Boney (Was A Warrior)

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A shanty that traces the life and military career of Napoleon Bonaparte (shortened to Boney, in true English fashion). After the events of the Napoleonic wars, such shanties were spread across Europe, and almost every Englishman would have known the names of Nelson and Wellington. A popular broadside ballad, Boney was mostly sung on sailing ships.

A. L. Lloyd tells us that it is “A short drag shanty. These simple shanties were uses when only a few strong pulls were needed, as in boarding tacks and sheets and bunting up a sail in furling, etc. Boney was popular both in British and American vessels and in one American version Bonaparte is made to cross the Rocky Mountains.” 

So wide is the ballad known, that in the English translation of Asterix, a Corsican character is dubbed Boneywasawarriorwayayix

Boney was a war-rye-or
Away-aye-yah!
A war-rye-or, a ter-rye-or
Jonny Franswor!

Boney beat the Prussians26boney
Away-aye-yah!
The Osstrye-ans an’ the Rooshye-ans
Jonny Franswor!

Boney went to school in France
Away-aye-yah!
He learnt the Rooshians how to dance
Jonny Franswor!

Boney marched to Moscow
Away-aye-yah!
Lost his army in the snow
Jonny Franswor!

We licked him in Trafalgar’s Bay
Away-aye-yah!
Shot his main topm’st away
Jonny Franswor!

‘Twas on the Plains of Waterloo
Away-aye-yah!
He met the boy who put ‘m through
Jonny Franswor!

He met the Duke of Wellington
Away-aye-yah!
An’ then his downfall wuz begun
Jonny Franswor!

Boney went a-cru-sye-in
Away-aye-yah!
Aboard the Billy Ruf-fye-an
Jonny Franswor!

They sent him into exile
Away-aye-yah!
He died on St Helena’s Isle
Jonny Franswor!

Boney was a war-rye-or
Away-aye-yah!
A war-rye-or, a ter-rye-or
Jonny Franswor!

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