Saturday, November 10, 2007



Nowadays, it seems, the only music heard by most people out walking or hiking comes from iPods or other electronic devices plugged into their ears. But there is a tradition of walking songs which, like many old-fashioned customs, should be revived. What got me thinking about this was Ivor Gurney's Walking Song:
The miles go sliding by
Under my steady feet,
That mark a leisurely
And still unbroken beat,
Through coppices that hear
Awhile, then lie as still
As though no traveller
Ever had climbed their hill.
My comrades are the small
Or dumb or singing birds,
Squirrels, field things all
And placid drowsing herds.
Companions that I must
Greet for a while, then leave
Scattering the forward dust
From dawn to late of eve.
Gurney was a composer as well as a poet — I don't know if he ever set his own Walking Song to music.

There are a few walking songs in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, including this one:
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow it, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
The only walking song I know how to sing is Friedrich W. Möller's Der fröhliche Wanderer, in its English translation The Happy Wanderer. I learned it when I was a boy from a somewhat unusual source — The Bud Leavitt Show, a locally-produced television show about the outdoors, fishing, and hunting, which used to air on WABI in Bangor, Maine. The Happy Wanderer was the rollicking theme song of the TV show. Here are the lyrics:
I love to go a-wandering
Along the mountain track
And as I go, I love to sing,
My knapsack on my back.

Valderi, Valdera,
Valderi, Valdera ha ha ha ha ha
Valderi, Valdera,
My knapsack on my back.

I love to wander by the stream
That dances in the sun,
So joyously it calls to me,
Come join my happy song.
Valderi, Valdera . . . .

I wave my hat to all I see,
And they wave back to me
And blackbirds call so loud and sweet
From every greenwood tree.
Valderi, Valdera . . . .

O may I go a-wandering
Until the day I die,
O may I always laugh and sing
Beneath God's clear blue sky.
Valderi, Valdera . . . .
You can find sheet music for The Happy Wanderer here, although it's pitched too high. I recommend transposing down a fifth.

Richard Koop has a nice web page devoted to German Wanderlieder, with lyrics and tunes (MIDI format). It would be even better with sheet music.

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