> Three City Four > Songs > Across the Hills
> The Ian Campbell Folk Group > Songs > Across the Hills

Across the Hills

[Leon Rosselson]

Leon Rosselson published his stark anti-nuclear song in 1968 in the book Look Here: Songs by Leon Rosselson. The verses were to be sung alternately by two singers with the last verse sung by both singers in parallel. Rosselson noted in the book:

Voice A was conceived as being for a girl, voice B for a man. The two attitudes are intended to be complementary rather than contradictory--I wasn't taking sides. Together, they seem to me to represent a more complete awareness--of the possibilities of life and the possibilities of its destruction.

Across the Hills is the title track of the Ian Campbell Folk Group's second album, Across the Hills, published in 1964.

My favourite—and in my opinion the most intense—recording of Across the Hills is the one by the Three City Four (Marian McKenzie, voice A; Leon Rosselson, voice B, banjo; Martin Carthy, guitar; Ralph Trainer, guitar), recorded in 1965 for their album The Three City Four. This track was re-released in 2002 on the anthology The Acoustic Folkbox.

Leon Rosselson recorded this song again for his albums If I Knew Who the Enemy Was (1977) and Guess What They're Selling at the Happiness Counter (1992). In the latter version, he sang voice A and Liz Mansfield voice B in a reversal of the original roles.

Lyrics

Printed version

A

Across the hills black clouds are sweeping,
Carry poison far and wide,
And the grass has blackened underfoot,
And the rose has withered and died.

B

But the rose is still as red, love, and the grass is still as green,
And it must have been a shadow in the distance you have seen,
Yes, it must have been a shadow you have seen.

A

But can't you hear the children weeping?
Can't you hear the mournful sound?
And no birds sing in the twisted trees
In the silent streets around.

B

I can hear the children laughing in the streets as they play,
And you must have caught the dying of an acho far away,
Yes, it must have been an echo far away.

A

But can't you see the white ash falling
From the hollow of the skies?
And the blood runs red down the blackened walls
Where a ruined city lies.

B

I can see the red sun shining in the park on the stream,
And you must have felt a shiver from the darkness of a dream,
Yes, it must have been the darkness of a dream.

1B
1A
2B
2A
3B

But the rose is still as red, love, and the grass is still as green,
And death shall reap a hellish harvest,
Yes, the rose is still as red, love, and the grass is still as green,
Make a desert of this land.
And it must have been a shadow you have seen.

The Three City Four sing Across the Hills

A

Across the hills black clouds are sweeping,
Carry poison far and wide,
And the grass has blackened underfoot,
And the rose has withered and died.

B

But the rose is still as red, love, and the grass is still as green,
And it must have been a shadow in the distance you have seen,
Yes, it must have been a shadow you have seen.

A

Oh can't you hear the children weeping?
Can't you hear that mournful sound?
And no birds sing in the twisted trees
In the silent streets around.

B

I can hear the children laughing in the streets as they play,
And it must have been the dying of an echo far away,
Yes, it must have been an echo far away.

A

But can't you see the white ash falling
From the hollow of the skies?
And the blood runs red down blackened walls
Where a ruined city lies.

B

I can see the red sun shining in the park on the stream,
And it must have been a shiver from the darkness of a dream,
Yes, it must have been the darkness of a dream.

1B
1A
2B
2A
3B

But the rose is still as red, love, and the grass is still as green,
And death shall reap a hellish harvest,
And it must have been a shadow you have seen
Make a desert of this land.
But the rose is still as red, love, and the grass is still as green,
And it must have been a shadow you have seen.