The Jolly Bargeman

Based on a poem by Cicely Fox Smith

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I've put the old mare's tail in plaits - now ain't she lookin' gay?
Bright ribbons in her mane, you'd think it First o' May
For why? We're under Government, though it ain't quite plain to me
If we're in the Civil Service or in the Admiralty!

An' it's "Gee hup, Mabel, an' we'll do the best we're able,
For the country's took us over an' we're helping her to win,
An' when this war is over, we'll all lie down in clover,
An we'll drink all together at the Navigation Inn!


Now I brought the news to Missis, an' to her these words did say:
"Just chuck yon old broom handle an' some rusty nails this way:
We're bound to have a flag-staff for our old red, white an' blue,
For now we're under Government we'll have our ensign too."

The Navy is the Navy, an' it sails upon the sea,
The Army is the Army, an' on land it has to be;
There's the land an' there's the water, an' the Cut comes in between,
And I don't know what they'll call me if it ain't the Horse Marine

The Missis sits upon the barge, the same's she used to sit,
But they'll have her in the papers now for "Doin' her own bit":
And I trudge upon the towpath here as proud as anything,
Though I haven't got no uniform, I'm serving of the King.

An' it's "Gee hup, Mabel, oh, we'll do the best we're able,
For the country's been an' called us, an' we've got to 'elp to win;
An' when the war is over, then we'll all lie down in clover,
With a drink all together at the Navigation Inn!


Kindly provided by Charlie Ipcar, Richmond, Maine, USA. From Small Craft: Sailor Ballads and Chantys edited by Cicely Fox Smith, published by George H. Doran Co., New York, US (1919). First published in Punch Magazine, Volume 152, May 16 1917, p.320.
This poem by Cicely Fox Smith has been adapted and musically arranged by Charlie Ipcar (Tune: Mike Kennedy chorus / Charles Ipcar verse). It captures a moment in World War 1 when the British Goverment issued an order mobilising the canal bargemen into the war effort.

The original poem with more information about it, the song, and details of a Sea Songs of Cicely Fox Smith song-book can be found on Charlie Ipcar's website.