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British War Poetry in the Age of Romanticism 1793-1815, by Betty T. Bennet, Edited by Orianne Smith

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1808.1
Song on the New Affair of Copenhagen
(not Lord Nelson's)

Anon
The Morning Chronicle (February 15, 1808)

O tell us no more of old Nelson's renown,
    How in doughty fair battle he conquered the Dane,
Since Canning's the boy who could batter a town,
    And filch a whole navy by legerdemain.[1]
Rise, Homer! arise from the dead, thou old Pagan
                And sing how our force,
                Like the famed Wooden Horse,
Stole as sly as a thief into old Copenhagen.

What though the Crown Prince was our cousin and crony,
    And might from the French have defended his crown,
We saved him the trouble of fighting with Boney
    And tripp'd up his heels, lest he should be knock'd down.
The French might their soldiers have knock'd on the head,
                But we only slew,
                Little children a few,
And killed a blind man as he lay in his bed.

But think (God have mercy!) what would have become of us
    Had Boney embark'd with ten ships of the Dane,
They had eaten us up for a breakfast, though some of us
    Say, like fools, that our tars would have beat them again.
But, thanks to the Lord! it ne'er came to that push,
                Stolen waters are pleasant,
                Though hard fighting isn't—
And a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Think only had we been so foolishly civil
    As give Bonaparte a day to advance;
Though Zealand's an island, the conjuring devil
    Would have froze up the Belt with his chemists of France;
Then down on our shores, when it thaw'd, in a trice
                Our tars would have struck to him,
                For Satan brings luck to him:
Oh! our Jacks would have squeak'd in his talons like mice.

Then as for the Irish, those rascally fellows,
    Though we treat them as kindly and fair as we can,
Yet to help an invader with pikes and shillalas
    Their very old women would rise to a man.
Yea, the Church is the quarry their priests would be at.
                In her heart they would fix
                Popish Archbishopricks,
And our Church would be ruined; oh! think upon that.

But was it not better, blocks, timber, and ropery
    To find in a dock-yard, just made to our hand,
Than suffer our ships to be beaten, and Popery
    And riotous Paddies to ravish the land.
Then, good luck to our rulers—sweet rope-stealing elves,
                May they reap their reward
                From the timber and cord,
And may nobody grudge them a rope to themselves.


Notes

1. George Canning (1770-1827) became foreign secretary in March, 1807. His first act in that office was to plan the siege of Copenhagen in which the British attacked neutral Denmark and carried off the Danish fleet (September 1807).

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Published @ RC

September 2004

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