Danny Deever

In his splendid The Life of Rudyard Kipling, [New York: Doubleday & Co., 1956] C. E. Carrington recounts the story (p. 18) of William Henley, the influential editor of the weekly literary magazine, the Scots Observer, dancing for joy on his wooden leg when he first heard this poem. It still has a dramatic, though less uplifting, effect on audiences. Legend also has it that the American most associated with its public performance in a musical setting, David Bispham, was asked by the first lady not to sing it at a concert in the Teddy Roosevelt White House because she had heard it at the New York Statehouse while her husband was Governor there, and once was enough! My wife feels the same way about it. [Barrack-Room Ballads] Vocal: Tony Barrand and John Roberts; Banjo: John Roberts.

"What are the bugles blowin' for?" said Files-on-Parade.
"To turn you out, to turn you out", the Colour-Sergeant said.
"What makes you look so white, so white?" said Files-on-Parade.
"I'm dreadin' what I've got to watch", the Colour-Sergeant said.
     For they're hangin' Danny Deever, you can hear the Dead March play,
     The regiment's in 'ollow square - they're hangin' him to-day;
     They've taken of his buttons off an' cut his stripes away,
     An' they're hangin' Danny Deever in the mornin'.

"What makes the rear-rank breathe so 'ard?" said Files-on-Parade.
"It's bitter cold, it's bitter cold", the Colour-Sergeant said.
"What makes that front-rank man fall down?" said Files-on-Parade.
"A touch o' sun, a touch o' sun", the Colour-Sergeant said.
     They are hangin' Danny Deever, they are marchin' of 'im round,
     They 'ave 'alted Danny Deever by 'is coffin on the ground;
     An' 'e'll swing in 'arf a minute for a sneakin' shootin' hound -
     O they're hangin' Danny Deever in the mornin'!

"'Is cot was right-'and cot to mine", said Files-on-Parade.
"'E's sleepin' out an' far to-night", the Colour-Sergeant said.
"I've drunk 'is beer a score o' times", said Files-on-Parade.
"'E's drinkin' bitter beer alone", the Colour-Sergeant said.
     They are hangin' Danny Deever, you must mark 'im to 'is place,
     For 'e shot a comrade sleepin' - you must look 'im in the face;
     Nine 'undred of 'is county an' the regiment's disgrace,
     While they're hangin' Danny Deever in the mornin'.

"What's that so black agin' the sun?" said Files-on-Parade.
"It's Danny fightin' 'ard for life", the Colour-Sergeant said.
"What's that that whimpers over'ead?" said Files-on-Parade.
"It's Danny's soul that's passin' now", the Colour-Sergeant said.
     For they're done with Danny Deever, you can 'ear the quickstep play,
     The regiment's in column, an' they're marchin' us away;
     Ho! the young recruits are shakin', an' they'll want their beer to-day,
     After hangin' Danny Deever in the mornin'.

© Golden Hind Music