> Eliza Carthy > Songs > Bonaparte’s Retreat

Bonaparte’s Retreat

[trad. arr. Kings of Calicutt]

Sung and played by Eliza Carthy and The Kings of Calicutt (Andi Wells, Barnaby Stradling, Saul Rose and Maclaine Colston) on their eponymous album Eliza Carthy and The Kings of Calicutt. The album sleeve notes say:

Segments of two songs in this, an old Kay Starr hit (thanks Liza’s mum) and a bawdy Morris number. The intro/outro bass line is pinched from Tortoise.

Martin Carthy used the tune Bonaparte’s Retreat for his rendering of King Henry. Kerfuffle learned the tune from the playing of Dave Swarbrick and played it on their fourth CD, To the Ground.


Met the girl I love
In a town way down in Dixie
Neath the stars up above
She was the sweetest little girl I ever did see

Then I held her in my arms
And told her of her many charms
And kissed her while the fiddles played
The Bonaparte’s Retreat

O dear mother what a fool I’ve been
Six young fellows* come a-courting me
Five were blind and the other couldn’t see
Mother what a fool I’ve been

Note: * “Fellows” is just a guess at what Eliza sings.


Transcribed by Garry Gillard, who as a kid in the 1950s learnt Bonaparte’s Retreat from the sheet music - and a thousand years later sang O Dear Mother What a Fool I’ve Been with a Morris side - in Fiji!