Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Tales from the Cryptkeeper

Thers recently blogged about our shitty car radio, which frequently only gets one station, and you don't get to pick it. Thus, my encounter with this song:

If you're reading this
My momma is sitting there
Looks like I only got a one way ticket over here
I sure wish I could give you one more kiss
War was just a game we played when we were kids
Well I'm laying down my gun
I'm hanging up my boots
I'm up here with God
And we're both watching over you

So lay me down
In that open field out on the edge of town
And know my soul
Is where my momma always prayed where it would go.
If you're reading this I'm already home.

It's a weird little tune, and a little out of place, because its closest cousin, as far as I can tell, is this poem: Rupert Brooke's "The Soldier."

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

There are a couple of differences here, which tell us something about the nature of nationalism and how it's changed in the last century. Brooke's Soldier is (a) still alive, (b) not religious ("a pulse in the eternal mind" is numinous at best), and (c) not a husband or son or daddy.

More importantly, Brooke's poem was written at the beginning of a horrific, pointless war in which he died, and was superceded by the far superior work of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. McGraw is, as far as I know, not a soldier, and if he were, the tune would maybe have been appropriate in 2003--now it's just bitter and horrible. I can understand that it might be comforting for those who have lost loved ones, but as a piece of propaganda, it's a day late and a dollar short. Brooke is only widely read because he perfectly captured that sort of nationalist fervor that lead to war, but McGraw's song, four years too late, is intended to bolster the flagging spirits of those who fear their loved ones have died for nothing.

Honestly, I'm just speechless.


steve simels said...

For some reason I thought Brooke's stuff was what Benjamin Britten used in his famous "War Requiem," but I just googled it, and you're right about Brooke having been superceded by Owen -- Britten's piece is a setting of Owen.

In any case, I'd be speechless too if I turned on my car radio and heard Tim McGraw chanelling "the Soldier" from some demented corner of the Bizarro World.


Anonymous said...

My contact with country music comes in the grocery store. I suspect the employees have negotiated a tradeoff with Geezer Rock. Anyway, that was the first place I heard this POS. I made a mental note of a lyric and googled it when I get home. This is my "favorite" bit:

If you're reading this
Half way around the world
I won't be there to see the birth of our little girl
I hope she looks like you
I hope she fights like me
Stand up for the innocent and the weak

Mr McGraw only recently turned forty, so he has and has had ample time to go join the actual fight to defend the innocent and the weak. Nice touch, praying that his daughter will grow up to fight in a quagmire.

If I ever again hear the lyrics to the song in the voice of the guy who is doing his part to fight terr'rists by keeping the Camaro he bought from a soldier's widow all shiny and cherry, I'll pass it along.