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 withstood the longest known siege in the history of the British Isles. "Through Seven Years" is an alternative name for the song. The song has also been associated with the earlier, briefer siege of Harlech Castle about 1408, which pitted the forces of Owain Glyndŵr against the future Henry V of England.
The music was first published without words during 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 song. 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 been published. It was published first with Welsh lyrics in Gems of Welsh Melody, edited by the Welsh poet, John Owen (Owain Alaw), published in London, England and Wrexham, Wales during 1860. An edition containing Welsh and English lyrics was published in Ruthin, Wales, during 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 during 1890, and says that English words were first published during 1893, but this is clearly predated by the earlier publications.
Use and versions of the song
Men of Harlech is widely used as a regimental march, especially by British Army and Commonwealth regiments historically associated with Wales. Notably, it is the slow march of the Welsh Guards, and the quick march of the Royal Welsh.
It was first used for cinema during the titles of How Green Was My Valley (1941) and has featured in a number of other films. 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 twice, only once completely, in the film (the British begin shooting 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. The song is also heard in the film Zulu Dawn, which is about the battle that precedes Rorke's Drift, the Battle of Isandlwana.
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 more than 2,700 employees he returned to the towers to evacuate others until the towers collapsed on him.
Adapted versions are sung by fans of several Welsh football clubs and as school or college songs around the world. There is a humorous parody known variously as "National Anthem of the Ancient Britons" and "Woad", written some time before 1914 by William Hope-Jones.
There are many 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,
Victory is hov'ring o'er ye,
Bright-eyed freedom stands before ye,
Hear ye not her call?
At your sloth she seems to wonder;
Rend the sluggish bonds asunder,
Let the war-cry's deaf'ning thunder
Every foe appall.
Echoes loudly waking,
Hill and valley shaking;
'Till the sound spreads wide around,
The Saxon's courage breaking;
Your foes on every side assailing,
Forward press with heart unfailing,
'Till invaders learn with quailing,
Cambria ne'er can yield!
Thou, who noble Cambria wrongest,
Know that freedom's cause is strongest,
Freedom's courage lasts the longest,
Ending but with death!
Freedom countless hosts can scatter,
Freedom stoutest mail can shatter,
Freedom thickest walls can batter,
Fate is in her breath.
See, they now are flying!
Dead are heap'd with dying!
Over might hath triumph'd right,
Our land to foes denying;
Upon their soil we never sought them,
Love of conquest hither brought them,
But this lesson we have taught them,
"Cambria ne'er can yield!"
An earlier version is thus:-
Ca. 1830 broadside version, republished by Thomas Oliphant in 1862
Hark! I hear the foe advancing,
Barbed steeds are proudly prancing,
Helmets in the sunbeams glancing
Glitter through the trees.
Men of Harlech, lie ye dreaming?
See ye not their falchions gleaming,
While their pennons gaily streaming
Flutter in the breeze?
From the rocks rebounding,
Let the war cry sounding
Summon all at Cambria's call,
The haughty foe surrounding,
Men of Harlech, on to glory!
See, your banner famed in story
Waves these burning words before ye
"Britain scorns to yield!"
'Mid the fray, see dead and dying,
Friend and foe together lying;
All around, the arrows flying,
Scatter sudden death!
Frighten'd steeds are wildly neighing,
Brazen trumpets hoarsely braying,
Wounded men for mercy praying
With their parting breath!
See! they're in disorder!
Comrades, keep close order!
Ever they shall rue the day
They ventured o'er the border!
Now the Saxon flies before us!
Vict'ry's banner floateth o'er us!
Raise the loud exulting chorus
"Britain wins the field,"
Rhyfelgyrch Gwyr Harlech
Wele goelcerth wen yn fflamio
A thafodau tân yn bloeddio
Ar i'r dewrion ddod i daro
Unwaith eto'n un
Gan fanllefau tywysogion
Llais gelynion, trwst arfogion
A charlamiad y marchogion
Craig ar graig a g ryn.
Arfon byth ni orfydd
Cenir yn dragywydd
Cymru fydd fel Cymru fu
Yn glodfawr ym mysg gwledydd.
Yng ngwyn oleuni'r goelcerth acw
Tros wefusau Cymro'n marw
Annibyniaeth sydd yn galw
Am ei dewraf ddyn.
Ni chaiff gelyn ladd ac ymlid
Harlech! Harlech! cwyd i'w herlid
Y mae Rhoddwr mawr ein Rhyddid
Yn rhoi nerth i ni.
Wele Gymru a'i byddinoedd
Yn ymdywallt o'r mynyddoedd!
Rhuthrant fel rhaeadrau dyfroedd
Llamant fel y lli!
Llwyddiant i'n marchogion
Rwystro gledd yr estron!
Gwybod yn ei galon gaiff
Fel bratha cleddyf Brython
Y cledd yn erbyn cledd a chwery
Dur yn erbyn dur a dery
Wele faner Gwalia'i fyny
Rhyddid aiff â hi!
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- 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.
- "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.
- Saga Magazine Archived 9 March 2015 at Archive.is: The Woad Song. Date? Accessed 2015-03-08
- We'll Keep a Welcome at AllMusic
- Volkslieder, German & Other Folk Songs Homepage Men of Harlech
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- on YouTube
- Free typeset sheet music—various arrangements from Cantorion.org
- Men of Harlech—various versions of lyrics
- English version of John Hughes (Ceiriog) 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.
- Men of Harlech public domain audiobook at LibriVox