The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #58887   Message #935379
Posted By: Steve Parkes
17-Apr-03 - 09:42 AM
Thread Name: Cornwall UK WWII deserter query
Subject: Lyr Add: THE COWARD'S GRAVE
I found the words! The tune is "The Deserter" ("Ratcliffe Highway"), the non-modal version.

THE COWARD'S GRAVE (c) Barrie Roberts

The woods by the Tamar were green in the summer
When down to the village came news of the war,
And the young men of that village left their work and their womenfolk
To march to the colours as their fathers before.

And they spoke not of courage, and they spoke not of duty,
And there was among them not one would ask why
The madness of statesmen should lead them to wander,
To adventure into battle, and for many to die.

The woods by the Tamar were green in the springtime
When down to the village a stranger there came,
A young man and good-looking, who should be a soldier,
And all that he told them was only his name.

And they asked not the reason why he was not in uniform,
And they asked not the reason why he wandered alone.
With his strong and skilled hands then he made and he mended,
And took up the tasks that their men left undone.

The woods by the Tamar were bare in the winter
When down to the village there came a strange band
Of men with grim faces in scarlet and khaki
Who marched through the village with guns in their hands.

And they sought for the lodging of that young single stranger,
But not one in the village would give them "good-day",
But they sought him and they found him, and with rifles all around him
Down through the village they marched him away.

All the people stood watching in silence and pity
As down through the High Street they marched him in shame.
"A deserter under escort!" the sergeant cried loudly,
But not one who had known him could call him that name.

In the woods by the Tamar he broke from his escort,
Like the deer from the hunter, made straight for the trees;
All through the bare forest they hunted and cornered him
High up on the bluff where the Tamar flows free.

Swift through that gorge runs the wild rolling Tamar,
And swollen by floods is the river's wild tide,
But he cast not one glance on the men who pursued him,
And straight to the river's grey waters he dived.

And they spoke not one word, but they watched there in amazement
As he battled with the river for the far Devon shore,
Till at last his strength broke 'neath that cold roaring torrent:
He sank 'neath the water and they saw him no more.

Now go down to the churchyard, go and look where they have laid him,
A deserter and a coward, in a charity grave;
And think while you stand at the side of his gravestone
On men that are foolish and on men that are brave.

And speak not of duty, for he did what he must do,
Because he believed, not because he was told.
And speak not of courage as you stand at the graveside
Of the coward who would battle with the Tamar so bold.