The verses of the song are both sung and spoken A man returns to his childhood home; it seems that this is his first visit home since leaving in his youth. When he steps down from the train, his parents are there to greet him, and his beloved, Mary, comes running to join them. All is welcome and peace; all come to meet him with ‘arms reaching, smiling sweetly.’ With Mary, the man strolls at ease among the monuments of his childhood, including ‘the old oak tree that I used to play on.’ It is ‘good to touch the green, green grass of home.’ Yet the music and the words are full of foreshadowing, strongly suggestive of mourning.
Abruptly, the man switches from song to speech as he awakens in a prison cell: ‘Then I awake and look around me, at four grey walls that surround me. And I realise that I was only dreaming.’ He is, indeed, on death row. As the singing resumes, we learn that the man is waking on the day of his scheduled execution. Nearby stands a guard, and a sad old padre, who arm in arm will escort the condemned man on his last walk at daybreak. The prisoner goes to his death and imagines he will return home only to be buried: ‘Yes, they'll all come to see me in the shade of that old oak tree, as they lay me 'neath the green, green grass of home’.
Love and peace. Bill xxx