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Lay for the Day
28th June


1914, Sarajevo: the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife Sophie are shot dead by a 19-year-old Serb assassin, Gavrilo Princip. Princip was a member of a revolutionary movement called Ujedinjenje Ili Smrt (Union Or Death) and nicknamed “the Black Hand”, whose aim was to establish an independent state for the southern Slavic people – what eventually became Yugoslavia.
As a result of Princip’s act, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on 28th July. By mid-August all the European powers, through their mutual defence treaties, had been drawn into the conflict.
Princip was tried and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment (the maximum penalty for a person under 20). He died of tuberculosis on 28th April 1918, as the conflict he had sparked was still raging. By its end about 10 million soldiers had been killed and 20 million wounded. Estimates of the civilian dead, including losses through disease and starvation, range upwards from about five million.
On the fifth anniversary of the assassination, 28th June 1919, the Treaty of Versailles brought the hostilities to a formal conclusion. The punitive terms imposed on Germany by the victorious Allied powers laid the groundwork for a second outbreak of universal slaughter 20 years later.
The total global mortality due to war during the 20th century has been calculated to average out about two million per year.

 

Black Mountain Home

My boy, my boy, said the captain to me,
It’s time, it’s time to know your duty.
Away, away to the fields of Flanders
We’re bound to sail with the wind against us.
But I’ll return, you know,
Before the winter snow.
Can’t leave you here to pine alone
In our Black Mountain home,
In our Black Mountain home.

Sweetheart, sweetheart, shun the bullets buzzing
Like hail, cold hail – oh, fight with caution.
Sweetheart, sweetheart, though the ground may tremble,
I’ll know no fear when I remember
That I’ll return, you know,
Before the winter snow.
Can’t leave you here to pine alone
In our Black Mountain home,
In our Black Mountain home.

From dust to mud these fields we’ve trodden.
With tears and blood the ground grows sodden.
From hole to hole we creep like trench rats.
We lose our souls in hell’s back entrance.
But I’ll return, you know,
Before the winter snow.
Can’t leave you there to pine alone
In our Black Mountain home,
In our Black Mountain home.

The night wind moans about the farmhouse,
Dark rolling clouds above the mountains.
The white flakes fly on the eve of Christmas
And young Dai Jones lies still in Flanders.
But I’ll return, you know,
Before the winter snow.
Don’t leave me here to pine alone
In our Black Mountain home,
In our Black Mountain home.

Sweetheart, sweetheart – who’s at my window?
Sweetheart, sweetheart, come let me in now.
She lifts the latch but the yard is empty,
A barn-owl calls in the freezing silence.

* * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * * *

She lifts the latch as the day is dawning.
Where she woke up to hear him calling,
Two boot-prints stand beneath her window
And bright blood stains the diamond snow.
O, I’ll return, you know,
Before the winter snow.
Can’t leave you there to pine alone
In our Black Mountain home,
In our Black Mountain home.

 

Words and music by The Children

 

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar

 

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