The Halcyon Days of Old England | War Song

About the author

Frank Moore
Frank Moore

Frank Moore was a journalist and Revolutionary historian. He published a number of books on the American Revolution during his career in the mid-19th century, including Songs and Ballads of the American Revolution, Diary of the American Revolution and The Patriot Preachers of the American Revolution.

This satirical song, entitled, “The Halcyon Days of Old England, or the wisdom of administration demonstrated; adapted to the tune of ‘Ye Medley of Mortals,'” was written in England, and published in the London Evening Post, during the early part of the year seventeen hundred and seventy-eight. It was soon copied into the papers friendly to the cause of Liberty, throughout the American colonies, and became a great favorite, both in the camp, and by the firesides of the patriots.

The Halcyon Days of Old England1

GIVE ear to my song, I’ll not tell you a story;
This is the bright era of Old England’s glory !
And though some may think us in pitiful plight,
I’ll swear they’re mistaken, for matters go right !
Sing tantararara, wise all, wise all,
Sing tantararara, wise all.

Let us laugh at the cavils of weak, silly elves !
Our statesmen are wise men ! they say so themselves,
And tho’ little mortals may hear it with wonder,
‘Tis consummate wisdom, that causes each blunder !

They are now engaged in a glorious war !
It began about tea, about feathers and tar;2
With spirit they push what they’ve plannèd with sense ! Forty-millions they’ve spent, for a tax of three pence.

The debts of the nation do grieve them so sore,
To lighten our burden, they load us the more !
They aim at th’ American’s cash, my dear honey !
Yet beggar this kingdom, and send them the money.

What honors we’re gaining by taking their forts, Destroying bateaux, and blocking up ports !
Burgoyne would have work’d ’em but for a mishap,
By Gates and one Arnold, he’s caught in a trap!

But Howe was more cautious and prudent by far,
He sail’d with his fleet up the great Delaware;
All summer he struggled and strove to undo ’em,
But the plague of it was, he could not get to them.

Oh ! think us not cruel, because our allies
Are savagely scalping men, women and boys !
Maternal affection to this step doth move us !
The more they are scalpèd, the more they will love us !

Some folks are uneasy, and make a great pother
For the loss of one army, and half of another;
But, sirs, next campaign by ten thousands we’ll slay ’em, If we can find soldiers, and money to pay ’em.

I’ve sung you a song, now I’ll give you a prayer;
May peace soon succeed to this horrible war !
Again may we live with our brethren in concord,
And the authors of mischief all hang on a strong cord. Sing tantararara, wise all, wise all,
Sing tantararara, wise all.

  1. The Halcyon days of Old England. This ballad has been attributed to Arthur Lee, who, at the time of its appearance in England, was in France.
  2. About feathers and far. The discipline of tar and feathers, that the American troops inflicted upon such disaffected persons as made themselves obnoxious to the cause of liberty, was somewhat new to the royal mind, and in England was looked upon as a most “barbarous feature in warfare.” It was generally applied to the obstinate and refractory loyalists, for some petty remark or unpatriotic demonstration. The riflemen from the southern colonies were celebrated for this peculiar discipline, and the faintest vestige of toryism, was sufficient to warrant its application, to any one who should happen to fall in their way. A body of these men were passing through one of the quiet villages in Connecticut, on their march to join Washington’s army, when they met a notorious loyalist, who, among other “fine names called them damned rebels and sons of sedition.” They soon took him and compelled him to walk, in advance of the company, to a wood near the town of Litchfield, a distance of over twenty miles; carrying one of his own geese all the way in his hands. On their arrival there, they applied the tar, and made him pluck the goose, after which they bestowed the feathers on him, drummed him out of the company, and obliged him to kneel and thank them for their lenity. Another instance was the case of a loyal shoemaker of New York, who having “expressed a desire in public company, and in the most insolent manner” that General Gage, then in Boston, would visit that town, to cut the throats of the “rebellious whigs, and burn their houses, declaring he would himself assist in it,” was immediately taken by the people and carried to the wharf, where he was stripped, and nicely fitted with a suit of “American thickset with white trimmings,” and after giving him three rounds of applause, he was permitted to retire, “which he did with some precipitation,” at the same time muttering ten thousand anathemas against General Gage, as the author of his disgrace.

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