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 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
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 on film 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 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. (Those who listen carefully will also hear the strains of this tune in the background during the invasion scene of the British army crossing at Rorke's Drift, the locale of "Zulu", in the movie "Zulu Dawn", which is about the battle that precedes Rorke's Drift, the battle at 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 over 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. The song was played by the marching band of Punahou School, Barack Obama's alma mater, at his second inauguration in 2013.
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,
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- 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: The Woad Song. Date? Accessed 2015-03-08
- Volkslieder, German & Other Folk Songs Homepage Men of Harlech
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- on YouTube
- 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.