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Men of Harlech
a song once widely heard in Wales ...
Thanks to Emma Lile of the Museum of Welsh Life for information about publication dates and a copy of the lyrics as they first appeared.
The stirring music first appeared as March of the Men of Harlech in Musical and Poetical Relicks of the Welsh Bards (Edward Jones, London 1784). The song was first published in Gems of Welsh Melody (ed. John Owen, "Owain Alaw", 1860), the Welsh lyrics by "Talhaiarn", the English by W.H. Baker. 

March ye men of Harlech bold, Unfurl your banners in the field, 
Be brave as were your sires of old, And like them never yield! 
What tho' evry hill and dale, Echoes now with war's alarms, 
Celtic hearts can never quail, When Cambria calls to arms. 

By each lofty mountain, By each crystal fountain, 
By your homes where those you love Await your glad returning, 
Let each thought and action prove, True glory can the Cymru move, 
And as each blade gleams in the light, Pray "God defend the right!" 

Clans from Mona wending, Now with Arvon blending, 
Haste with rapid strides along The path that leads to glory, 
From Snowdon's hills with harp and song, And Nantlle's vale proceeds a throng, 
Whose ranks with yours shall proudly vie, "And nobly win or die!" 

March ye men of Harlech go, Lov'd fatherland your duty claims, 
Onward comes the Saxon foe, His footsteps mark'd in flames; 
But his march breeds no dismay, Boasting taunts we meet with scorn, 
Craven like their hosts shall flee Like mists before the morn. 

On the foemen dashing, Swords and bucklers clashing; 
Smite with will their savage band Nor think of e'er retreating: 
But with a firm unflinching hand, In blood quench ev'ry burning brand, 
And for each roof tree cast away A Saxon life shall pay. 

Thus each bosom nerving, From no danger swerving, 
Soon shall the invader feel The doom of fate rewarding; 
They firmly grasp the flashing steel, And as ye strike for Cymru's weal, 
Be this your cry, till life's last breath - "Our Liberty or Death!" 

The song appeared next in The Songs of Wales, (ed. Brinley Richards, 1873). In this version the words are by John Oxenford. 

Men of Harlech, march to glory, Victory is hov'ring o'er ye, 
Bright eyed freedom stands before ye, Hear ye not her call? 
At your sloth she seems to wonder, Rend the sluggish bonds asunder, 
Let the war cry's deaf'ning thunder, Ev'ry foe appal. 

Echoes loudly waking, Hill and valley shaking; 
'Till the sound spreads wide around, The Saxon's courage breaking; 
Your foes on ev'ry side assailing, Forward press with heart unfailing, 
Till invaders learn with quailing, Cambria ne'er can yield. 

Thou who noble Cambria wrongest, Know that freedom's cause is strongest 
Freedom's courage lasts the longest, Ending but with death! 
Freedom countless hosts can scatter, Freedom stoutest mail can shatter, 
Freedom thickest walls can batter, Fate is in her breath. 

See they now are flying! Dead are heaped with dying! 
Over might has triumphed right, Our land to foes denying; 
Upon their soil we never sought them, Love of conquest hither brought them, 
But this lesson we have taught them, Cambria ne'er can yield. 

I have seen several later versions of the song, none of which feature the Saxon enemy. The version sung in the film Zulu begins: 

Men of Harlech stop your dreaming, Can't you see their spear points gleaming, 
See their warrior pennants streaming, To this battlefield ... 

No doubt it will be re-written again, but as I point out elsewhere, it will always conjure the spirit of the defenders of Harlech Castle in the fifteenth century.


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