I’ve been reading Outside Verdun, the (very readable) new translation of Arnold Zweig’s 1935 novel Erziehung vor Verdun.
I’ll be putting a full review online soon, but meanwhile, here’s a question.
Agreeing with the Crown Prince that the day’s activities had been pointless, an adjutant says:
We could just as well have stayed at home, Imperial Highness. Retreat or not – what difference does it make? ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary,’ as the Tommies sing – and our field greys sing: ‘For this campaign/ Is no express train/ Wipe your tears away/ With sandpaper’
I’d like to know: Was that an actual soldier’s song of the war? What are the original German words? And were sardonic songs as common among German soldiers as among the British?
One reason that I’m curious is that when in France recently I picked up a copy of Entendre la Guerre, the book associated with the exhibition at the Peronne Historial about the sounds of the war. In the chapter on songs at home and on the front, Martin Pénet writes:
Contrary to widespread opinion, songs of sedition during the Great War were extremely rare.
He then goes on to discuss the most notable exception, the Chanson de Craonne:
Adieu la vie, adieu l’amour,
Adieu toutes les femmes.
C’est bien fini, c’est pour toujours,
De cette guerre infâme.
C’est à Craonne, sur le plateau,
Qu’on doit laisser sa peau
Car nous sommes tous condamnés
C’est nous les sacrifiés!
Do songs play the same role in the cultures of all the fighting nations, or are there subtle differences in the ways in which songs are used to express feelings, to build group solidarity, or to let off steam?