Friday, January 23, 2009

"Halfway down the trail to Hell, In a shady meadow green ...."

Fiddler's Green is the afterlife imagined by sailors, and later adopted by U.S. Cavalry, where there is perpetual mirth, a fiddle that never stops playing, and dancers who never tire. There is some evidence to support the claim that the major propagators of this belief were pirates who, knowing they would never meet the criteria for entry into Christian heaven, simply created a religion of their own.

Fiddler's Green features in an old Irish legend that a sailor can find the paradisaical village by walking inland with an oar over his shoulder until he finds a place where people ask him what he's carrying. This legend may have some of its origin in Tiresias' prophecy in Homer's Odyssey, in which he tells Odysseus that the only way to appease the sea god Poseidon and find happiness is to take an oar and walk until he finds a land where he is asked what he is carrying, and there make his sacrifice.

The story of Fiddler's Green was published anonymously in a 1923 U.S. Cavalry Manual, and is still used by modern cavalry units to memorialize the deceased. The name has had other military uses. Fiddler’s Green was an artillery Fire Support Base in Military Region III in Vietnam in 1972 occupied principally by elements of 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry, and also was the name of the U.S. Navy's enlisted mens club in Sasebo, Japan in the early 1960s. Fiddlers Green is the name of the stable and pasture used by Parsons Mounted Cavalry, a cadet group at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, and that of the bar at the Leaders Club in Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Halfway down the trail to Hell,
In a shady meadow green
Are the Souls of all dead troopers camped,
Near a good old-time canteen.
And this eternal resting place
Is known as Fiddlers' Green.

Marching past, straight through to Hell
The Infantry are seen.
Accompanied by the Engineers,
Artillery and Marines,
For none but the shades of Cavalrymen
Dismount at Fiddlers' Green.

Though some go curving down the trail
To seek a warmer scene.
No trooper ever gets to Hell
Ere he's emptied his canteen.
And so rides back to drink again
With friends at Fiddlers' Green.

And so when man and horse go down Beneath a saber keen, Or in a roaring charge of fierce melee You stop a bullet clean, And the hostiles come to get your scalp, Just empty your canteen, And put your pistol to your head And go to Fiddlers' Green.

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