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Napoleon’s Lamentation

[ Roud 2547 ; Ballad Index LEBC034 ; trad.]

Nic Jones recorded Napoleon’s Lamentation for his eponymous second album, Nic Jones, right next to the other Napoleonic ballad, The Bonny Bunch of Roses. He commented in the album notes:

My main motive for singing this song lies far more within the tune than in the words, which have gained, through time, several historical inaccuracies. I think, though, that in spite of the corruptions of the text, one can still very easily perceive the sense of devastation which pervades the three verses, especially in conjunction with the tune, which I find particularly compulsive.

Frank Harte sang Napoleon’s Lamentation in 2001 on his album My Name Is Napoleon Bonaparte.


Nic Jones sings Napoleon’s Lamentation

Attend, you sons of high renown
To these few line which I pen down:
I was born to wear a stately crown
And to rule a wealthy nation.
I am the man that beat Beaulieu,
And Wurmser’s hill did then subdue;
That great Archduke I overthrew,
On every plain my men were slain.
Grand treasures too, did I obtain
And I got capitulation.

Well, we chased them on the Egyptian shore
Where the Algerians lay all in their gore.
The rights of France for to restore
That had long been confiscated.
We pursued them all through mud and mire
Till in despair my men retired,
And Moscow Town was set on fire.
My men were lost through sleet and frost;
I ne’er before received such a blast
Since the hour I was created.

Well, in Leipzig Town my soldiers fled,
Montmartre was strewn with the Russian dead.
We marched them forth, in inveterate streams
For to stop a bold invasion.
So it’s fare you well, my royal spouse,
And offspring great to my adore,
And may you reinstate that throne
That’s torn away this very day.
These kings of me have made a prey
And they’ve caused my lamentation.