Macdermott's War Song (1878)
written and composed by G. W. Hunt
Editing copyright © 2001 by Hugo S. Cunningham
Audio files copyright © 2006 by David Kidd
first posted y11101
latest minor update 2011/0321F
Words copied from original sheet music reproduced (with some interesting editorial remarks) in
Aline Waites and Robin Hunter, The Illustrated Victorian Songbook, Michael Joseph Ltd., London, 1984; pp. 180-184.
Music-hall singer G. H. Macdermott (aka "the Great Macdermott") found this piece immensely popular at the London Pavilion during a diplomatic crisis in 1878. Both Macdermott and the songwriter G. W. Hunt took themselves seriously as commentators on foreign affairs, an opinion not necessarily shared by Britain's foreign-policy decision-makers.
The Russians eventually agreed to retreat from Bulgaria, restoring it and Macedonia to Ottoman Turkish rule. The withdrawal was considered a diplomatic triumph of Britain's Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, though it was not such a good deal for Balkan Slavs, hobbled by Ottoman misrule for another generation.
The musical score is posted at URL:
has kindly made the singing tune available on audio files:
It prints out more clearly than it looks on the computer screen.
Macdermott's War Song
The "Dogs of War" are loose and the rugged Russian Bear,
All bent on blood and robbery has crawled out of his lair...
It seems a thrashing now and then, will never help to tame...
That brute, and so he's out upon the "same old game"...
The Lion did his best... to find him some excuse...
To crawl back to his den again. All efforts were no use...
He hunger'd for his victim. He's pleased when blood is shed...
But let us hope his crimes may all recoil on his own head...
The misdeeds of the Turks have been "spouted" through all lands,
We don't want to fight but by jingo if we do...
We've got the ships, we've got the men,
and got the money too!
We've fought the Bear before... and while we're Britons true,
The Russians shall not have Constantinople...
But how about the Russians, can they show spotless hands?
They slaughtered well at Khiva, in Siberia icy cold.
How many subjects done to death we'll ne'er perhaps be told.
They butchered the Circassians, man, woman yes and child.
With cruelties their Generals their murderous hours beguiled,
And poor unhappy Poland their cruel yoke must bear,
While prayers for "Freedom and Revenge" go up into the air.
May he who 'gan the quarrel soon have to bite the dust.
The Turk should be thrice armed for "he hath his quarrel just."
'Tis said that countless thousands should die through cruel war,
But let us hope most fervently ere long it shall be o'er.
Let them be warned: Old England is brave Old England still.
We've proved our might, we've claimed our right, and ever, ever will.
Should we have to draw the sword our way to victory we'll forge,
With the Battle cry of Britons, "Old England and St George!"
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