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Four Cornish Songs by R.S. Hawker

R.S. Hawker Robert Stephen Hawker (1803-1875), the celebrated 'Vicar of Morwenstow', was one of Cornwall's original antiquaries and one of its best poets. Although he published a number of short collections of verse, including Tendrils (1821), Records of the Western Shore (1832), and Echoes from Old Cornwall (1846), most of his poems were disseminated in leaflets that Hawker printed at his own expense and distributed freely. It was not until 1869 when, at the age of sixty-six, Hawker saw his Cornish Ballads into print. Highly regarded in his day, Hawker's work has now largely vanished from the public eye except for his triumphant 'Song of the Western Men' which, under the name 'Trelawny', is sung as the unofficial National Anthem of Cornwall. On this page, I include a facsimile of part of the song in Hawker's own handwriting.

Here, I reprint four of Hawker's Cornish Songs:



A good sword and a trusty hand!
   A merry heart and true!
King James's men shall understand
   What Cornish lads can do!

And have they fixed the where and when?
   And shall Trelawny die?
Here's twenty thousand Cornish men
   Will know the reason why!

Out spake their Captain brave and bold:
   A merry wight was he:—
"If London Tower were Michael's hold,
   We'd set Trelawny free!

"We'll cross the Tamar, land to land:
   The Severn is no stay:
Then 'one and all' and hand in hand;
   And who shall bid us nay?

"And when we came to London Wall,
   A pleasant sight to view,
Come forth! come forth! ye cowards all:
   Here's men as good as you.

"Trelawny he's in keep in hold:
   Trelawny he may die:
But here's twenty thousand Cornish bold
   Will know the reason why!"

(This is the 'poetic' version. Click Here for the 'folk song' version.)



Oh! the eastern winds are blowing;
   The breezes seem to say,
"We are going, we are going,
   To North Americay.

"There the merry bees are humming
   Around the poor man's hive;
Parson Kingdon is not coming
   To take away their tithe

"There the yellow corn is growing
   Free as the king's highway;
So, we;re going, we are going,
   To North Americay.

"Uncle Rab shall be churchwarden,
   And Dick shall be the squire,
And jem, that lived at Norton,
   Shall be leader of the quire;

"And I will be the preacher,
   And preach three times a day
To every living creature
   in North Americay."


Now, of all the birds that keep the tree,
   Which is the wittiest fowl?
Oh, the Cuckoo—the Cuckoo's the one!—for he
   Is wiser than the owl!

He dresses his wife in her Sunday's best,
   And they never have rent to pay;
For she folds her feathers in a neighbours's nest,
   And thither she goes to lay!

He winked with his eye, and he buttoned his purse,
   When the breeding time began;
For he'd put his children out to nurse
   In the house of another man!

Then his child, though born in a stranger's bed,
   Is his own true father's son;
For he gobbles the lawful childrens's bread,
   And he starves them one by one!

So, of all the birds that keep the tree,
   This is the wittiest fowl!
Oh, the Cuckoo—the Cuckoo's the one!—for he
   Is wiser than the owl!


On, through the ground-sea, shove!
   Light on the larboard bow!
There's a nine-knot breeze above,
   And a sucking tide below.

Hush! for the beacon fails,
   The skulking gauger's by;
Down with your studding-sails,
   Let jib and fore-sail fly!

Hurrah! for the light once more!
   Point her for Shark's-nose Head;
Our friends can keep the shore;
   Or the skulking gauger's dead!

On! through the ground-sea, shove!
   Light on the Larboard bow!
There's a nine-knot breeze above
   And a sucking tide below!

('Gauger' = 'Exciseman')


* This page last updated 11 February 2011 *

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