AS06: Boney’s lamentation

Another one from Nic Jones’s second album, done pretty much as he did it but with more metrical regularity (stop me if you’ve heard this one before). I do like to be able to hear the tune, which in this case is the Princess Royal (also known as Nelson’s Praise, among other names).

If there was a broadside original to this, it’s been worn pretty smooth by the folk process: I don’t suppose the singer this was collected from had any idea who Bellew (Beaulieu?) and Wurmer were, or for that matter if it was Wurmer’s will that was subdued or Wurmer’s Hill where they were subdued. The history is correspondingly sketchy – the last verse alone ranges from Leipzig to Mount Mark (Montmartre?) without pausing for breath. It doesn’t matter – the images are amazing. The use of language reminds me of nothing so much as a reggae MC using as many polysyllables as possible and ending every line with “-ation”; words like “confiscated” and “capitulation” are thwacked down like a trump card. “We marched them forth in inveterate streams” – find me a better line than that.

I checked a couple of different versions when I learned this, and discovered that Nic Jones had (for whatever reason) used a slightly sanitised version, where Napoleon bids farewell to his “royal spouse”. An earlier text uses a different word, and it rhymes with “adore” in the next line. But that’s the only sign of the hostility you would have thought English writers would feel towards Napoleon and the French; in fact, the Emperor himself is presented as a heroic figure, whose lamentation we can sympathise with. Odd.

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Filed under folk song, Nic Jones, the deeds of great Napoleon, traditional

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