A Short History of The Song "Minstrel Boy"
May 19, 2009

<center>Thomas Moore</center>
Thomas Moore
The song Minstrel Boy is an "emotionally stirring and inspirational song" that was first written by Thomas Moore at the beginning of the 19th century and was set to the old Irish tune The Moreen. Moore wrote the song in honor of three friends who had fought in the 1798 "Irish Rebellion." According to one source, "One died in prison, another was wounded, and a third captured and hung." This is what inspired him to write The Minstrel Boy.

Originally the song was only two verses. The first verse is about the "Minstrel Boy"/Balladeer who goes forth to the battle and his resolve to guard the "Land of Song" (Ireland). The second verse speaks of his death at the hands of the foe while tearing the cords from his harp, saying, "No chains shall sully thee, thou soul of love and bravery! Thy songs were writ for the pure and free, they shall never sound in slavery!" This was heroism at its best.

The song became a national favorite among the Scots and the Irish during the War Between the States. During this time, an unknown soldier added another verse which speaks of the day when the Minstrel Boy shall return and when "all the bitterness of man must cease, and every battle must be ended."

The tune of Minstrel boy is probably best known for its role in the film The Man Who Would Be King, which starred Sir Sean Connery. The film was based on a book of the same title, which was written by Rudyard Kipling. In the film, director John Huston chose to switch out the classic words of The Minstrel Boy and inserted the words from the hymn The Son of God Goes Forth To War to the same tune. The hymn was written by Reginald Heber and actually fits the film's underlying theme much better than the original words from The Minstrel Boy. Some have said that the words from the hymn don't fit the tune to Minstrel Boy very well, but when sung properly, they match up quite nicely.


One of the best versions of The Minstrel Boy is sung by Charlie Zahm "Americas Foremost Balladeer." He has recorded a number of albums, a number of them with beautiful versions of this mournful ballad. Recently while performing at the SAICFF he sang the version sung by Connery in The Man who Would be King. It really was great to hear Son of God sung to Minstrel Boy, once again.

Posted by Joshua Phillips at 09:29 AM |

The Son of God Goes Forth to War
May 18, 2009

The Son of God goes forth to war,
A kingly crown to gain;
His blood-red banner streams afar:
Who follows in His train?
Who best can drink his cup of woe,
Triumphant over pain,
Who patient bears his cross below,
He follows in His train.

The martyr first, whose eagle eye
Could pierce beyond the grave,
Who saw his Master in the sky,
And called on Him to save;
Like Him, with pardon on his tongue
In midst of mortal pain,
He prayed for them that did the wrong:
Who follows in his train?

A glorious band, the chosen few
On whom the Spirit came,
Twelve valiant saints, their hope they knew,
And mocked the cross and flame:
They met the tyrant's brandished steel,
The lion's gory mane;
They bowed their necks the death to feel:
Who follows in their train?

A noble army, men and boys,
The matron and the maid,
Around the Saviour's throne rejoice,
In robes of light arrayed:
They climbed the steep ascent of heav'n
Through peril, toil and pain:
O God, to us may grace be giv'n
To follow in their train.

Posted by Joshua Phillips at 11:21 AM |

Wallace and Wallace
May 13, 2009

It seems to me that Ballantyne made the heroe of the story, young Will Wallace very similar to the real Will Wallace of Scotland.

Ballantyne's hero is well over six feet, has tremendous strength, bears the same name as the Scotch leader, and in the beginning of the story, is a trooper in the king's service.

Unlike the real Wallace, who was executed in his mid-twenties, Ballantyne's heroe lives to a "ripe old age" and has plenty of children and grand children.

In G. A. Henty's book, In Freedom's Cause, the heroe of the story has a comrade in the real William Wallace.

Both books are great historical novels from two of the best Christian authors of all-time!

Thank you for your comment, Brandon. I always did find the parallels between Wallace and Wallace to be very telling as to RMB's love of history.

I do think that Ballantyne based the hero of his story off of the true William Wallace. It definitely would have been the sort of thing for Ballantyne to do: Tipping his hat to the real "braveheart" while enhancing him with a more reformed worldview and setting him in a more recent age.

I always was glad that Will (in the book) lived to a "ripe old age" as you say. Its a much happier thing to do then having your entrails cut out in the prime of life.

We definitely can benefit from the example of both Wallaces. -JT

Posted by Joshua Phillips at 10:34 AM |