Wednesday, 21 July 2004

Semper Fidelis

"Knock, knock"
"Who's there?"
"Sam and Janet"
"Sam and Janet who?"
"Sam and Janet Evening....."

Another of the tender love songs in South Pacific was the one in which a lot of sweaty Marines bawl out their desire for dames. This is not actually the anthem of the United States Marines; they do have an official one - or "hymn" as they call it - which will be very familiar to anyone who remembers American war movies of the forties and fifties.

Over the opening credits, and often the closing ones as well, you would hear this tune sung by male voices in unison (like plainchant only louder and with brass accompaniment). The words were something about Halls of Montezuma and Shores of Tripoli, Fighting Our Country's Battles on Land and on the Sea, etc. Stirring stuff.

If you want to annoy a francophobe Marine (and personally I should strongly advise against attempting this), you could remind him that the tune is not American at all, but was originally a song from a comic opera by Jacques Offenbach, the son of a synagogue cantor in Cologne who later became a French citizen.

The opera was called Geneviève de Brabant and the song was Les Deux Gendarmes, sung by a pair of corrupt and cowardly policemen:

We're public guardians bold yet wary
And of ourselves we take good care
To risk our precious lives we're chary
When danger threatens we're not there
But when we see a helpless woman
Or little boys who do no harm
We run them in, we run them in
To show them we're the beaux gendarmes...

Full lyrics HERE

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