Roman Soldier
© Tim Brooks 1977 - Based on a Yorkshire ghost story




So Far From Home

The Marching Song of the Ghosts of the Ninth Legion

Roman Soldier
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Traditional style chorus song based on a true story
redfiddler image So Far From Home
The Marching Song of the ghosts of the Ninth Legion
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Written at the time of the re-opening of the North Yorkshire Moors railway
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An epic seasonal monologue

      As I walked out, one winter's morning early,
      A mist hung in the valley; I'd not thought to tarry long,
      When the cheery birds fell silent and I felt the cold about me,
      And I heard the sound of voices raised in mournful marching song...

                 So far from home and every man's an enemy,
                 So far from home and little chance of leave,
                 So far from home, no pretty wife to comfort me,
                 So pity us poor soldiers, we've cause enough to grieve.

      And as I stood, a horse and armoured rider
      Came walking at the vanguard of a line of trudging men.
      Bright feathers in their helmets shadowed faces dark and cloudy,
      There never was a sadder sight than passed before me then.....

                 So far from home and every man's an enemy,
                 So far from home and little chance of leave,
                 So far from home, no pretty wife to comfort me,
                 So pity us poor soldiers, we've cause enough to grieve.

      No sound there came, from horse's hoof or bridle,
      No sound from the armour or the weapons that they wore.
      Only their voices, lifted up in singing,
      Broke that morning's silence as they marched across the moor.....

                 So far from home and every man's an enemy,
                 So far from home and little chance of leave,
                 So far from home, no pretty wife to comfort me,
                 So pity us poor soldiers, we've cause enough to grieve.

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© Tim Brooks 1977 - Based on a traditional ghost story
Recorded by Jim Mageean and Johnny Collins on 'Make the Rafters Roar'
Sweet Folk All, LP SFA 103 1981

About this Song

There have been many stories describing the fate of the Ninth Legion and many more describing ghostly sightings of Roman Soldiers in and around York. This song describes an imagined moorland encounter.

Of course, if it wasn't for the title, the sentiments of the song could apply to any occupying force, which lends the song a broader significance - though the Latin original gives it some credence....

Domus longe     et omnis inimicus
Domus longe     et relinquere non potuit
Domus longe     nec quicum bella uxorem consolaretur
Et misereri pauperum militum     non erit tristis

This song has taken on a life of its own having been recorded by Jim Mageean and Johnny Collins and it even appears as the acapella accompaniment to a Border Morris dance "Richard's Castle" . I have yet to see the dance!

The idea for the song had been knocking around in my head for some time, but the final connection was made after hearing the Boys of the Lough version of "The Pikeman's March". This gave me the mood that I was trying to create, and those familiar with this tune will hear that it is not very different from the song melody that developed. I have in the past paired the two, singing the song first then following it with a couple of turns of the march.

Media files

marked *** not yet available - to be added soon!

Audio files

  mp3 solo recording of So far From Home

Printable Song Sheet

  pdf

Melody line

  *** tablature ***