Young men, soldiers, nineteen fourteen
Marching through countries they'd never seen
Virgins with rifles, a game of charades
All for a children's crusade
Pawns in the game are not victims of chance
Strewn on the fields of Belgium and France
Poppies for young men, death's bitter trade
All of those young lives betrayed
The children of England would never be slaves
They're trapped on the wire and dying in waves
The flower of England face down in the mud
And stained in the blood of a whole generation
Corpulent generals safe behind lines
History's lessons drowned in red wine
Poppies for young men, death's bitter trade
All of those young lives betrayed
All for a children's crusade
The children of England would never be slaves
They're trapped on the wire and dying in waves
The flower of England face down in the mud
And stained in the blood of a whole generation
Midnight in Soho nineteen eighty four
Fixing in doorways, opium slaves
Poppies for young men, such bitter trade
All of those young lives betrayed
All for a children's crusade

Lyrics submitted by Novartza

Children's Crusade Lyrics as written by Gordon Sumner

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Children's Crusade song meanings
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  • +3
    General CommentThere's a bit more to it than just drugs - the poppy in the UK is a symbol of remembrance of the dead from all wars:

    "Poppy Day - Remembrance Day - is the day when the dead of two World Wars and other armed conflicts are remembered in the UK. The Armistice at the end of the First World War of 1914 - 1918 was signed on November 11th at precisely 11 am - the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For this reason, Remembrance Day is on the 11th of November each year although church services and many parades are held on the Sunday nearest that date.

    The Poppy was adopted as the symbol of remembrance because it was so widespread on the sites of the battlefields of Europe after the First World War : the seeds of the common Field Poppy (Papaver rhoeas) germinate best in newly-cultivated soil, which is why it was such a common weed of cornfields until the widespread use of selective weedkillers relegated it to a wayside flower. The soil disturbances caused by trench-digging and shellfire produced ideal conditions for poppies to grow, and they appeared in vast numbers bringing a delicate beauty to areas which had seen such terrible scenes only a short while before."

    So we have poppies of remembrance, and (opium)poppies themselves bringing death to the youth of Britain seventy years later.

    Oh, and the REAL Children's Crusade was a medieval fiasco in the year 1212 in which 30,000 children, led by a shepherd boy, set off to capture Jerusalem. After boarding boats in the South of France, the entire "army" vanished without trace, although there is some evidence that they were shipwrecked and the survivors captured and sold as slaves.

    Field Marshal Earl Haig (1861 -1928), commander of the allied forces on the Western Front, founded the Haig Fund to assist ex-servicemen disabled during WWI. This fund is now administered by the Royal British Legion and supports ex-servicemen and their dependents, and the Poppy Appeal continues to raise funds for this cause by selling small paper or fabric poppies, which are worn in November by the vast majority of the British public to signify their support and as a memorial to the victims of all wars.
    butterfingersbeckon November 07, 2005   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningI have a book called Lyrics By Sting. In a few of the songs, he elaborates the meaning of them. Children's Crusade was on the list:

    "This is one of my more ambitious songs. I tried to combine an abiding interest in the FIrst World War, heroin addiction in contemporary London, and the abuse of twelfth-century street children, who were sold into slavery in a cynical pseudoreligious scam that was appalling even by the low moral standards of the Crusaders and the ethics of the time. There seemed to be a connection."
    MusicFoxon March 27, 2016   Link
  • 0
    General Comment1914 was WWI, and since this seems to be England he's talking about, it would probably surmise to say this dealt with the war and control of poppy fields (from which Opium comes), the connection to SoHo 1984.

    It's an aspect of WWI that isn't addressed all that much, the drug trade and possibly the true reason for Germany's invasion of France.
    sailorrepublicaon January 02, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentGood point. That "all of those young lives betrayed" by folks in Britain addicted to heroin in 1984. Sting himself did some interesting stuff after the first album. Read his autobiography, Broken Music.
    enchiridionon January 18, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentFurthermore, there is another reference to Poppy Day in the Beatles' "Penny Lane" - "...a pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray". Definitely NOT a drug reference, but (at a certain time of year) an everyday site in Britain.

    Also, the line "The children of England would never be slaves" is a reference to the famous patriotic anthem "Rule, Britannia", whose refrain is:

    "Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves!
    Britons never will be slaves!"

    Simon Beck
    London, UK
    butterfingersbeckon November 07, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI just realised that many (non-British) readers will not have realised that the song refers to "Soho", a notoriously seedy part of central London and not "SoHo", a similarly-named area of New York. See… for more information.
    butterfingersbeckon December 29, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
    Between the crosses row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    We are the Dead. Short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie
    In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.

    This poem by John McCrae was adapted into a song, my choir has sang it many times. I believe that Sting has probably read this poem. I'm not saying it was his main influence, but the ties between poppies get me. I guess I'm just way to fascienated with WWI, but this is a fantastic song. I love love love it.
    Sting is a damn genius.
    Rinse_It_Awayon March 18, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthe original childrens crusade is a legendary story about the children of europe galvanising themselves together to peacefully respond to the rise of islam,by marching en masse to the holy lands to convert all to christianity.this was supposed to happen around the year 1212.
    johnnyobreadisleaon December 22, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentHi all-
    If any of you still get the trackbacks for comments on Sting's Children's Crusade, I'd love to hear more ideas. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on meaning. To sum it up, we know:
    1) talking about innocence of youth - going to war young, drugs - how the phrase "young lives betrayed" applies in many situations
    2) "children would never be slaves" - advocacy for youth against war, drugs, and other wars we fight
    - what more do we know about poppies, the war, and 1984/Soho as it relates to this song?
    lisa107620on August 11, 2014   Link

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