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Robert Stephen Hawker (1803-1875)

The Song of the Western Men


I.
              1A good sword and a trusty hand!
              2    A merry heart and true!
              3King James's men shall understand
              4    What Cornish lads can do.

II.
              5And have they fixed the where and when?
              6    And shall Trelawny die?
              7Here's twenty thousand Cornish men
              8    Will know the reason why!

III.
              9Out spake their captain brave and bold,
            10    A merry wight was he:
            11"If London Tower were Michael's hold,
            12    We'll set Trelawny free!

IV.
            13"We'll cross the Tamar, land to land,
            14    The Severn is no stay, --
            15With `one and all,' and hand in hand,
            16    And who shall bid us nay?

V.
            17And when we come to London Wall,
            18    A pleasant sight to view,
            19Come forth! Come forth, ye cowards all,
            20    Here's men as good as you.

VI.
            21Trelawny he's in keep and hold,
            22    Trelawny he may die; --
            23But here's twenty thousand Cornish bold,
            24    Will know the reason why!"

Notes

1] A poem set to music as "Trelawny," and informally the national anthem of Cornwall. Jonathan Trelawny (1650-1721), bishop of Bristol, was one of seven bishops jailed in the Tower of London by James II in 1688 for opposing the king's permissive legislation towards Roman Catholics. On June 30, the bishops went on trial for libel and were acquitted, a cause for celebration in the west country. Hawker himself notes: "With the exception of the choral lines: --

`And shall Trelawny die?
Here's twenty thousand Cornish men
Will know the reason why!'
and which have been ever since the imprisonment, by James the Second, of the seven bishops, one of them Sir Jonathan Trelawny, a popular proverb throughout Cornwall, the whole of this song was composed by me in the year 1825. I wrote it under a stag-horned oak, in Sir Beville's Walk, in Stowe Wood. It was sent by me anonymously to a Plymouth paper, and there it attracted the notice of Mr. Davies Gilbert, who reprinted it at his private press at East Bourne, under the avowed impression that it was the original ballad. It had the good fortune to win the eulogy of Sir Walter Scott, who also deemed it to be the ancient song. It was praised under the same persuasion by Lord Macaulay, and by Mr. Dickens, who inserted it at first as of genuine antiquity in his "Household Words," but who afterwards acknowledged its actual paternity in the same publication."

13] Tamar: river marking the boundary between Cornwall and Devon, running east of Morwenstow on the Cornish coast and emptying into Plymouth Sound.

14] Severn: river running from the Cambrian mountains and emptying into Bristol Channel.


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Rev. R. S. Hawker, The Cornish Ballads And other Poems (Oxford and London: James Parker, 1869): 1-2. Facsimile Reproduction with an intro. by Kay J. Walter and Terence Allan Hoagwood. Delmar, N.Y.: Scholars' Facsimiles, 1994. PR 4759 H9C6 1869a Robarts Library
First publication date: 1826
Publication date note: The Royal Devonport Telegraph and Plymouth Chronicle (Sept. 2, 1826), anonymously. Charles Dickens acknowledged Hawker's authorship on Nov. 20, 1852, in Household Words.
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2002
Recent editing: 1:2002/4/29

Composition date: November 1824
Composition date note: C. E. Byles, The Life and Letters of R. S. Hawker (New York: John Lane, 1906): 23.
Form: quatrains
Rhyme: abab


Other poems by Robert Stephen Hawker