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On Board a 98

When I was young and scarce eighteen, I drove a roaring trade,
And many a sly trick I have played with many a pretty maid.
My parents found that would not do, I soon should spend their store;
So, they resolved that I should go on board a man-of-war.

A bold press-gang surrounded me. Their warrant they did show,
And swore that I should go to sea and face the daring foe.
So off they lugged me to the boat. Oh, how I cursed my fate!
'Twas then I found that I must float on board a 98.

When I put my foot on board, how I began to stare!
Our Admiral, he gave the word, "There is no time to spare."
They weighed the anchor, shook our sail, and off they bore me straight
To watch the foe in storm and gale on board a 98.

Before we reached America, they gave me many a drill.
They soon learnt me a nimble way to handle an iron pill.
In course of time, a fight begun, when bold Jack Tars laid straight.
What I would give if I could run from on board a 98!

But as time flew, I bolder grew, and hardened was to war.
I'd run aloft with my ship's crew and valued not a scar.
So well I did my duty do, till I got Boatswain's mate,
And damn me soon, got boatswain too, on board a 98.

So years rolled by. At Trafalgar, brave Nelson fought and fell.
As they capsized that hardy tar, I caught a rap as well.
To Greenwich College I came back because I saved my pate.
They only knocked one wing off Jack, on board a 98.

So now my cocoa I can take, my pouch with 'bacco stored.
With my blue clothes and three-cocked hat, I am as happy as a Lord.
I've done my duty, served my King, and now I bless my fate.
But damn me, I'm too old to sing. I'm nearly 98.

(Words, traditional English. Tune, Peter Bellamy.)

From the book, "A Bonnie Bunch of Roses,"
edited by Dan Milner, 1983.
"98" refers to a 98-gun ship of the line.
Collected by Vaughan Williams.
Recorded by Peter Bellamy on "Tell It Like It Was," 1975.
@navy @seaA @war
filename[ BOARD98

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