The Last Farewell

Roger-Whittaker-in-Concert1976 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Roger Whittaker – The Last Farewell

There’s a ship lies rigged and ready in the harbour
Tomorrow for old England she sails
Far away from your land of endless sunshine
To my land full of rainy skies and gales
And I shall be aboard that ship tomorrow
Though my heart is full of tears at this farewell

For you are beautiful, I have loved you dearly
More dearly than the spoken word can tell
For you are beautiful, I have loved you dearly
More dearly than the spoken word can tell

I’ve heard there’s a wicked war a-blazing
And the taste of war I know so very well
Even now I see the foreign flag a-raising
Their guns on fire as we sail into hell
I have no fear of death, it brings no sorrow
But how bitter will be this last farewell

For you are beautiful, I have loved you dearly
More dearly than the spoken word can tell
For you are beautiful, I have loved you dearly
More dearly than the spoken word can tell

Though death and darkness gather all about me
My ship be torn apart upon the seas
I shall smell again the fragrance of these islands
And the heaving waves that brought me once to thee
And should I return home safe again to England
I shall watch the English mist roll through the dale

For you are beautiful, I have loved you dearly
More dearly than the spoken word can tell
For you are beautiful, I have loved you dearly
More dearly than the spoken word can tell.

The annals of history are filled with detailed accounts of war-torn nations, from centuries past – stories of blood, gore, untold destruction & the violation of the bodies & self-respect of men, women & children – all in the name of WAR. The latter is, undoubtedly, one of the most useless ventures undertaken by any leader, past or present – whether it be the leaders of ancient tribes or the powerful heads of modern-day Superpowers. When one thinks of conquerors like Napoleon, battles were fought to gain access to a huge empire. The ruler acquired great power in this way & gained the subjugation of the people of an entire nation.

A common enough expression is – “All is fair in love and war.” It is my opinion that whoever coined such a ridiculous quote had – probably – forgotten to wear his spectacles properly – or at all. There is nothing just and fair about war – or about love for that matter. More often than not, wars have been won through unfair & underhand means. Do you remember the oft-told tale of how the exquisite beauty, Helen of Troy was won by the invading enemy army with their gift of the huge, deceptive Trojan Horse filled with hidden enemy soldiers? How the enemy then preyed on unarmed, innocent and helpless people whilst they slept at night? That is war.  There is – and never has been – technically a victor in any war. There are only victims, unimaginable misery & huge losses. The thought of war has always filled the hearts of  millions of people with intense fear & dread –  war is such a wanton act of violence and destruction – it is akin to entering a trial by fire from which there is no escape or reprieve whatsoever.

“The Last Farewell” is one of Roger Whittaker’s  saddest, most poignant & yet  one of his most beautiful songs till date –  it is made all the more touching with Whittaker’s mellow, soothing and lilting baritone voice. I love this song but it never fails to fill me with sadness, even today. Have you ever thought about how many lives have been lost prematurely – so violently and so unnecessarily when war breaks out? Families have been irretrievably destroyed – war has spared no one of wrenching grief and sorrow – not the mothers, or the fathers, or the husbands, or the wives, or the brothers, or the sisters, or the innocent children and babies.

The call of war had to be answered immediately by any soldier – without exception or excuse. Nobody cared if, in the meanwhile, your parent was dying in front of your eyes or that your new-born child was born. To answer the call of battle was – and is even today – a soldier’s solemn vow of patriotism to fight for his country till the bitter end.

Whenever war struck, it has literally turned the world upside down. Quite often, there was no time even for a perfunctory last farewell to one’s loved ones. Can you even begin to imagine the immense sorrow of not being able to bade a final goodbye to your family, friends or your lover? It was like walking into a wall of death – the bells of war tolled then – and toll to this day – the dreaded death knell. Yet, we have little or no thought to the innumerable soldiers who have laid down their lives for the protection and well-being of their fellow-citizens and continue to voluntarily do so to this day…….Life is not always about chapters filled with days of wine and roses wine can throw one into a drunken stupor and roses have thorns. Life is not always fair or just  and the act of voluntarily warring with one’s enemy is one of the most insane, unjust and totally unnecessary acts of violence ever committed by civilization. 

“The Last Farewell” is a  song where a soldier speaks of meeting his lady-love on a beautiful, sunny, fragrant island where he was probably marooned in the middle of nowhere. Notice how the joy of his love makes him perceive his surroundings so positively. Then the horror of the nightmare starts – he is forced to leave her to answer the call of war in England – a land that is notorious for persistent gloomy, rainy, windy and dull weather. The soldier says that he is not afraid of the power of the enemy guns or of death itself – in all probability; he expects to die a horrible death. If he ever does return home safe to his native Yorkshire dales, he has vowed his everlasting, undying love to his lover & will never forget the taste of his last, bitter farewell and the deep sorrow it left him with. He was probably grateful that he had an opportunity, however fleeting, to bade her farewell to her at all!

What it all boils down to is this simple fact – if you are able to wake up each morning and if you find yourself living a life colored with love, serenity, peace & happiness – then be forever grateful for the gift of PEACE AND LOVE that you enjoy each and every day, without – I am sure – giving it too much thought!  Innumerable other people have been deprived of it – all in the name of war. All this for what, you might be tempted to ask? In pursuit of power & greed – nothing more or less. That is war.

War achieved nothing then – it still achieves nothing to this day. War was futile then; is futile even today and will be forever futile!

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