Men of Harlech
"Men of Harlech" or "The March of the Men of Harlech" (in Welsh: Rhyfelgyrch Gwŷr Harlech) is a song and military march which is traditionally said to describe events during the seven-year siege of Harlech Castle between 1461 and 1468. Commanded by Constable Dafydd ap Ieuan, the garrison held out in what is the longest known siege in the history of the British Isles. “Through Seven Years” is an alternative name for the song. The song has been incorrectly associated with the earlier, shorter siege of Harlech Castle around 1408, which pitted the forces of Owain Glyndŵr against the future Henry V of England.
"Men of Harlech" occupies an important place in Welsh national culture. The song gained international recognition when it was featured prominently in the 1964 film Zulu.
The music was first published without words in 1794 as Gorhoffedd Gwŷr Harlech—March of the Men of Harlech in the second edition of The Musical and Poetical Relicks of the Welsh Bards but it is said to be a much earlier folk air. The earliest version of the tune to appear with lyrics, found thus far, comes from a broadside printed c. 1830. Since then, many different versions of the English lyrics have appeared. It first appeared with Welsh lyrics in Gems of Welsh Melody, edited by the Welsh poet, John Owen (Owain Alaw), published in London, England and Wrexham, Wales in 1860. An edition containing Welsh and English lyrics was published in Ruthin, Wales, in 1862. The song was published in Volume II of the 1862 collection Welsh Melodies with the Welsh lyrics by the Welsh poet John Jones (Talhaiarn), and the English lyrics by Thomas Oliphant, President of the Madrigal Society. Another source attributes the Welsh words to the poet John Ceiriog Hughes, first published in 1890, and says that English words were first published in 1893, but this is clearly predated by the earlier publications.
Use and versions of the song
It was first used on film during the titles of How Green Was My Valley (1941). It is best known for its prominent role in the 1964 film Zulu, although the version of lyrics sung in it were written specially for the film. It is sung almost twice in the film (the British open fire on the charging Zulus before the start of the final couplet), in counterpoint to the Zulu war chants and the sounds of their shields. Film editor John Jympson cut the scene to the song so that on either side of cuts where the British soldiers cannot be heard, the song is in the correct relative position.
It was also featured in a 1950 Western, Apache Drums, at the conclusion of the 1945 film The Corn Is Green, starring Bette Davis, and at the conclusion of the 1995 film The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain starring Hugh Grant. An instrumental version features in Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock. Eleanor Cameron's 1958 novel Mr. Bass's Planetoid has a version of the song.
Rick Rescorla, Chief of Security for Morgan Stanley's World Trade Center office, sang a Cornish adaptation of "Men of Harlech" with a bullhorn, along with other anthems, to keep employee spirits high while they evacuated during the September 11 attacks. After helping save over 2,700 employees he returned to the towers to evacuate others until the towers collapsed on him.
There are numerous versions of "Men of Harlech", and there is no single accepted English version. The version below was published in 1873.
John Oxenford version (published 1873)
Men of Harlech, march to glory,
Thou, who noble Cambria wrongest,
An earlier version (published in the year before the Prince of Wales's wedding) is thus:-
Thomas Oliphant version (published 1862)
Hark! I hear the foe advancing,
'Mid the fray, see dead and dying,
Lyrics written for use in the movie Zulu (1964)
Men of Harlech, stop your dreaming
Can't you see their spearpoints gleaming
See their warrior pennants streaming
To this battle field
Men of Harlech stand ye steady
It can not be ever said ye
For the battle were not ready
Welshmen never yield
From the hills rebounding
Let this war cry sounding
Summon all at Cambria's call
The mighty force surrounding
Men of Harlech on to glory
This will ever be your story
Keep these burning words before ye
Welshmen will not yield
- Fuld, James J., The Book of World-famous Music: classical, popular, and folk, Dover, 5th ed. 2000, p. 394
- The Oxford Companion to British History. Oxford University Press (1997) page 454
- Matthew Bennett Dictionary of Ancient & Medieval Warfare (2001)
- Bert S. Hall, Weapons and Warfare in Renaissance Europe. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001, page 212.
- Winnie Czulinski, Drone On!: the high history of Celtic Music. Sound And Vision, 2004, page 107.
- Anne Shaw Faulkner, What We Hear in Music: A Course of Study in Music Appreciation and History, RCA Victor, 12th edition 1943, p 41
- "Ballads Catalogue: Harding B 15(182a)". Bodley24.bodley.ox.ac.uk. Retrieved 2012-09-01.
- Owen, John. Gems of Welsh Melody. A Selection of Popular Welsh Songs, with English and Welsh Words; Specimens of Pennillion Singing, after the Manner of North Wales; and Welsh National Airs, Ancient and Modern ... For the Pianoforte or Harp, with Symphonies and Accompaniments by J. Owen, Etc. Ruthin: I. Clarke, 1862.
- Cameron, Eleanor (1958). Mr. Bass's Planetoid. Little, Brown and Company. pp. 92–93. Unknown parameter
- "Rick Rescorla - Security Manager and Hero". h2g2. Retrieved 2012-09-01.
- Stewart, James B. The Heart of a Soldier, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2002.
- "Radio 4 - the UK theme". BBC.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-09-01.
- Volkslieder, German & Other Folk Songs Homepage Men of Harlech
- Free typeset sheet music—various arrangements from Cantorion.org
- Men of Harlech—various versions of lyrics
- Royal Regiment of Wales' Band singing "Men of Harlech" (2.68MiB MP3)—recording, using John Guard lyrics, in the church at Rorke's Drift, South Africa on the 120th anniversary of the Battle of Rorke's Drift.