The First Foot Guards

We are a Revolutionary War reenactment group based in Boston MA,
accurately portraying the royal household regiment that is now known as
The Grenadier Guards



Pick up thy musket!
Humorous poems

These two poems were recited by the late Stanley Holloway. He was a popular actor, having appeared in many films... but he was also a star of the Music Hall delivering humorous monologues such as these. holloway was an expert dialect speaker - these two are in a diluted Northern England dialect - but he was just as well-known for his Cockney monologues.

Notes on the dialect are at the bottom of the page.

Sam Small
By Stanley Holloway

It occurred on the evening before Waterloo,
And t'troops were lined up on parade,
The Sergeant inspecting 'em he were a terror,
Of whom every man was afraid

All excepting one man who was in the front rank,
A man by the name of Sam Small,
And 'im and the Sergeant were both 'daggers drawn',
They thought nowt of each other at all

As Sergeant walked past he were swinging his arms,
And he happened to brush against Sam,
And knocking his musket clean out of his hand,
It fell to the ground with a slam

'Pick it up' said t'Sergeant, abrupt like but cool,
But Sam with a shake of his head,
'Seeing as tha' knocked it out of me hand,
P'raps tha'll pick the thing up instead.

'Sam, Sam, pick up thy musket,'
The Sergeant exclaimed with a roar,
Sam said 'Tha knocked it down, reet! then tha'll pick it up,
Or it'll stay where it is on't floor

The sound of high words very soon reached the ears,
Of an Officer, Lieutenant Bird,
Who says to the Sergeant, 'Now what's all this ere?'
And the Sergeant told what had occurred.

'Sam, Sam, pick up thy musket'
Lieutenant exclaimed with some heat,
Sam said, 'He knocked it down reet! Then he'll pick it up,
Or it stays where it is, at me feet

It caused quite a stir when the Captain arrived,
To find out the cause of the trouble,
And every man there, all except Sam,
Was full of excitement and bubble

'Sam, Sam, pick up thy musket',
Said Captain for strictness renowned,
Sam said 'He knocked it doon, Reet! so he'll pick it up,
Or it stays where it is on't ground

The same thing occurred when the Major and Colonel,
Both tried to get Sam to see sense,
But when Old Duke o' Wellington came into view,
Well the excitement was really quite tense

Up rode the Duke on a loverly white 'orse,
To find out the cause of the bother,
He looked at the musket and then at Old Sam,
And he talked to Old Sam like a brother

'Sam, Sam, pick up thy musket'
The Duke said as quiet as could be,
'Sam, Sam pick up thi musket,
Coom on lad, just to please me

'Alright Duke,' said Old Sam, 'just for thee I'll oblige,
And to show thee I meant no offence',
So Sam picked it up, 'Gradely, lad' said the Duke,
'Right-o boys... let battle commence.'


Sam's Pudden
by Marriott Edgar

It was Christmas Day in the trenches
In Spain in t'Peninsular War,
And Sam Small were cleaning his musket
A thing as he'd ne'er done before.

They'd had 'em inspected that morning
And Sam had got into disgrace,
For when t'Sergeant had looked down t'barrel
A sparrow flew out in his face.

The sergeant reported the matter
To Lieutenant Bird then and there.
Said t'Lieutenant "How very disgusting
The Duke must be told of this 'ere."

The Duke were upset when he heard it.
He said, "I'm astonished, I am"
I must make a most drastic example:
There'll be no Christmas pudding for Sam."

When Sam were informed of 'is sentence
Surprise rooted 'im to the spot.
'Twas much worse than he had expected,
He thought as he'd only be shot.

And so he sat cleaning 'is musket
And polishing t'barrel and butt.
While the pudding his mother had sent him,
Lay there on t'grass at 'is foot.

Now the front line that Sam's lot were holding
Ran all round a town: Badajoz.
Where the Frenchies 'ad put up a bastion
And ooh... what a bastion it was.

They pounded away all the morning
With canister, grapeshot and ball.
But the face of the bastion defied 'em,
They made no impression at all.

They started again after dinner
Bombarding as hard as they could.
And the Duke brought his own private cannon
But that weren't a ha'pence o' good.

The Duke said, "Sam, put down thy musket
And help me lay this gun real true."
Sam answered, "You'd best ask your favours
From them as you give pudding to."

The Duke looked at Sam so reproachful
"And don't take it that way," said he.
"Us Generals have got to be ruthless
It hurts me more than it did thee."

Sam sniffed at these words kind of skeptic,
Then looked down the Duke's private gun.
And said "We'd best put in two charges,
We'll never bust bastion with one."

He tipped t'cannonball out of t'muzzle
He took out the wadding and all.
He filled t'barrel chock full o' powder,
Then picked up and put back the ball.

He took a good aim at the bastion
Then said "Right-o, Duke, let her fly."
The cannon nigh jumped off its trunnions,
And up went the bastion, sky high.

The Duke, he weren't 'alf elated
He danced around t'trench full o' glee.
And said, "Sam, for this gallant action
You can hot up your pudding for tea.'

Sam looked 'round to pick up his pudding
But it weren't there - nowhere about.
In t'place where he thought he had left it,
Lay the cannonball he'd just tipped out.

Sam saw in a flash what'd happened:
By an unprecedented mishap
The pudding his mother had sent him
Had blown Badajoz off t'map.

That's why Grenadiers wear to this moment
A badge which they think's a grenade.
But they're wrong... it's a brass reproduction
Of the pudding Sam's mother once made


In Northern dialect (this poem is probably Lancashire), speakers still use:
thou (pronounced tha' )
thy (pronounced thi )
So far, so good. Not too difficult. But you have to be able to recognize the combined forms:

thou shalt = tha'lt
thou will = tha'll
thou art = tha'rt
thou hast = tha'st

The word 'the' is usually contracted to a 't' sound, and it's sometimes difficult to hear ( t'Sergeant ), unless it preceds a vowel. this character is probably the most indicative mark of Northern speech.

You have to pronounce the 'u' sound correctly. It corresponds to oo or a distinct u sound, as in 'pick up thy musket'. Up is pronounced 'oop'.

The poems were written for English audiences from all over the country,
so they could not use real dialect words that people could not understand -
words like:
skenning = looking sideways
pow = haircut
pow slap = a short sharp blow given to the back of the neck of someone who has just had a pow.
wackering = shaking
swealing = burning with much smoke
thrutching = hard to explain. Has many meanings.
ginnel = narrow alleyway
giddlegaddle = narrow echoing alleyway
slance = a sneaky thief
flat 'at = flat hat or cap, much favored by workmen
brass = money ("where there's muck, there's brass")
clogs = workmen's heavy leather thick-soled slip-on shoes. Never made out of wood!
clog fight = a nasty altercation betwen two men.
Hands could not be used - kicking was the only permitted contact.
segs = the halfmoon shaped steel reinforcements you put on your clogs (also known as stamps), also a small blister that you'd get on your hand from hard work.
sup = although it means 'dine', in dialect it usually means drink, as in "Sup up, lad!"

tea = the main evening meal. A late evening meal = supper.

Pudden = pudding. In this case it refers to the traditional English Christmas pudding, which is large and spherical (like a cannonball), and because it has so much candied fruit in it, is heavy, too: maybe six pounds. Pudding also refers to a heavy dessert made from suet, or a savory beef pie that has a suet-pastry crust. Large fat sausages can also be puddings, as in black-pudding. 'Being in the pudding club' is common for (as the officers might say) 'enceinte'.

You'll see a few dialect words, though - gradely = good, well done.

H's are often dropped, but not as consistently as in Southern dialect (like Cockney).

'was' becomes 'were'.

Nowt = nought (pronounced nowt) = nothing.
However 'naughty' is pronounced nowty
(and meaning angry or ratty).

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