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> Eliza Carthy > Songs > Bonaparte's Lament

Bonaparte's Lament / The Isle of St Helena

[ Roud 349 ; Ballad Index E096 ; VWML CJS2/9/2691 ; Bodleian Roud 349 ; trad.]

Cecil Sharp collected Boney's Defeat in May 1917 from from Mrs. Townsley and Mrs. Wilson in Kentucky. He published it in English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians.

Steve Turner sang The Isle of St Helena in 1979 on his Fellside album Out Stack and in 2008 on his Tradition Bearers CD Rim of the Wheel. He commented in the latter's liner notes:

I unearthed this song in the John Rylands Library in Manchester circa 1970 and this is a reassessment of a version that I sang on my first album in 1979. Since when I've learnt to play the concertina accompaniment in a key to suit my vocal range!

The tune is among the most magnificent of all the great Napoleonic ballad airs. Here he is seen lamenting his fate on Mount Diana, the highest point of St Helena.

Eliza Carthy and Norma Waterson recorded Bonaparte's Lament “from the EFDSS Appalachian compilation Dear Companion” in 2010 for their Topic CD Gift.

Kathryn Roberts sang Boney's Defeat on her and Sean Lakeman's 2018 CD Personae.

Lyrics

Steve Turner sings The Isle of St Helena

Boney's away from his warring and fighting
He is gone to a place where nobody can delight him.
He may sit now and tell on the sights that he's seen-oh
While forlorn he does mourn on the Isle of St Helena

No more in St Cloud will he appear in great splendour,
Nor come forth from the crowds like our great Alexander
He may look to the east, while he thinks of Lucana
With his heart full of woe on the Isle of St Helena

The wild rushing waves on our shores they're a-washing,
And the white billows heave, over our rocks they're a-dashing.
He may look o'er the main, while he dreams on Diana,
With his eyes on the waves that surround St Helena

Louisa she mourns, from her husband is parted
And she dreams as she sleeps and she awakes broken-hearted.
There's none to console her, though there's plenty would be with her,
Now alone she does mourn when she thinks on St Helena.

All you that have great wealth, beware of ambition.
For there's some twist of fate that will change your condition.
Be steadfast in time, what's to come change you canna
And maybe your race will end on the Isle of St Helena

Eliza Carthy and Norma Waterson sing Bonaparte's Lament

O, Boney has gone to the wars of old fighting,
Gone to the place where he takes no delight in.
There he may sit down, and tell scenes of sinners
Whilst forlorn he does mourn on the Isle of St Helena.

Louisa does weep for her husband's departed
And she dreams when she sleeps and she wakes broken-hearted.
Not a friend to console or even those who might be with her,
Still she mourns when she thinks on the Isle of St Helena.

The rude rushing waves all around the shores are washing,
Great bellows heaves and the wild rocks are dashing.
You may look to the moon and to the great Mount Diana,
With his eyes on the waves that's around St Helena.

No more in St Cloud he will be seen in such splendour,
I'll go on with the crowd at the great Alexander
For the young King of Rome and for the Prince of Guyana
Says he'll bring his father home from the Isle of St Helena.

Kathryn Roberts sings Boney's Defeat

Oh, Boney has gone from the wars and the fighting,
He has gone to a place where he takes no delight in.
And there he will sit down and tell the scenes of sinners
Whilst forlorn he does mourn on the Isle of St Helena.

Oh, the rude rushing waves all around the shores are washing,
And the great bellows heave and the wild rocks are dashing.
He may look to the moon o'er the great Mount Diana,
With his eyes on the waves that surround St Helena.

No more in St Cloud will he be seen in such splendour,
Or go on with the crowd like the great Alexander
The young King of Rome and the Prince of Guyana
Says he'll bring his father home from the Isle of St Helena.

All you who have wealth, beware of ambition.
For a small twist of fate can change your condition.
Be steadfast in time for you don't know what is coming,
Or like him your days might end on the Isle of St Helena