> Peter Bellamy > Songs > Ford o' Kabul River

Ford o' Kabul River

[words Rudyard Kipling, music Peter Bellamy]

In December 1878, disaster befell a squadron of 10th Hussars attempting to cross the Kabul River. Swept away by rapids, weighted down by their cloaks and equipment, 46 men were drowned or kicked to death by frantic horses. Though no major loss in the context of the bloody second Afghan War, the tragedy (no doubt because it was an accident, not a battle) caused deep shock at home and evidently made its mark on the 13 year old Kipling. His poem Ford o' Kabul River was published in his book Verses 1889-1896.

Peter Bellamy sang Ford o' Kabul River on his fourth album of songs set to Kipling's poems, Keep on Kipling, accompanied by Chris Birch on violin. He also recorded this song in 1990 for his privately issued cassette Soldiers Three. It was released to coincide with the New Victoria Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme's production of Soldiers Three, scripted by Tony Perrin.

Lyrics

Kabul town's by Kabul river—
Blow the trumpet, draw the sword—
There I lef' my mate for ever,
Wet an' drippin' by the ford.
    Ford, ford, ford o' Kabul river,
    Ford o' Kabul river in the dark!
    There's the river up and brimmin', an' there's 'arf a squadron swimmin'
    'Cross the ford o' Kabul river in the dark.

Kabul town's a blasted place—
Blow the trumpet, draw the sword—
'Strewth I sha'n't forget 'is face
Wet an' drippin' by the ford!
    Ford, ford, ford o' Kabul river,
    Ford o' Kabul river in the dark!
    Keep the crossing-stakes beside you, an' they will surely guide you
    'Cross the ford o' Kabul river in the dark.

Kabul town is sun and dust—
Blow the trumpet, draw the sword—
I'd ha' sooner drownded fust
'Stead of 'im beside the ford.
    Ford, ford, ford o' Kabul river,
    Ford o' Kabul river in the dark!
    You can 'ear the 'orses threshin', you can 'ear the men a-splashin',
    'Cross the ford o' Kabul river in the dark.

Kabul town was ours to take—
Blow the trumpet, draw the sword—
I'd ha' left it for 'is sake—
'Im that left me by the ford.
    Ford, ford, ford o' Kabul river,
    Ford o' Kabul river in the dark!
    It's none so bloomin' dry there; ain't you never comin' nigh there,
    'Cross the ford o' Kabul river in the dark?

Kabul town'll go to hell—
Blow the trumpet, draw the sword—
'Fore I see him 'live an' well—
'Im the best beside the ford.
    Ford, ford, ford o' Kabul river,
    Ford o' Kabul river in the dark!
    Gawd 'elp 'em if they blunder, for their boots'll pull 'em under,
    By the ford o' Kabul river in the dark.

Turn your 'orse from Kabul town—
Blow the trumpet, draw the sword—
'Im an' 'arf my troop is down,
Down an' drownded by the ford.
   Ford, ford, ford o' Kabul river,
   Ford o' Kabul river in the dark!
   There's the river low an' fallin', but it ain't no use o' callin'
   'Cross the ford o' Kabul river in the dark.