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Soon (1812)


Soon (1812)

words & music Mike Ford


Take me to a border town, seven nights from home

Tell me I'm a soldier now - no fault of my own

March me up the river bank, sing your Doodle Song

Tell me I’ve a name and rank and a whiskey shot at dawn

Maybe in the blossoms, or in thunder’s roar

One’s got my number, I’ll be goin’ down

Won’t have to march any more


Play your bugle tune soon, soon, soon

I don’t wanna die beneath a harvest moon


Golden beet, Cayuga corn, April’s promise sown

Now a ragged uniform is all I call my own

They’ll be climbing green and high – August is on her throne

But it’s a different crop this time

When that charge is blown

A bayonet in blossoms, or a canon’s roar

One’s got my number – I’ll be goin’ down

Don’t make me wait any more


Play your bugle tune soon, soon, soon

I don’t wanna die beneath a harvest moon




Madison, oh Madison, what’d you corral me for?

Let some wild Kentucky boys settle their own score

Grapeshot in the harbour or a musket ball

One’s got my number, I’ll be goin’ down

Please – don’t let it be in the Fall


Play your bugle tune soon, soon, soon…






I wrote this song after coming across stories of farm-boys in upstate New York (USA) who were forced by their own country’s army to fight. Being forced to fight in war is something that occurs on every continent, and has occurred in every century of human history. At this moment it is undoubtedly occurring in conflicts across the globe. Although stories of being literally forced to fight in North America in 1812 are perhaps more rare than in many other conflicts, they did occur, and on both sides. I wanted to create a song that imagined the thoughts of one such unwilling soldier. In this song, the young soldier fears the worst will happen, and comes to feel that his only prayer is for the worst not to happen during his favourite season.

The unwilling soldier of this song does not feel connected to the urgency of the war. He suggests that he has no personal quarrel with The British. He suggests that perhaps it is some ‘Wild Kentucky boys’ who have something to be vengeful for, not him. I wrote this element in to refer to the many north-eastern US citizens who did not feel the war was necessary, while at the same time, many from places like the Kentucky territory had a burning desire to continue their fight with some First Nations tribes, and with the British who they felt were backing those tribes.

When I perform this song, I often am not thinking about 1812 at all, but rather about individuals forced to fight in wars in our modern day. I sometimes imagine what kinds of farms or villages they may be leaving, and what their favourite season might be.




Discussion Question

1.What is the ‘Doodle song’ the lyrics refer to?

2.What is the soldier’s favourite season? For what possible reasons?

3. When and how does the song refer to other seasons?

4. What could it mean to say “One’s got my number”?

5.What crops does the soldier’s farm grow?

6. What writer’s technique is the songwriter using when he says that ‘August is on her throne?

7.What is the ‘different crop this time’ the song refers to?

8. Who is Madison? 

9. If a soldier didn’t want to fight, did he have any options in that era? Are there options today?



Related Activities

1.Debate Drama: Create a scene between two US citizens, one arguing for the war, one against it, making their arguments for and against.

2. Take the lyrics of this song and re-write them from the point of view of:

- a more willing soldier

- a sister, home on the farm her soldier brother has left

- A member of a group that seeks to help soldiers escape war, such as The Quakers (of 1812 and today).

3. MUSIC: Search for, and present, other songs that use the 4 seasons as their setting.

4. MUSIC: Search for, and present, other songs that describe a soldier’s unwillingness to fight.