Monday, January 21, 2013

All Quiet Along the Potomac Tonight

I really like his song, even though I confess to knowing the words only to the first verse. It's still quite a strong message. I also must say I have seen several articles in old newspapers that do include long lists of  names of soldiers, not just officers, injured or killed in various battles. I have no doubt that generals and other officers received much more attention than the common soldiers, but I wonder if the first verse exaggerates that tendency a bit.

The recording of this performance is courtesy of YouTube.

Also, here are lyrics from They may not be exactly as in the arrangement as sung in the recording (for instance the first line ends "they say" but the version above says "tonight") but the point of the song still comes through rather clearly.

All quiet along the Potomac, they say,
Except now and then a stray picket
Is shot as he walks on his beat to and fro,
By a rifleman hid in the thicket.
'Tis nothing, a private or two now and then
Will not count in the news of the battle;
Not an officer lost, only one of the men,
Moaning out all alone the death rattle.
"All quiet along the Potomac tonight!"

All quiet along the Potomac tonight,
where the soldiers lie peacefully dreaming,
and their tents in the rays of the clear autumn moon,
and the light of the camp fires are gleaming;
there's only the sound of the lone sentry's tread,
as he tramps for the rock to the fountain,
and thinks of the two on the low trundle bed,
far away in the cot on the mountain.
"All quiet along the Potomac tonight!"

His musket falls slack - his face dark and grim,
grows gentle with memories tender,
as he mutters a pray'r for the children asleep,
and their Mother - "may heaven defend her!"
The moon seems to shine as brightly as then -
that night when a love yet unspoken
leap'd up to his lips and when low murmur'd vows
were pledg'd to be ever unbroken.
"All quiet along the Potomac tonight!"

Then drawing his sleeve roughly over his eye
He dashes off tears that are welling,
And gathers his gun closer up to its place
As if to keep down the heart-swelling.
He passes the fountain, the blasted pine tree
The footstep is lagging and weary;
Yet onward he goes, through the broad belt of light,
Toward the shades of the forest so dreary.
"All quiet along the Potomac tonight!"

Hark! Was it the night wind that rustled the leaves,
Was it moonlight so wondrously flashing?
It looks like a rifle -- "Ah! Mary, good-bye!"
And the lifeblood is ebbing and splashing.
All quiet along the Potomac tonight,
No sound save the rush of the river;
While soft falls the dew on the face of the dead -
The picket's off duty forever.
"All quiet along the Potomac tonight!"

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