The Song of the Western Men

by R.S. Hawker

A good sword and a trusty hand!
  A merry heart and true!
King James's men shall understand
  What Cornish lads can do!

And have they fixed the where and when?
  And shall Trelawny die?
Here's twenty thousand Cornish men
  Will know the reason why!

Out spake their Captain brave and bold:
  A merry wight was he:
'If London Tower were Michael's hold,
  We'd set Trelawny free!

'We'll cross the Tamar, land to land:
  The Severn is no stay:
With "one and all," and hand in hand;
  And who shall bid us nay?

'And when we come to London Wall,
  A pleasant sight to view,
Come forth!  come forth! ye cowards all:
  Here's men as good as you.

'Trelawny he's in keep and hold;
  Trelawny he may die:
But here's twenty thousand Cornish bold
  Will know the reason why!'

NOTE by R.S. Hawker:

With the exception of the choral lines,

And shall Trelawny die?
Here's twenty thousand Cornish men
Will know the reason why!'

' and which have been, ever since the imprisonment by James the Second of the seven bishops -- one of them Sir Jonathan Trelawny -- a popular proverb throughout Cornwall, the whole of this song was composed by me in the year 1825. I wrote it under a stag-horned oak in Sir Beville's Walk in Stowe Wood. It was sent by me anonymously to a Plymouth paper, and there it attracted the notice of Mr Davies Gilbert, who reprinted it at his private press at Eastbourne under the avowed impression that it was the original ballad. It had the good fortune to win the eulogy of Sir Walter Scott, who also deemed it to be the ancient song. It was praised under the same persuasion by Lord Macaulay and by Mr Dickens, who inserted it at first as of genuine antiquity in his Household Words, but who afterwards acknowledged its actual paternity in the same publication.

R.S. Hawker

Robert Stephen Hawker (1803-1875), priest, poet, and mystic.

Hawker was parson of the parish of Morwenstow on the desolate north Cornish coast for forty-one years. He first became known for his work in rescuing and burying the remains of shipwreck victims washed up on the jagged rocks below his church. He was one of the finest poets of his period, and his Arthurian masterpiece, The Quest of the Sangraal, drew from Tennyson the acclamation: "Hawker has beaten me on my own ground."

His eccentricity was a by-word. He dressed in claret-coloured coat, blue fisherman's jersey, long sea-boots and pink brimless hat. He talked to birds, invited his nine cats into church, and excommunicated one of them when it caught a mouse on a Sunday.

Hawker is best known for his ballad about the imprisonment of Bishop Trelawny, The Song of the Western Men. Of this ballad he wrote:

The history of that Ballad is suggestive of my whole life. I published it first anonymously in a Plymouth Paper. Everybody liked it. It, not myself, became popular. I was unnoted and unknown. It was seen by Mr Davies Gilbert, President of the Society of Antiquaries, etc., etc., and by him reprinted at his own Private Press at Eastbourne. Then it attracted the notice of Sir Walter Scott, who praised it, not me, unconscious of the Author. Afterwards Macaulay (Lord) extolled it in his History of England. All these years the Song has been bought and sold, set to music and applauded, while I have lived on among these far away rocks unprofited, unpraised and unknown. This is an epitome of my whole life. Others have drawn profit from my brain while I have been coolly relinquished to obscurity and unrequital and neglect.

See Hawker of Morwenstow, by Piers Brandon, Anthony Mott Ltd. ISBN No.: 0 907746 26 8.