(notes by Roger Ayers)
| the poem
notes on the text
The influence of military music is apparent everywhere in the barrack-room ballads [...] Rhythms taken from military music are also employed, most directly in the marching or trooping songs...For both of these points Route Marchin' is a prime example.
“It was a constant custom among the old Romans, confirmed by the Ordinances of Augustus and Hadrian, to exercise both cavalry and infantry three times in a month by marches of a certain length. The foot were obliged to march completely armed the distance of ten miles from the camp and return, in the most exact order and with the military step which they changed and quickened on some part of the march.”A similar approach to marching as a drill was taken by the British Army at the beginning of the 19th century as is made clear in Instructions For The Drill And The Methods Of Performing The Eighteen Maneuvers (John Russell, 1804). The 'eighteen maneuvers' were all to do with coordinated movements of bodies of men into, during and, if necessary, out of battle with strict attention being paid to the length of a pace and number of paces per minute, known as the cadence.
[De Re Militari - On things military by Flavius Vegetius Renatus, 390 AD).
On all occasions, when moving out of camp or quarters, or when moving after a regular halt upon the march, each corps will march off by word of command, and with music, unless particularly ordered to the contrary. The men must be perfectly silent, dress, and keep the step, as if moving on parade, until the word MARCH AT EASE is given by the commanding officer of the regiment …One of the problems in the use of the Band was the sheer length of a battalion column, which with eight companies could start out at 1000 yards or more, extending to 1250 yards when marching at ease and 'opened out'. The Soldiers' Pocket Book of 1882 recommends that:
Whenever it is possible, have music to march to. If the Band is broken up, the drums and bugles should play together as the French do. Nothing is more martial in sound and the men march a hundred percent better than in silence. If you have nothing else, get your men to sing by companies.Kipling, who in other works confirms his knowledge of, and reference to, the Soldiers' Pocket Book, stresses the role of bugle and drum in words and within the marching rhythm of the poem and he also mentions the singing.