Challenge – Remember, Remember the 17th of November | A (very personal) song roulette

(Sorry for the double post. Given the nature of the prompts, I’m keeping each prompt in a separate post for ease of finding.)

@Findswoman Your pick is Το γελαστό παιδί, i.e. The Laughing Boy, music by Mikis Theodorakis, lyrics by Brendan Behan translated from English by Vasilis Rotas, vocals by Maria Farantouri.

Theodorakis is the Greek musician who can’t be beat in terms of censorship, since the Junta banned his music altogether. He was (and probably still is) the most popular Greek composer at the time, so of course people still listened to his records, a little bit like people in occupied Europe listened to the BBC during World War II. This particular song is an interesting one, because while you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in Greece who doesn’t know the lyrics by rote, most people have no idea that the poem was written by Irish playwright Brendan Behan in memory of Michael Collins. You can read here a great blog post in English about the various Greek figures that are believed to have been the song’s laughing boy.

Here is the English-language poem. After the Polytechnic Uprising, there were Greek versions of the song that replaced “an August morning” with “the 17th of November” and “enemies” with “fascists”, but the original Greek-language lyrics are faithful to the English text.

The Laughing Boy

T’was on an August morning, all in the dawning hours,
I went to take the warming air, all in the Mouth of Flowers,
And there I saw a maiden, and mournful was her cry,
‘Ah what will mend my broken heart, I’ve lost my Laughing Boy.
So strong, so wild, and brave he was, I’ll mourn his loss too sore,
When thinking that I’ll hear the laugh or springing step no more.
Ah, curse the times and sad the loss my heart to crucify,
That an Irish son with a rebel gun shot down my Laughing Boy.
Oh had he died by Pearse’s side or in the GPO,
Killed by an English bullet from the rifle of the foe,
Or forcibly fed with Ashe lay dead in the dungeons of Mountjoy,
I’d have cried with pride for the way he died, my own dear Laughing Boy.
My princely love, can ageless love do more than tell to you,
Go raibh mile maith agat for all you tried to do,
For all you did, and would have done, my enemies to destroy,
I’ll mourn your name and praise your fame, forever, my Laughing Boy.

And the song itself:


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