Men of Harlech
(Rhyfelgyrch Gwyr Harlech)
Version 2
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Barry Taylor

The Fireside Book of Favorite American Folk Songs states: In 1486 the Earl of Pembroke was sent by Edward IV to storm Harlech Castle, a Welsh stronghold. This march, written years later to commenorate that battle, is known almost as well in America as in Wales.

The melody March of the Men of Harlech is said to be an "old Welsh air." There are several sets of lyrics to the melody, some printed on broadsides in the 19th century. One of these can be found at the Broadside Ballads Online. In The Oxford Song Book (Volume 1) (1916) these words are attributed to Thomas Oliphant.*

According to Folk Songs of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales "This famous march celebrates the defiance of the Welsh forces under Dafydd ap Jevan in defending Harlech Castle against the English in 1468." They were, however, forced to surrender to Yorkist forces.

(The different dates from sources are NOT typos - 1468 is the correct date.)

Harlech Castle was prominent in Welsh history several times. Owen Glendower captured it and held a parliament there in the early 15th century. Queen Margaret took refuge there in 1460, during the War of the Roses when her husband, Henry VI, was captured. In 1647, during the English Civil War, Harlech Castle was the last Welsh fortress surrendered to the Parliamentary armies.

There is another version of lyrics at Men of Harlech (1).

Hark, I hear the foe advancing
Barbed steeds are proudly prancing
Helmets in the sunbeams glancing
Glitter through the trees.

Men of Harlech, lie ye dreaming
See ye not their falchions gleaming
While their pennons gaily streaming
Flutter in the breeze.

From the rocks resounding
Let the war cry sounding
Summon all at Cambreais call
The haughty foe surrounding

Men of Harlech, on to glory
See your banner famed in story
Waves these buring words before ye,
"Britain scorns to yield!"

Mid the fray see dead and dying
Friend and foe together lying
All around the arrows flying
Scatter sudden death.

Frightened steeds are wildly neighing
Brazen trumpets loudly braying
Wounded men for mercy praying
With their parting breath.

See they're in disorder,
Comrades, keep close order
Ever they shall rue the day,
They ventured o'er the border.

Now the Saxon flees before us,
Victr'ry's banner floateth oe'er us,
Raise the loud exulting chorus,
"Britain wins the field!"

Lyrics in Welsh
Related Links
*Information on Thomas Oliphant from Stephen Cook - thank you!