My name is Francis Toliver, I come from Liverpool.
Two years ago the war was waiting for me after school.
To Belgium and to Flanders, to Germany to here
I fought for King and country I love so dear.
'Twas Christmas in the trenches, where the frost so bitter hung
The frozen fields of France were still, no Christmas song was sung
Our families back in England were toasting us that day
Their brave and glorious lads so far away.
I was lying with my messmate on the cold and rocky ground
When across the lines of battle came a most peculiar sound.
Says I, "Now listen up me boys!" Eachsoldier strained to hear
As on eyoung German voice sang out so clear.
He's singing bloody well, you know!" my partner says to me
Soon, one by one, each German voice joined in harmony.
The cannos rested silent, the gas clouds rolled no more
As Christmas brought us respite from the war.
As soon as they were finished and a reverent pause was spent
"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" struck up some lads from Kent.
The next song they sang ws "Stille Nacht," "Tis Silent Night," says I
And in two tongues oner song filled up that sky.
"There's sopmeone coming towards us!" the front line sentry cried.
All sights were fixed on one lone figure trudging from their side.
His truce flag, like a Christmas star, shone on that plain so bright
As he, bravely, strode unarmed into the night.
Soon one by one on either side3walked into No Man's Land
With neither gun nor bayonet we met there hand to hand.
We shared some secret brandy and wished each other well
And in a flare lit soccer game we gave 'em hell.
We traded chocolates, cigarettes, and photographs from home.
These sons and fathers far away from families of their own.
Young Sanders played his squeezebox and they had a violin
This curious and unlikelyband of men.
Soon daylight stole upon us and Farnce was France once more
With sad farewells we each prepared to settle back to war
But the question haunted every heart that lived that wondrous night
"Whose family have I fixed within my sights?"
'Twas Christmas in the trenches where the frost so bitter hung.
The frozen fields of Farnce were warmed as songs of peace were sung.
For the walls they'd kept between us to exact the work of war
Had been crumbled and were gone forevermore.
My name is Francis Toliver, in Liverpool I dwell,
Each Christmas come since World WarI. I've learned its lessons well,
THAT THE ONES WHO CALL THE SHOTS WON'T BE AMONG THE DEAD AND LAME
AND ON EACH END OF THE RIFLE WE'RE THE SAME.
Words and music by John McCutcheon. c.1984 John McCutchen/Appalsong
Based on a true story from the front lines of World War I in France.
See WE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD; The Real Meaning of Everyday Life(New Democracy Books, 199l) P.O. Box 427, Boston, MA 02130 A MODEST 3 BUCKS
Christmas greetings to all from Dorothy and Bill Ojala