And The Ladies They Will All Turn Out,” How War


Author’s program note. I was restless that evening and so did what I almost never do, turning on the television for some light entertainment. This, however, was not destined to take place. Indeed, there was to be nothing light and no mirth at all for that day   The Great Planet Official Store    and the excruciatingly long day to come…

I saw the feature that so often distinguishes late night newscasts, video feed from a crime scene, the place usually being somewhere in the inner city no sensible person would ever go to, much less in dead of night. Sirens blared. The sharp reds and blues pierced the night. Police swaggered, made the kinds of adamant gestures which look so officious and ridiculous but which we card-carrying members of the middle class are glad at moments like this are on our side.

Yes, it was the usual late-night distraction that would be buried on page 8 or so in tomorrow’s paper. Nothing to do with me… not even the caption on the bottom of the screen: “MIT security officer killed.” But from then on, through the long night and the longer day that followed everything was direct, personal, everything to do with me.

The reporter noted the crime scene as Vassar Street, Cambridge while the on-screen video showed a great fortress-like structure that was a building well known to me. There the overflow of my pack-rat life is stored… copies of my books and articles, my father’s letters from the Pacific front in World War II, both sides of the voluminous correspondence when my mother and I were working out the rough patches in a relationship where loving each other did not keep us from saying the sharpest, often wounding of words, she in her copperplate hand, mine rushed and illegible.

Such things and so many others were the crucial artifacts of life, things to be stored in boxes now, to be considered at leisure, some day, I promise… It was all in the building behind the reporter. Life was about to change forever as the total war of our times swept me up, imperious, without thought of who I was, what I had been doing, no matter how important. My desires, wishes, priorities counted for nothing… and neither did yours.

“When Johnny Comes Marching Home.”

The lyrics to “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”‘ were written by the Irish-American band leader Patrick Gilmore. Its first sheet music publication was deposited in the Library of Congress in1863, with words and music credited to “Louis Lambert”, a pseudonym Gilmore unaccountably used instead of his own name. The copyright was retained by the publisher, Henry Tolman & Co., of Boston.

Determining who actually composed the music is much trickier. There is, for instance, a melodic resemblance to an earlier drinking song entitled “Johnny Fill Up the Bowl”. Someone named J. Durnal claimed credit for its arrangement, though not its composition. This in turn had a distinct melodic resemblance to a tune by Robert Burns, “John Anderson, my Jo”, which harked back to a tune of 1630 entitled “The Three Ravens,”… which harked back to… but you get the picture.


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