The Warlike Lads of Russia
[trad. arr. Nic Jones]
Nic Jones recorded both this ballad and The Bonnie Banks o' Fordie in September 1974 for the benefit LP for Fred Woods' magazine Folk Review, The First Folk Review Record. According to the sleeve notes,
the words are from a broadside in the Harkness Collection at Preston; and the tune is collated from various traditional sources, with contributions from Nic Jones.
Possibly to the consternation of some, I often deliberately altered or re-wrote words and tunes of traditional songs, although I did try to keep it very much in sympathy with the original. Broadsides, however, offered a good source of ballads without such constraints and gave me the freedom to compose around the text without offence. Described on a broadsheet as A New Song—Bonaparte's Escape from Russia, I added a few extra words, wrote a tune and called it The Warlike Lads of Russia.
Nic Jones also sang it in a BBC Radio 1 John Peel session recorded on 28 October 1974 and broadcast on 7 November 1974.
Steve Turner sang this song with the original broadside title A New Song: Bonaparte's Escape from Russia as the fourth part of his 1812 Suite on his 1987 Fellside LP Braiding. In his sleeve notes he credited the tune to Nic Jones.
Jon Boden sang Warlike Lads of Russia in August 2010 at a Sidmouth Folk Festival concert dedicated to the music of Nic Jones, and subsequently as the 23 November 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.
Nic Jones sings The Warlike Lads of Russia
When Bonaparte from Poland into Muscovy went,
With all his troops and all his men, their minds were fully bent
For to take the Russian country, oh, they were full employ'd,
But the Russians fought against them and they soon did them destroy.
Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Oh, the warlike lads of Russia, oh, they fought all in one mind;
Made Bonaparte to run and leave his troops behind.
Now when from Muscovy City, oh, the Russians did retreat,
Neither Bonaparte nor all his men not any thing could get.
When from Muscovy City, oh, the Russians took their flight,
They set the town on fire and they burnt it down that night.
Now in a little while, oh, the Russians did attack,
Against Bonaparte and all his men, they killed and took and drove 'em back.
But the action being so hot, from right and left and front and rear,
“Oh, damn you,” says poor Bonaparte, “I'll stay no longer here.”
And away then went poor Bonaparte as fast as he could ride.
And the poor Frenchmen looked after him, saying, “Oh it's very hard
But to think you'd lead us all up here, and leave us to our fate.
Oh, you ought to stop along with us and help us in our state.”
And away then went poor Bonaparte as fast as he could run,
Over hedges and o'er ditches; he left horses, men, and guns.
His boxes and his matches, ammunition waggons too,
He left them all behind him; what else could poor Boney do?
Says he, “80,000 men from me they've kill'd and they've taken,
Besides 10,000 horses fine and 200 pieces of cannon;
And never more to Paris or French land I dare advance,
For if I do, I may be sure they'll teach me how to dance.”
So it's to conclude and thus to try and finish off my song,
Oh, Boney's men in Russia swear they wish they'd hold of him.
And the cruelest death they'd put him to that e'er a man befell.
“Oh, curse you,” says poor Bonaparte. “I'm clear of you all.”
See also the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Req: The Warlike Lads of Russia.