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Spectre Review

[words Baron Joseph Christian von Zedlitz (1790-1862): Die nächtliche Heerschau, translated by Elizabeth Craigmyle, music trad. arr. Pete Flood]

Bellowhead sang Spectre Review in 2008 on their Navigator CD Matachin. They noted:

Jon found the text for this song in the folklore department library at Sheffield University in a book called German Folk Songs. Unfortunately that library has since closed down and the book has disappeared so we are short on details, but it appears to be a 20th century translation of a poem by the Austrian poet Baron Joseph Christian von Zedlitz (1790-1862). Pete then set it to a variation of a French tune.

Thank you to C. Emery Howe for finding the lost source in the Internet Archive. It is German Ballads, translated and edited by Elizabeth Craigmyle, London, New York: Walter Scott [1892], p.257. The book ist part of the Canterbury Poets series.

Jon Boden also sang Spectre Review on 1 November 2010 in his A Folk Song a Day project.

Lyrics

Die nächtliche Heerschau

Nachts um die zwölfte Stunde
Verläßt der Tambour sein Grab,
Macht mit der Trommel die Runde,
Geht wirbelnd auf und ab.
Mit seinen entfleischten Armen
Rührt er die Schlägel zugleich;
Schlägt manchen guten Wirbel,
Reveill’ und Zapfenstreich.
Die Trommel klinget seltsam,
Hat gar einen starken Ton,
Die alten toten Soldaten
Erwachen im Grabe davon;
Und die im tiefen Norden
Erstarrt in Schnee und Eis,
Und die in Welschland liegen,
Wo ohnen die Erde zu heiß;
Und die der Nilschlamm decket
Und der arabische Sand,
Sie steigen aus den Gräbern
Und nehmen’s Gewehr zur Hand.
Da kommen auf luftigen Pferden
Die toten Reiter herbei,
Die blutigen alten Schwadronen,
In Waffen mancherlei.
Und um die zwölfte Stunde
Verläßt der Feldherr sein Grab,
Kommt langsam hergeritten,
Umgeben von seinem Stab;
Er trägt ein kleines Hütchen,
Er trägt ein enfach Kleid,
Und einen kleinen Degen
Trägt er an seiner Seit’!
Der Mond mit gelbem Lichte
Erhellt den weiten Plan,
Der Mann im kleinen Hütchen
Sieht sich die Truppen an.
Die Reihen präsentiren
Und schultern das Gewehr,
Dann zieht mit klingendem Spiele
Vorbei das ganze Heer.
Die Marschäll und Generale
Schliessen um ihn den Kreis,
Der Feldherr sagt dem Nächsten
Ins Ohr ein Wörtchen leis’;
Das Wort geht in die Runde,
Klingt wieder fern und nah’:
»Frankreich« heißt die Parole,
Die Losung: »Sanct Helena«.
Das ist die große Parade
Im Elyseischen Feld,
Die um die zwölfte Stunde
Der tote Cäsar hält.

The Spectre Review

From out of his grave the drummer,
When midnight's chime hath tolled
Rises, and wanders nightly,
The drum within his hold.

With armbones white and fleshless
He moves the drumsticks two
Plays many a wild reveillé
And many a weird tattoo.

And through the dark, loud calling,
The drum-taps beat and shake;
The dead forgotten soldiers
From out of their graves awake.

Those buried in the Northland,
Stark beneath ice and snow
And those whose bones are sweltering
Italia's earth below.

Those whom the Nile stream covers
And the Arabian sand,—
All from their graves are rising,
With weapons in their hands

Then from his grave the trumpeter
At midnight rises slow,
And ever at the midnight
The ghostly trumpets blow.

Next come, on prancing horses,
The brave dead cavalry.
The bloody shot-pierced squadrons
All weaponed diversely.

Skulls grin beneath the shadow
Each dinted helm affords;
Hands that are dry and fleshless
Brandish long, rusty swords.

And last, his grave forsaking
When chimes of midnight sound,
Comes the General, slowly riding,
With his phantom staff around.

Cocked and small the hat he weareth,
And his coat is grey and wide,
And he bears a small-sword hanging
In the sheath at his left side.

The moon with yellow glances
O'er the wide plain doth shine;
The General watches mutely,
the troops they form in line.

The ranks present and shoulder
Their arms right soldierly,
With regimental music
the army marches by.

The marshals and the generals
Gather around him near;
A word the leader whispers
Within his neighbour's ear.

“The Word” goes round the circle,
Resounds o'er all the plain:
“La France” the ringing password,
The answer “St Hélène!”.

Thus at the hour of midnight,
In the Champs Élysées,
The long-dead Caesar holdeth
his weird review, men say.

Bellowhead sing Spectre Review

From out of his grave the drummer, when midnight's chime has tolled
Rises and wanders nightly, the drum within his hold
With arm bones white and fleshless he moves the drumsticks two
Plays many a wild reveille and many a weird tattoo

And through the dark loud calling, the drum-taps beat and shake
And the dead forgotten soldiers from out of their graves awake

Those buried in the northlands under the ice and snow
And those whose bones are swelt'ring Italia's earth below
And those who the Nile-stream cover, and the Arabian sands
All from their graves are rising with weapons in their hands

Then from his grave the trumpeter at midnight rises slow
And ever at the midnight the ghostly trumpets blow

Next come the prancing horses, the brave dead cavalry
The bloody shot-pierced squadrons all weaponed diversely
Skulls grin beneath the shadows each dinted helm affords
Arms white and fleshless brandish long and rusty swords

And last his grave forsaking when chimes of midnight sound
Comes the general riding with his phantom staff around

Small and cocked the hat he wears and his coat is grey and wide
And he bears a short sword hanging in the sheath at his left side
The moon with yellow glances over the wide plain shines
The general watches mutely; the troops they form in line

The ranks present and shoulder their arms right soldierly
And with regimental music the army marches by

The marshals and the general gather around him near
A word the general whispers into Caesar's ear
The word goes round the circle, resounding over the plain
“La France!” the ringing password, the answer “St Hélène!”

Thus at the hour of midnight in the Champs Élysées
The long-dead Caesar holds his weird review, men say