Week 72 – The Deserter

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

I can’t actually remember much about the rest of the novel, but that opening sentence is totally unforgettable.

Which is completely unrelated to this week’s song, except that the narrator of the song very nearly faces a firing squad, and is saved from his fate – somewhat implausibly – at the last minute.

I came across this version in Cecil Sharp’s MSS at the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Sharp had it in December 1908 from Jack Barnard at Bridgewater in Somerset.

Mr Barnard started the song with “the first time I deserted…”
That’s fair enough, but I thought I’d give the central character a bit of back-story, so I added an initial couple of verses (from an unnamed source) in the Alfred Williams collection.

The Deserter

Jack Barnard, photograph by Cecil Sharp; copyright EFDSS.

Jack Barnard, photograph by Cecil Sharp; copyright EFDSS.

The Deserter, from the Bodleian Library collection.

The Deserter, from the Bodleian Library collection.

One Comment to “Week 72 – The Deserter”

  1. A strange song – but the deserter was set free at the end.

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