> Waterson:Carthy > Songs > Napoleon’s Death

The Death of Napoleon / Napoleon’s Death / The Deeds of Napoleon

[ Roud 2419 ; Master title: The Death of Napoleon ; VWML RVW2/2/183 ; Bodleian Roud 2419 ; Mudcat 81105 ; trad.]

Tim van Eyken sang Napoleon’s Death accompanied by Martin Carthy on guitar in 2004 on Waterson:Carthy’s fifth album, Fishes & Fine Yellow Sand. Martin Carthy commented in the album notes:

… Tim also sings Napoleon’s Death, the last verse of which a gent called Joseph Laver sang to Cecil Sharp in Bridgwater in 1905. The rest of the words —and there are a lot of them—are in the Journal of the Folk Song Society, sung by Henry Burstow under the title The Deeds of Napoleon which boasts some spectacularly descriptive passages like that of the fight “at Bazacco Hill / Where the blood would turn a mill.” It’s a wonderful addition to that formidable cycle of English songs (and they are English) which make such a hero of Napoleon Bonaparte. Wish some historians with a lick of sense would one day explore the love which ordinary people here had for the man instead of dismissing the notion out of hand as they so often do.


Waterson:Carthy sing Napoleon’s Death

You heroes of the day
Who are happy, blithe and gay,
Only think of former champions
By land and sea.

The total pride of France
With his eagles did advance,
This hero come from Corsica
To prove himself a don.

Many kings he did dethrone
And some thousands caused to mourn,
Yet we miss that long lost emperor,

Now this Norfolk hero bold
Who was never bribed with gold,
All glory to Lord Nelson,
Now a long time dead.

To Copenhagen, and the Nile,
He advanced in rank and file,
He fought at great Trafalgar
Where he fell and where he bled.

But bold Boney fought on land
Like an emperor so grand,
And his soldiers cried, “Long life
To Great Napoleon.”

When Moscow came in view
Then their trumpets loudly blew,
But soon it turned their joy to grief
And turned their grief to pain.

For Boney in a daze
Beheld all Moscow in a blaze,
And his gallant army melted
Just like snow before the sun.

Back to France he went amazed
And another army raised,
And it’s “Oh, for death and glory,”
Cried Napoleon.

Then northward out of France
With his army he advanced,
He made the Dutch and German
Fast before him fly.

And when at Quatre Bras,
He let loose the dogs of war,
Many thousand Prussians there did fall
And there did die.

But though bravely there he fought
Waterloo was bought,
And he died on St Helena,
Great Napoleon.

Long time his body lay
Till some Frenchmen came that way
To beg the bones of Bonaparte,
The Frenchmen’s pride.

Oh, bring him back again,
It will ease the Frenchmen’s pain,
And in a tomb of marble
We will lay his body low.

We will decorate his tomb
With the glory he has won,
And in letters of bright gold
Inscribed “Napoleon”.


Transcribed by Reinhard Zierke. Thanks to Cliff Stevens for his kind help.