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Short poem

Daniel Defoe (1660-1731)

The True Born Englishman


          279     Thus from a mixture of all kinds began,
          280That het'rogeneous thing, an Englishman:
          281In eager rapes, and furious lust begot,
          282Betwixt a painted Britain and a Scot.
          283Whose gend'ring off-spring quickly learn'd to bow,
          284And yoke their heifers to the Roman plough:
          285From whence a mongrel half-bred race there came,
          286With neither name, nor nation, speech nor fame.
          287In whose hot veins new mixtures quickly ran,
          288Infus'd betwixt a Saxon and a Dane.
          289While their rank daughters, to their parents just,
          290Receiv'd all nations with promiscuous lust.
          291This nauseous brood directly did contain
          292The well-extracted blood of Englishmen.

          293     Which medly canton'd in a heptarchy,
          294A rhapsody of nations to supply,
          295Among themselves maintain'd eternal wars,
          296And still the ladies lov'd the conquerors.

          297     The western Angles all the rest subdu'd;
          298A bloody nation, barbarous and rude:
          299Who by the tenure of the sword possest
          300One part of Britain, and subdu'd the rest
          301And as great things denominate the small,
          302The conqu'ring part gave title to the whole.
          303The Scot, Pict, Britain, Roman, Dane, submit,
          304And with the English-Saxon all unite:
          305And these the mixture have so close pursu'd,
          306The very name and memory's subdu'd:
          307No Roman now, no Britain does remain;
          308Wales strove to separate, but strove in vain:
          309The silent nations undistinguish'd fall,
          310And Englishman's the common name for all.
          311Fate jumbled them together, God knows how;
          312What e'er they were they're true-born English now.

          313     The wonder which remains is at our pride,
          314To value that which all wise men deride.
          315For Englishmen to boast of generation,
          316Cancels their knowledge, and lampoons the nation.
          317A true-born Englishman's a contradiction,
          318In speech an irony, in fact a fiction.
          319A banter made to be a test of fools,
          320Which those that use it justly ridicules.
          321A metaphor invented to express
          322A man a-kin to all the universe.

          323     For as the Scots, as learned men ha' said,
          324Throughout the world their wand'ring seed ha' spread;
          325So open-handed England, 'tis believ'd,
          326Has all the gleanings of the world receiv'd.

          327     Some think of England 'twas our Saviour meant,
          328The Gospel should to all the world be sent:
          329Since, when the blessed sound did hither reach,
          330They to all nations might be said to preach.

          331     'Tis well that virtue gives nobility,
          332How shall we else the want of birth and blood supply?
          333Since scarce one family is left alive,
          334Which does not from some foreigner derive.


279] This poem (which was enormously popular) was written in answer to The Foreigners: a Poem (1700) by William Tutchin, an attack on William III as a foreigner.

282] Britain: Briton.

289] rank: lustful.

293] medley canton'd: divided up in a medley.

294] rhapsody: loose collection.

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: Daniel Defoe, The True-born Englishman; a satyr ([London,] 1701). D-10 2267 Fisher Rare Book Library
First publication date: 1701
RPO poem editor: N. J. Endicott
RP edition: 2RP.1.520; RPO 1996-2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/3/8

Form: couplets

Other poems by Daniel Defoe