A Patriotic British Song from Colonists to the New World

Brown_last_of_england

I suppose I should accompany this post with a piece of music roughly on the same theme, such as Dvorak’s New World Symphony, or Rush’s New World Man. A little while ago I picked up an old songbook in one of the charity bookshops down in Bridgwater in Somerset. The book was a 1970’s edition of a collection of songs that had first been published in the middle of the First World War in 1916. Many of the songs were thus staunchly patriotic. They weren’t just British, but also included classic American songs, such as the Battle Hymn of the Republic and the Star Spangled Banner, Irish songs, including Let Erin Remember and St. Patrick, and one from the Russian Empire of the Tsars: The Russian National Hymn. One of the British songs appears to have been written for British emigrants embarking on a new better life, in the colonies. It has the lines

‘So farewell, England, much as we may love t6hee,
We’ll dry the tears that we have shed before.
Why should we weep to sail in search of fortune?’

The chorus includes the lines

‘Cheer! boys, cheer! there’s wealth for honest labour!
Cheer! boys, cheer! for the new and happy land!’

The actual destination isn’t stated, but the lines

‘the star of empire glitters in the west’ and

‘And ours shall be the prairie and the forest,
And boundless meadows ripe with golden grain’

suggest that it is probably Canada. The song’s sentiments could also describe the attitude of many British people who went to America in search of a better life in the same period. The late 19th and early 20th centuries also saw emigrants from England travelling to America. Arthur Machen’s classic tale of horror, The Three Impostors, includes one story set in the American west, told by one of the Impostors of the title. The story describes some of the other British emigrants to America. So common had it become, and so close were the connections between England and some parts of America, that one of the stories talks about English children running away from home to London, Liverpool or New York. One of the working-class protagonists in a John Galsworthy play about a miner’s strike at one point states proudly that he’s been to America, where the working class were treated better and had more opportunities than in the Britain of Galsworthy’s day.
Anyway, here below is the song:

Cheer! boys, cheer! no more of idle sorrow,
Courage, true hearts shall bear us on our way;
Hope points before and shows the bright to-morrow,
Let us forget the darkness of to-day:
So farewell, England, much as we may love thee,
We’ll dry the tears that we have shed before.
Why should we weep to sail in search of fortune?
So farewell, England, farewell for evermore!
Cheer! boys, cheer! for country, mother country,
Cheer! boys, cheer! the willing strong right hand:
Cheer! boys, cheer! there’s wealth for honest labour!
Cheer! boys, cheer! for the new and happy land.

Cheer! boys, cheer! the steady breeze is blowing,
To float us freely o’er the oceans breast.
The world shall follow in the track we’re going;
The star of empire glitters in the west.
Here we had toil and little to reward it,
But there shall plenty smile upon our pain;
And ours shall be the prairie and the forest,
And boundless meadows ripe with golden grain.
Cheer! boys, cheer! for country, mother country,
Cheer! boys, cheer! united heart and hand;
Cheer, boys, cheer! there’s wealth for honest labour!
Cheers! boys, cheer! for the new and happy land.

If anyone wants me to, I’ll put up the music to accompany the song.

The painting above is Ford Maddox Brown’s classic depiction of English emigrants for America, The Last of England.

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