Dec 19 2010

When Johnny Comes Marching Home

As published in 1863

When Johnny comes marching home again
Hurrah! Hurrah!
We’ll give him a hearty welcome then
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The men will cheer and the boys will shout
The ladies they will all turn out
And we’ll all feel gay
When Johnny comes marching home.

The old church bell will peal with joy
Hurrah! Hurrah!
To welcome home our darling boy,
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The village lads and lassies say
With roses they will strew the way,
And we’ll all feel gay
When Johnny comes marching home.

Get ready for the Jubilee,
Hurrah! Hurrah!
We’ll give the hero three times three,
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The laurel wreath is ready now
To place upon his loyal brow
And we’ll all feel gay
When Johnny comes marching home.

Let love and friendship on that day,
Hurrah, hurrah!
Their choicest pleasures then display,
Hurrah, hurrah!
And let each one perform some part,
To fill with joy the warrior’s heart,
And we’ll all feel gay
When Johnny comes marching home.

So, after the Senate’s vote last night, I was toying around with a couple of different potential verses (may still work one of them out), including possibly re-working some traditional song. This one came to mind, and I thought about either writing one with a modern, gay Johnny, or perhaps one with John McCain as Johnny (Republicans will whine and pout, that no-one ought to serve while out”), and I realized I needed to take a look at the original lyrics.

They were already perfect.

Amazing what a change of context can do. So, yeah–let love and friendship on this day their choicest pleasures now display! This is a good day for anyone who actually cares about equal rights.


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  1. 1

    Thank you for this. It's great to actually find something to be joyful about this Xmas season. Also..feel free to write your own version as well. The original Irish anti-war song, “Johny I Hardly Knew Ye.” Had various versions of the lyrics…but all sad.

  2. 2

    Hi,Read my program note about the Irish origins of (and original lyrics for) this song – not the hero's welcome at all.http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/2008/10/concora-presents-american-voice-alice.html

  3. 3

    I've looked at these lyrics also, not with a view to reworking them, but rather understanding them. I thought the hauntingly beautiful piece, American Salute by Morton Gould, helped to put the lyrics in context. They celebrate the homecoming of a Civil war hero. But some of Gould's wistful passages bring to mind the thousands who will not come home, and the thousands more who will not march or salute for lack of the requisite limbs. At length, I too thought the song was perfect, a perfect satire of the horrors of that awful war, though I'm sure that's not what Patrick Gilmore intended at the time.

  4. 4

    Tim–Thank you for that–I had not really contemplated it, but I must say I never* felt that the song was straightforward; it always had some level of irony and sadness to it. But. I have played the Gould piece, and (thus the "*") cannot easily remember a time before doing so. Sometimes, there are many levels of meaning in simple things.

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