The Longest Song Wiki

A medley arrangement of two disparate songs that deal with popular folk music tropes, popularized by Canadian "Ciderpunk" band The Dreadnoughts. Though uncredited by the Dreadnoughts, this song's unique arrangement comes from Jon Loomes, and combines Steeleye Span's "Fighting for Strangers" with The Dubliners' rendition of "High Germany."

Factoids

Steeleye Span's "Fighting for Strangers" contains references to numerous traditional folk songs, the chorus refers to a trad song called Our Captain Cried All Hands, its "scarlet coat and a fine cocked hat" is a clear reference to the traditional Mrs. McGrath. "The Shilling he took and he kissed the book" is a reference to The King's Shilling. Johnny is doubtless a reference to (simultaneously) Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye and My Son John. "Half a Ring" a reference to The Broken Token. There are likely several other hidden references in this piece, the list is not comprehensive.

"High Germany" is a traditional folk song which predates the mid 19th century, and according to Sharps's One Hundred English Folk Songs its earliest reference is 1780. There is a lot of debate about which war this song references, though speculation is that it is related to the Seven Years War.

Lyrics

These lyrics are based on the version performed by the Longest Johns in their livestreams, but remain faithful to the arrangement performed by the Dreadnoughts, who perform the arrangement of John Loomes of the band Pilgrim's Way. The lyrics can be [found here].

A recruiting sergeant came our way
From the inn near town at the close of day
He said "my Johnny you're a fine young man
Would you like to march along behind a military band,
With a scarlet coat and a fine cocked hat,
And a musket at your shoulder,"
The shilling he took and he kissed the book,
Oh poor Johnny what'll happen to ya?

The recruiting sergeant marched away
From the Inn near town at the break of day,
Johnny came too with half a ring
He was off to be a soldier to go fighting for the King
In a far off war in a far off land
To face the foreign soldier,
But how will you fare when there's lead in the air,
Oh poor Johnny what'll happen to ya?

Well the sun rose high on a barren land,
Where the thin red line made a military stand,
There was sling shot, chain shot, grape shot too,
Swords and bayonets thrusting through,
Poor Johnny fell but the day was won
And the King is grateful to ya
But your soldiering's done and they're sending you home,
Oh poor Johnny what'll happen to ya?

Well, they said he was a hero and not to grieve
For the two ruined legs and the empty sleeves
They took him home and they set him down
With a military pension and a medal from the crown.
But you haven't an arm, you haven't a leg,
The enemy nearly slew ya,
You'll have to go out on the streets to beg,
Oh poor Johnny what'll happen to ya?

A recruiting sergeant came our way
From the inn near town at the close of day
He said my Johnny you're a fine young man
Would you like to march along behind a military band,
With a scarlet coat and a fine cocked hat,
And a musket at your shoulder,
The shilling he took and he kissed the book,
Oh poor Johnny what will happen to ya?

O Polly love, O Polly, the route has now begun,
And we must go a-marching to the beating of a drum,
Come dress yourself all in your best and come along with me,
I'll take you to the cruel wars in High Germany.

O Harry, dearest Harry, mind well what I do say,
My feet they are so tender and I cannot march away,
Besides, my dearest Harry, I am with child by thee,
Not fitted for the cruel wars in High Germany.

I'll buy you a horse, my love, and on it you shall ride,
And all of my delight shall be walking at your side.
We'll stop at every alehouse and drink when we are dry,
Be true to one another, get married by and by

O cursed be the cruel wars, that ever they should rise,
And out of merry England, press many a man likewise
They took her Harry from her, likewise her brothers three,
And sent them to the cruel wars in High Germany.