — sneaked his job.

John came home with a missing limb;
That didn't seem to worry him;
But oh, it set his brain awhirl
To find that James had — sneaked his girl!

Time passed. John tried his grief to drown;
To-day James owns one half the town;
His army contracts riches yield;
And John ? Well, _search the Potter's Field._

Jean Desprez

Oh, ye whose hearts are resonant, and ring to War's romance,
Hear ye the story of a boy, a peasant boy of France,
A lad uncouth and warped with toil, yet who, when trial came,
Could feel within his soul upleap and soar the sacred flame;
Could stand upright, and scorn and smite, as only heroes may:
Oh, hearken! Let me try to tell the tale of Jean Desprez.

With fire and sword the Teuton horde was ravaging the land,
And there was darkness and despair, grim death on every hand;
Red fields of slaughter sloping down to ruin's black abyss;
The wolves of war ran evil-fanged, and little did they miss.
And on they came with fear and flame, to burn and loot and slay,
Until they reached the red-roofed croft, the home of Jean Desprez.

"Rout out the village one and all!" the Uhlan Captain said.
"Behold! Some hand has fired a shot. My trumpeter is dead.
Now shall they Prussian vengeance know; now shall they rue the day,
For by this sacred German slain, ten of these dogs shall pay."
They drove the cowering peasants forth, women and babes and men,
And from the last, with many a jeer the Captain chose he ten.
Ten simple peasants, bowed with toil, they stood, they knew not why,
Against the grey wall of the church, hearing their children cry;
Hearing their wives and mothers wail, with faces dazed they stood.
A moment only ... Ready! Fire! They weltered in their blood.

But there was one who gazed unseen, who heard the frenzied cries,
Who saw these men in sabots fall before their children's eyes;
A Zouave wounded in a ditch, and knowing death was nigh,
He laughed with joy: "Ah! here is where I settle ere I die."
He clutched his rifle once again, and long he aimed and well ...
A shot! Beside his victims ten the Uhlan Captain fell.

They dragged the wounded Zouave out; their rage was like a flame.
With bayonets they pinned him down, until their Major came.
A blond, full-blooded man he was, and arrogant of eye;
He stared to see with shattered skull his favorite Captain lie.
"Nay do not finish him so quick, this foreign swine," he cried;
"Go nail him to the big church door: he shall be crucified."

With bayonets through hands and feet they nailed the Zouave there
And there was anguish in his eyes, and horror in his stare;
"Water! A single drop!" he moaned, but how they jeered at him,
And mocked him with an empty cup, and saw his sight grow dim;
And as in agony of death with blood his lips were wet,
The Prussian Major gaily laughed, and lit a cigarette.

But mid the white-faced villagers who cowered in horror by,
Was one who saw the woeful sight, who heard the woeful cry:
"Water! One little drop, I beg! For love of Christ who died ..."
It was the little Jean Desprez who turned and stole aside;
It was the little barefoot boy who came with cup abrim
And walked up to the dying man, and gave the drink to him.

A roar of rage! They seize the boy; they tear him fast away.
The Prussian Major swings around; no longer is he gay.
His teeth are wolfishly agleam; his face all dark with spite:
"Go shoot the brat," he snarls, "that dare defy our Prussian might.
Yet stay! I have another thought. I'll kindly be, and spare;
Quick! give the lad a rifle charged, and set him squarely there,
And bid him shoot, and shoot to kill. Haste! make him understand
The dying dog he fain would save shall perish by his hand.
And all his kindred they shall see, and all shall curse his name
Who bought his life at such a cost, the price of death and shame."

They brought the boy, wild-eyed with fear; they made him understand;
They stood him by the dying man, a rifle in his hand.
"Make haste!" said they, "the time is short, and you must kill or die."
The Major puffed his cigarette, amusement in his eye.
And then the dying Zouave heard, and raised his weary head:
"Shoot, son, 'twill be the best for both; shoot swift and straight," he said.
"Fire first and last, and do not flinch; for lost of hope am I;
And I will murmur: Vive La France! and bless you ere I die."

Half-blind with blows the boy stood there, he seemed to swoon and sway;
Then in that moment woke the soul of little Jean Desprez.
He saw the woods go sheening down, the larks were singing clear;
And oh! the scents and sounds of spring, how sweet they were! how dear!
He felt the scent of new mown hay, a soft breeze fanned his brow;
O God! the paths of peace and toil! How precious were they now.

The summer days and summer ways, how bright with hope and bliss!
The autumn such a dream of gold ... and all must stand in this:
This shining rifle in his hand, that shambles all around;
The Zouave there with a dying glare; the blood upon the ground;
The brutal faces round him ringed, the evil eyes aflame;
That Prussian bully standing by, as if he watched a game.
"Make haste and shoot," the Major sneered; "a minute more I give;
A minute more to kill your friend, if you yourself would live."

They only saw a bare-foot boy, with blanched and twitching face;
They did not see within his eyes the glory of his race;
The glory of a million men who for fair France have died,
The splendor of self-sacrifice that will not be denied.
Yet ... he was but a peasant lad, and oh! but life was sweet ...
"Your minute's nearly gone, my lad," he heard a voice repeat.
"Shoot! Shoot!" the dying Zouave moaned; "Shoot! Shoot!" the soldiers said.
Then Jean Desprez reached out and shot ... the Prussian Major dead!


War Widow

'Twas with a heart of leaden woe
Poor Alphonze went to war;
And though it's true he did not know
What he was fighting for,
He grieved because unto Marie
He'd been but three weeks wed:
Tough luck! Another three and he
Was listed with the dead.

Marie was free if she would fain
Another spouse to choose;
But if she dared to wed again
Her pension she would lose.
And so to mourn she did prefer,
And widow to remain,
Like many dames whose husbands were
Accounted with the slain.

Yet she was made for motherhood
With hips and belly broad,
And should have born a bonny brood
To render thanks to God.
Ah! If with valour Alphonze hadn't
Fallen in the fray,
Proud Marie would have been a glad
Great grandmother today.

Yet maybe it is just as well
She has not bred her kind;
The ranks of unemployment swell,
And flats are hard to find.
For every year the human race
Richly we see increase,
And wonder how they'll find a place ...
Well, that's the curse of Peace.

So let us hail the gods of war
With joy and jubilation,
Who favour foolish mankind for
They prune the population;
And let us thank the hungry guns
Forever belching doom,
That slaughter bloodily our sons
To give us elbow room.

The March of the Dead

The cruel war was over — oh, the triumph was so sweet!
We watched the troops returning, through our tears;
There was triumph, triumph, triumph down the scarlet glittering street
And you scarce could hear the music for the cheers.
And you scarce could see the house-tops for the flags that flew between;
The bells were pealing madly to the sky;
And everyone was shouting for the soldiers of the Queen,
And the glory of an age was passing by.

And then there came a shadow, swift and sudden, dark and drear;
The bells were silent, not an echo stirred.
The flags were drooping sullenly, the men forgot to cheer;
We waited, and we never spoke a word.
The sky grew darker, darker, till from out the gloomy rack
There came a voice that checked the heart with dread:
"Tear down, tear down your bunting now, and hang up sable black;
They are coming — it's the Army of the Dead."

They were coming, they were coming, gaunt and ghastly, sad and slow,
They were coming, all the crimson wrecks of pride;
With faces seared, and cheeks red smeared, and haunting eyes of woe,
And clotted holes the khaki couldn't hide.
Oh, the clammy brow of anguish! the livid, foam-flecked lips!
The reeling ranks of ruin swept along!
The limb that trailed, the hand that failed, the bloody finger tips
And oh, the dreary rhythm of their song!

"They left us on the veldt-side, but we felt we couldn't stop
On this, our England's crowning festal day;
We're the men of Magersfontein, we're the men of Spoin Kop,
Colenso — we're the men who had to pay.
We're the men who paid the blood-price.
Shall the grave be all our gain ?
You owe us. Long and heavy is the score.
Then cheer us for our glory now, and cheer us for our pain,
And cheer us as you never cheered before."

The folks were white and stricken, each tongue seemed weighed with lead;
Each heart was clutched in hollow hand of ice;
And every eye was staring at the horror of the dead,
The pity of the men who paid the price.
They were come, were come to mock us, in the first flush of our peace;
Through writhing lips their teeth were all agleam;
They were coming in their thousands — oh, would they never cease!
I closed my eyes and then — it was a dream.
I closed my eyes and then — it was a dream.

There was triumph, triumph, triumph down the scarlet gleaming street;
The town was mad; a man was like a boy.
A thousand flags were flaming where the sky and city meet;
A thousand bells were thundering the joy.
There was music, mirth and sunshine, but some eyes shone with regret;
And while we stun with cheers our homing braves,
O God, in Thy great mercy, let us nevermore forget
The graves they left behind, the bitter graves.
The graves they left behind, the bitter graves.


Recorded at Vanguard Studios, 71 West 23rd Street, New York City, 1971
Producer: Country Joe McDonald
Engineer: Jeff Zaraya

Joe McDonald: vocals, guitar, harmonica, footstomping, harmony vocal, tambourine, organ

Original vinyl release: Vanguard VSD 79315 [October 1971]
Original CD release:   One Way OW 30995 [February 02, 1995]

Music composed by Country Joe McDonald,
based on poems written by Robert Service, used with permisssion
Music copyrighted by Joe McDonald Publishing House, BMI copyright © 1971

Cover by Thut-Wainwright, San Francisco, California

This page made possible through the kind assistance of Serge Mironneau.


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