As a post-WW2 baby boomer, I was familiar with songs that grew out of the war.  In France, the war is no longer merely stories for me, fragments from books, movies.  Now I’ve stood where Hitler stood, saw what he saw.  In Nice I’ve visited the streets where the heaviest fighting took place at its liberation.  The war, what is left from it, is closer and its agony, for me, is also distilled in four songs.

“…some sunny day …”

We’ll meet again composed by Ross Parker (music) and Hughie Charles (lyrics) and sung by Vera Lynn.

” …. it’s a long long way …”

It’s a long way to Tipperary was composed by Jack Judge in 1912.

” … Underneath the lamplight…”

Lili Marlene was inspired by an earlier poem, composed by Norbert Schulze in 1939 and sung by Marlene Dietrich.

                                   Herm Niel

Erika was composed by Herm Niel in 1939.  It is interesting that each of these songs is a love song.  Is it that men fighting a war are more motivated to hate when they think of their loved one?

In We’ll meet again, the hope is expressed in sadness, a longing for “some sunny day” from under the dark clouds of war.   Tipperary is closer to the battlefront.  I hear boots marching between the lines, with the recurring longing in the words “it’s a long, long way …”  Lili Marlene was popular on both sides of the enemy lines.  I remember 15 years after the war when our family was listening to a long-playing record for the first time, the track came up unexpectedly and my father who seldom, if ever, spoke of his experiences in the war, suddenly left the room, deeply emotional.  With Erika (“Auf der Heide blűht eine kleines Blűmelein”) I have different feelings.  The song was belted out as the German troops marched under the Arc de Triomphe and down the Champs d’Elysées, jubilant conquerors.  Later it was lovingly translated into Afrikaans and sung by the tenor Gé Korsten in a movie in the 1960s.  As a German marching song, it struck a particular note with people whose parents regretted that the Nazis lost the war.  I feel a cold breeze when I hear it.

Music makes war easier

I can’t hear any of these songs without sensing words from the poet when he speaks of “the still sad music of humanity”.

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

March, 2017



Quotation from William Wordsworth :  “Lines written above Tintern Abbey”

 Wikipedia, for biographical details.  


Vera Lynn –

Jack Judge – History of Oldbury

Marlene Dietrich  –

Herm Niel – You Tube

Marschlieder –







Out of the mists …

This is an inward journey.  It is about two places and a voice.  I spent 20 minutes at Stonehenge and then fled from the sub-zero temperature to the car.  I have not been to Easter Island and I have spent many hours listening to the voice of Lisa Gerrard.

They hunch over me …

I could speak about the speculations concerning Stonehenge, that it was a burial place, probably an observatory and is the biggest of the Neolithic monuments, at least 5000 years old.  But it is what the place does to me.  I stand in an archway, these gargantuan blocks made by bloodied hands, hauled and pushed with raw shoulders.  I feel the tonnage, the weight of millennia.  They hunch over me, these monoliths, faceless and impenetrable.  The Henge is a broken circle, but somehow still calls into the unfathomable night.

They stare beyond galaxies …

The Statues of Easter Island have riveted me since my childhood.  There too, theories proliferate.   Those giant visages of granite with their long ears, solemn, taciturn … the eyes are nights without stars.  Some have fallen under the weight of who they are.  Others lie back and stare into eternity. Do they carry some terrifying knowledge?

Some listen. Some have fallen.

I found a voice that sings these places.  It is the voice of Lisa Gerrard, born in Melbourne of Irish parents, in 1961.

“The earth is a mirror    pool”

Her vocal range and ability are beyond belief.  She can tower over Asian plains; she whispers a prayer.  She sings in idioglossia, a language she made up as a child, she says, to speak to God.  The sources of her other-worldly melodies are researched with passion.  Each track has a nature of its own, wrought with depth of feeling and creative musicality.  In that music the ancient Celts breathe.  There is Turkey and India.  It can be dark-clad chanting from dank crypts and paths in night forests.  It moves across a prehistoric landscape, monumental as monoliths.

“A sliver of sun; a leaden sky”

The confluence of these three things, for me, is something that strains beyond the curve of the earth.


©  Will van der Walt, 2017

Les Semboules, Antibes

March, 2017



“What was the purpose of Stonehenge?” –

“Why was Stonehenge built?” – Ask History (internet)

Lisa Gerrard:  Mirror Pool; Duality and early Dead Can Dance collaborations.


Easter Island –;

Stonehenge –;

Lisa Gerrard:;  2016 festival Melbourne





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