Forty Years On (song)

Forty Years On (song)

Forty Years On is a song written by Edward Ernest Bowen and John Farmer in 1872.

Forty Years On is a song about life at school and is meant to give pupils now an idea of what it will be like in forty years when they return to their old school, and to remind old boys about school life. It is the main school song of Harrow School, and is sung there at the end of any "songs" (this is an occasion when old boys of the school return to hear the schools songs being sung by current pupils, or an occasion within houses for singing the same songs at the end of each term), followed by Auld Lang Syne and the British National Anthem (God Save The Queen).Traditionally, verse three is sung by Old Harrovians in attendance at School Songs. The Churchill verse is only sung once a year at a special Churchill Songs. The penultimate "Follow Up!" in each chorus is sung unaccompanied by the School XII, which is made up of the best singers in the top year.

The Words:

Forty years on, when afar and asunder

Parted are those who are singing today,

When you look back, and forgetfully wonder

What you were like in your work and your play,

Then, it may be, there will often come o’er you,

Glimpses of notes like the catch of a song –

Visions of boyhood shall float them before you,

Echoes of dreamland shall bear them along,

"Follow up! Follow up! Follow up"

"Follow up! Follow up"

"Till the field ring again and again,"

"With the tramp of the twenty-two men."

"Follow up! Follow up!"

Routs and discomfitures, rushes and rallies,

Bases attempted, and rescued, and won,

Strife without anger and art without malice, –

How will it seem to you, forty years on?

Then, you will say, not a feverish minute

Strained the weak heart and the wavering knee,

Never the battle raged hottest, but in it.

Neither the last nor the faintest, were we!

"Follow up! etc."

Oh the great days. in the distance enchanted,

Days of fresh air, in the rain and the sun,

How we rejoiced as we struggled and panted –

Hardly believable, forty years on!

How we discoursed of them, one with another,

Auguring triumph, or balancing fate,

Loved the ally with the heart of a brother,

Hated the foe with a playing at hate!

"Follow up etc."

Forty years on, growing older and older,

Shorter in wind, as in memory long,

Feeble of foot, and rheumatic of shoulder,

What will it help you that once you were strong?

God give us bases to guard or beleaguer,

Games to play out, whether earnest or fun;

Fights for the fearless, and goals for the eager,

Twenty, and thirty, and forty years on!

"Follow up etc."

Churchill Verse:

Blazoned in honour! For each generation

You kindled courage to stand and to stay;

You led our fathers to fight for the nation,

Called "Follow up" and yourself showed the way.

We who were born in the calm after thunder

Cherish our freedom to think and to do;

If in our turn we forgetfully wonder,

Yet we'll remember we owe it to you.

"Follow up! etc."

The original Churchill verse, sung to him on 12th November 1954, was as follows:

Sixty years on--though in time growing older,

Younger at heart you return to the Hill:

You, who in days of defeat ever bolder,

Led us to Victory, serve Britain still.

Still there are bases to guard or beleaguer,

Still must the battle for Freedom be won:

Long may you fight, Sir, who fearless and eager

Look back to-day more than sixty years on

The Starehe Boys' Centre and School Rendition

FORTY YEARS ON(adapted from the famous song of Harrow School, written in 1872)

Forty years on, when afar and asunder,

Parted are those who are singing today,

When we look back and forgetfully wonder

What we were like in out work and our play:

Brotherhood strong and teachers devoted,

Assembly, Chapel, the House where we grew,

Posho, Githeri, the Founders' Day dinner,

Talks in Baraza, the friendship we knew.

"Lenga Juu! Lenga Juu! Lenga Juu! Lenga Juu!"

"Lenga Juu! Lenga Juu!"

"Give honour again and again,"

"To Starehe where we became men,"

"Lenga Juu! Lenga Juu!"

O the great days in the distance enchanted,

Hours in the classroom and hours in the field,

In games and athletics we struggled and panted,

Learning to strive hard and never to yield,

Scouting, exploring, those long expeditions,

Fighting of fires, swimming and First Aid,

Playing of music, debating and drama,

Voluntary service – our first steps we made.

"Lenga Juu! Lenga Juu! Etc."

Forty years on growing older and older,

Shorter in wind as in memory long,

Feeble of foot and rheumatic of shoulder,

What will it help us that once we were strong?

God gives us duty for us to discharge it,

Problems to face, struggle with and overcome,

Service to render and glory to covet,

Twenty and thirty and forty years on!

"Lenga Juu! Lenga Juu!"


Forty years on, when in a bar down-under

Farting are those who are drinking today,

When you look fat, and regretfully wonder

What you were like when you weren’t overweight,

Then, it may be, there will often come o’er you,

Glimpses of notes like the ning nang song,

Visions of hunger shall waft then before you,

Echoes of Burger King shall bear them along,

Follow up! Follow up! Follow up

Follow up! Follow up

Till the fields ring again and again,

With the flatulence of the thirty true men

Follow up! Follow up!

Forty years on, growing older and older,

Longer in wind, as in memory short,

Feeble of foot, flattened by a boulder,

What will it help you that once you were strong?

God give us goal lines to guard or beleaguer,

Games to play out, with swords or a gun;

Fights for the dickheads, and trees for the beavers,

Twenty, and thirty, and forty years on!

Other uses

Forty Years On is the school song of the prestigious Napier Boys' High School (known to the lads as Napier Mens) in Napier, New Zealand. The "tramp of the twenty-two men" line is altered and instead is "the tramp of the thirty true men" - in reference to Rugby Union which is the national sport. The same is also true for Wellington College in Wellington, the capital of NZ.
Hamilton Boys' High School in NZ has also used it with the "thirty true men" since the 1950's. Nelson College, in Nelson, New Zealand, sings the first verse (and chorus - with the reference to the "thirty true men") at Senior Prizegiving

As well as this it is also sung at Melbourne High School's Speech Night (Graduation Night). Only the first and last verses (excluding the Winston Churchill verse) are sung. Rather than the "tramp of the twenty-two men", Melbourne High School replaces the line with the "tramp of the thirty-six men" in reference to Australian rules football being the dominant football code in Victoria.

In the United Kingdom: the school song of Netherthorpe School Colyton Grammar School, Woodford County High School in Essex, Beverley Grammar School in East Yorkshire, Bolton School, Manchester Grammar School, High Storrs Grammar School, Sheffield, the now defunct Salford Grammar School and Harrow School's affiliated school, The John Lyon School.

In the United States: sung at the Cranbrook Kingswood School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (excluding the Winston Churchill verse) at the commencement ceremony.

In Kenya it is sung on Founders' Day at Starehe Boys' Centre and School

In South Africa: at Pretoria Boys High School, Pretoriasung at all School Valedictions and assemblies at which Old Boys are present, with certain minor adaptions. 22 good men is substituted by 30 good men. It is sung in Forty Years On, a play by Alan Bennett. It also sung at Westville Boys High School, Durban, when the matrics have their last assembly and ring the bell before departing the school.

In Thailand: at Vajiravudh College which is a boarding school built by King Rama VI (King Vajiravudh) in 1911, the "tramp of twenty two men" became "The Might of Thirty Best Men" in reference to the school's supremacy in Rugby. There is also lyric in Thai which is sung each year before the King of Thailand at the Graduation Ceremony.

In Hong Kong, the melody is used by Queen's College as its school song, with its lyrics written by Headmaster Mr. William Kay (1920). The school song of Heep Yunn School is also adapted from this song. But its lyrics is in Chinese, rather than English which Queen's College uses.

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