It was first published in London in 1914 but a December 1913 copyright of the music is claimed by Zo Elliott.

In Elliott’s own words to Marc Drogin shortly before his death in 1964, he created the music as an idle pursuit one day in his dorm room at Yale in 1913. King walked in, liked the music and suggested a first line. Elliott sang out the second, and so they went through the lyrics. Elliott was apparently inspired by Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow; but Stoddard King’s words described a homeward trail to romance. They performed it — with trepidation — before the fraternity that evening.

In retrospect, the lyrics seem eerily prophetic. Here is the opening verse of the song:


Nights are growing very lonely,
Days are very long;
I’m a-growing weary only
List’ning for your song.
Old remembrances are thronging
Thro’ my memory
Till it seems the world is full of dreams
Just to call you back to me.


Elliott could not find a publisher in the USA, but did so in England when he went to study at Trinity College, Cambridge. The song then became a great favourite of British troops during World War I.

Elliott later studied with Nadia Boulanger at the American Conservatoire at Fontainebleau in France, and a manuscript copy of the song was lodged among relics of World War I in the Musée de l’Armée at the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris.

The song also proved popular among America’s Doughboys when they headed off to war. The Doughboys is an informal term for the American Expeditionary forces in WW1 and dates back to the Mexican-American war of 1846-48.

In WW2 it was less used and as the term G.I took over.


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