Dewilde, Jan (Hrsg./Editor) 


Dewilde, Jan (Hrsg./Editor) 

World War I and Music: Flemish songs about the Yser 1914-1918 (by Émile Wambach /with score and parts/, Roel Steppe, Emiel Hullebroeck, Karel Candael, Robert De Leye, Robert De Leye, Auguste Eenhaes, Arthur Verhoeven and César Michiels)



Dewilde, Jan (Hrsg./Editor)

World War I and music

Flemish songs about the Yser (1914-1918)

Émile Wambach (Aarlen, 1854 – Antwerpen, 1924), Le Chant d’Yser (Henri de Puymaly) Roel Steppe (Aalst, 1882 – Sint-Niklaas, 1975), Lied van de dood (Frans van Raemdonck) Emiel Hullebroeck (1878-1965), De verworpelingen van den Yzer (unknown)
Emiel Hullebroeck, Aan mijn Belgen bij den Yzer (Karel Van den Oever)
Karel Candael (Antwerpen, 1883 – Rotterdam, 1948), Voor vorst en vaderland (Frans Fiten)
Robert De Leye (Etikhove, 1891 – Dendermonde, 1937), Eendracht (Pol van Dorpe) Auguste Eenhaes (Brussel?, ? – Brussel?, 1938), Les régiments de Marne et d’Yser (Noël Desaux) Arthur Verhoeven (Zandhoven, 1889 – Schoten, 1958), Daar kwam een Yzerjongen (Jozef Simons) César Michiels (?, 1879 – Gent?, 1942), Een onbekende held (Kommandant Sevens)

This publication is a compilation of war songs that reference the Yser textually, the river in the Flemish Westhoek that played a crucial role during the First World War. After the crossing of the Belgian defence line along the Meuse and the fall of Antwerp, the Belgian army created a defence line along the Yser, and so it became the most Western link in the defence line of the Allies. The flooding of the Yser plain marked the beginning of four years of trench warfare. It also gave the Yser its almost mythical reputation sung about in so many war poems and songs. In Émile Wambach’s concert aria Le Chant d’Yser, the Yser is even personified as a witness of the suffering and the violence at the front. After the war, the people go to the river on a pilgrimage, which serves as a prelude to the Yser pilgrimages that were being organised since 1920 to commemorate the perished Flemish soldiers using the motto ‘No more war’.

Lied van de dood (Song of death) by Roel Steppe is written to lyrics of Frans Van Raemdonck (1897-1917), who perished together with his brother in Steenstrate on 26 March 1917. ‘’k Zal sterven zo ver van huis’ (‘I will die so far from home’), he wrote in this poem. One of his other verses was just as prophetic: ‘Te saam vereend, in vreugd’ en nood, als d’eene sterft, de andere dood.’ (‘Together united, in joy and pain, when one dies, the other’s dead.’) The brothers were buried together and became a symbol of the Front Movement, which fought against the strict French language policy imposed by the army. Steppe’s song is expressly dedicated to the war victims

‘of all countries’.

Another song that exposes the situation of the Flemish soldiers at the Yser front, is De verworpelingen (The Outcasts) by Emiel Hullebroeck: ‘Als boeven hebben wij geboet / gebukt voor vuisten en voor zwepen / omdat ons vader Vlaming was.’ (‘As thieves we have suffered/ stooped for fists and whips / all because our father was Flemish.’)

A phrase such as ‘geen adem, geen gezondheid meer’ (‘no more breath, no more health’) refers to the gas attacks near Ypres launched by the Germans in 1915. Hullebroeck spent part of the war in the neutral Netherlands, where he organized many song nights. He used the proceeds to finance Het werk der Vlaamse oorlogsmeters, an organisation that was founded in 1916 by his wife Anna De Vos and the teacher Johan De Maegt in order to offer moral and material support to the soldiers at the Yser by sending them letters and tobacco. In the song Aan mijn Belgen bij den Yser (To my Belgians at the Yser), Hullebroeck emphasizes the unity of the Flemish and the Walloons against the enemy. The same message can be found in Karel Candael’s Voor vorst en vaderland! (For king and country!) (1915) and in Eendracht (Union) by Robert De Leye, which was composed after the war: ‘Aan Maas en Yzer stonden zij samen in ‘t gevecht’ (‘At the Meuse and the Yser they stood united in the battle’).

The ‘chanson-marche’ Les régiments de Marne et d’Yser (The regiment of the Marne and the Yser) by Auguste Eenhaes with lyrics by the Brussels author and publisher Noël Desaux sings the praises of the fraternity between the French and the Belgian soldiers, who fought heroically side by side at the Marne and the Yser. In Daar kwam een Yzerjongen (There came an Yser boy) by Arthur Verhoeven and Jozef Simons an Yser soldier returns home after four years to marry his beloved. Simons, who fought at the Yser front himself, hoped in vain that their children would never have to experience war time: ‘‘God! Dat ze van hun leven / noch krijg, noch Yzer zien!’ (‘God! May they never see war nor Yser in their lifetime!’) That hopeful message stands in stark contrast with the song Een onbekende held (An unknown hero) by César Michiels, which is dedicated to the soldiers who perished at the front and which pays tribute to the grave of an unknown soldier. Always someone’s father, always someone’s child …

Jan Dewilde

(translation: Jasmien Dewilde)

This score was published in cooperation with the Centre for Flemish Music (Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Muziek –

Read more / Mehr lesen > HERE

Score Data

Special Edition

The Flemish Music Collection


Chor/Gesang & Instrument(e)




225 x 320 mm




Set Partitur & Stimmen

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