The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #2169   Message #745465
Posted By: Joe_F
09-Jul-02 - 08:05 PM
Thread Name: Origins: Admiral Benbow
Subject: RE: Admiral Benbow lyrics
George Orwell, in his newspaper column 29 December 1944, says:

"The English common people are not great lovers of military glory, and I have pointed out elsewhere that when a battle poem wins really wide popularity, it usually deals with a disaster and not a victory. But the other day...there came into my head the once popular song...`Admiral Benbow'. This rather jingoistic ballad seems to contradict my theory, but I believe it may have owed some of its popularity to the fact that it had a class-war angle which was understood at the time.

"Admiral Benbow, when going into action against the French, was suddenly deserted by his subordinate captains and left to fight against heavy odds. [Stanza `Said Kirby unto Wade...' quoted] So Benbow was left to fight single-handed and, though victorious, he himself was killed. There is a gory but possibly authentic description of his death: [Two stanzas quoted]

"The point is that Benbow was an ordinary seaman who had risen from the ranks. He had started off as a cabin boy. And his captains are supposed to have fled from the action because they did not want to see so plebeian a commander win a victory. I wonder whether it was this tradition that made Benbow into a popular hero and caused his name to be commemorated not only in the ballad but on the signs of innumerable public houses?"