William Makepeace Thackeray 1811 – 1863
At Paris, hard by the Maine barriers,
Whoever will choose to repair,
Midst a dozen of wooden-legged warriors
May haply fall in with old Pierre.
On the sunshiny bench of a tavern
He sits and he prates of old wars,
And moistens his pipe of tobacco
With a drink that is named after Mars.
The beer makes his tongue run the quicker,
And as long as his tap never fails,
Thus over his favorite liquor
Old Peter will tell his old tales.
Says he, 'In my life's ninety summers
Strange changes and chances I've seen,—
So here's to all gentlemen drummers
That ever have thump'd on a skin.
'Brought up in the art military
For four generations we are;
My ancestors drumm'd for King Harry,
The Huguenot lad of Navarre.
And as each man in life has his station
According as Fortune may fix,
While Conde was waving the baton,
My grandsire was trolling the sticks.
'Ah! those were the days for commanders!
What glories my grandfather won,
Ere bigots, and lackeys, and panders
The fortunes of France had undone!
In Germany, Flanders, and Holland,—
What foeman resisted us then?
No; my grandsire was ever victorious,
My grandsire and Monsieur Turenne.
'He died: and our noble battalions
The jade fickle Fortune forsook;
And at Blenheim, in spite of our valiance,
The victory lay with Malbrook.
The news it was brought to King Louis;
Corbleu! how his Majesty swore
When he heard they had taken my grandsire:
And twelve thousand gentlemen more.
'At Namur, Ramillies, and Malplaquet
Were we posted, on plain or in trench:
Malbrook only need to attack it
And away from him scamper'd we French.
Cheer up! 'tis no use to be glum, boys,—
'Tis written, since fighting begun,
That sometimes we fight and we conquer,
And sometimes we fight and we run.
'To fight and to run was our fate:
Our fortune and fame had departed.
And so perish'd Louis the Great,—
Old, lonely, and half broken-hearted.
His coffin they pelted with mud,
His body they tried to lay hands on;
And so having buried King Louis
They loyally served his great-grandson.
'God save the beloved King Louis!
(For so he was nicknamed by some,)
And now came my father to do his
King's orders and beat on the drum.
My grandsire was dead, but his bones
Must have shaken I'm certain for joy,
To hear daddy drumming the English
From the meadows of famed Fontenoy.
'So well did he drum in that battle
That the enemy show'd us their backs;
Corbleu! it was pleasant to rattle
The sticks and to follow old Saxe!
We next had Soubise as a leader,
And as luck hath its changes and fits,
At Rossbach, in spite of dad's drumming,
'Tis said we were beaten by Fritz.
'And now daddy cross'd the Atlantic,
To drum for Montcalm and his men;
Morbleu! but it makes a man frantic
To think we were beaten again!
My daddy he cross'd the wide ocean,
My mother brought me on her neck,
And we came in the year fifty-seven
To guard the good town of Quebec.
'In the year fifty-nine came the Britons,—
Full well I remember the day,—
They knocked at our gates for admittance,
Their vessels were moor'd in our bay.
Says our general, 'Drive me yon redcoats
Away to the sea whence they come!'
So we marched against Wolfe and his bull-dogs,
We marched at the sound of the drum.
'I think I can see my poor mammy
With me in her hand as she waits,
And our regiment, slowly retreating,
Pours back through the citadel gates.
Dear mammy she looks in their faces,
And asks if her husband is come?
—He is lying all cold on the glacis,
And will never more beat on the drum.
'Come, drink, 'tis no use to be glum, boys,
He died like a soldier in glory;
Here's a glass to the health of all drum-boys,
And now I'll commence my own story.
Once more did we cross the salt ocean,
We came in the year eighty-one;
And the wrongs of my father the drummer
Were avenged by the drummer his son.
'In Chesapeake Bay we were landed.
In vain strove the British to pass:
Rochambeau our armies commanded,
Our ships they were led by De Grasse.
Morbleu! How I rattled the drumsticks
The day we march'd into Yorktown;
Ten thousand of beef-eating British
Their weapons we caused to lay down.
'Then homewards returning victorious,
In peace to our country we came,
And were thanked for our glorious actions
By Louis Sixteenth of the name.
What drummer on earth could be prouder
Than I, while I drumm'd at Versailles
To the lovely court ladies in
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"The Chronicle Of The Drum" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 9 Aug. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/41042/the-chronicle-of-the-drum>.