The history and politics of the English protest song



Tune: Up and War Them A’
Lyrics: Robert Anderson

Now, God be prais’d! we’ve peace at last,
For Nichol hes been down,
Aa! sec a durdem, Nichol says,
They’ve hed in ev’ry town!
The King thowt war wad ruin aw,
An Bonnyprat the seame;
What, some say teane, an some say beath,
Hae lang been mickle to bleame.

Now, monie a weyfe’ll weep fer joy,
An monie a bairn be fain,
To see the fadders, they’d forgot,
Come seafe an soun agean;
An monie a yen mun luik in vain,
Wi’ painfu’ whopes and fears,
An oft thur guilty wretches bleame,
That set fwok by the ears.

Mey cousin Tom went off to sea,
An lost his left-han thum;
He tells sec teales about the feghts,
They mek us aw sit dum;
He says, it is reet fearfu wark
To aw that’s fworct to see’t—
The bullets whuzzin past yen’s lugs,
An droppen down, leyke sleet.

Young Peter, our peer sarvent lad,
Was far owre proud to work;
A captain suin, he whopt to be,
Wid our girt Duke ov York,
Wi’ poudert heed away he marcht,
Brong heame a wooden leg;
But monie a time he’s rued, sin seyne,
For, now he’s fworct to beg.

As! our rwose, Sally, wull be fain,
Sud Lanty but cum back!
Then, owre the fire, in winter neeghts,
We wull hev monie a crack:
He’ll tell us aw the ins an outs—
What, he can wreyte an read;
But Sally’s heart for suir mun brek,
If he’s amang the deed.

Wer dang’rous wars aw flung aseyde,
How happy fwok wad be!
But ruin’s monie a Ruler’s preyde,
Throughout the warl, we see!
To fratch an feght’s ay their deleyte,
They leyke to crush the peer!
Wad they dui gud, as aw fwok sud—
Hut!—Ills the warl mun bear!

Oh! but I us’d to wonder much,
An think what thousans fell;
Now, what they’ve aw been feghtin for,
Wey, deil a yen can tell!
But, God be prais’d! we’ve peace at last,
The news hev spread afar;
May Englan, leyke the weyde warl, hear
Nae mair ov murd’rous wars!


Written in implicitly anti-nationalist local dialect to an ironically jaunty tune, radical Carlise poet Robert Anderson’s song narrates the return of soldiers from the Napoleonic Wars. Its protest comes in its unflinching depiction of wounds and loss, lent a keen edge by declaring that both ‘Bonnyprat’ and George III have ‘been much to bleame’, and ending on the impassioned cry ‘Nae mair o’ murderous wars!’

Cause: Anti-militarist
Theme: War and Peace | Impact of Change
Addressed to: Regional Identity | General Public
Target of Protest: War | The Ruler
Proposal/Solution: Pacifism | Peace Treaty