Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The Bastard King of England

Lowry refers to the song in his novel Ultramarine when Dana and Popplereuter on their drunken drift around Dairen sing several songs including The Bastard King of England; "We sang. We sang Drei Segelmann, which I don't know, but I joined in the chorus. We sang Mademoiselle from Armentières, Deutschland uber Alles, and Lisa; For He's A Jolly Good Fellow, and God Save The King; Lisa again, and The Bastard King of England, with which Popplereuter was unfamiliar, he waved his glass and sang, 'Back to the Bastard King of England', again and again, to the inscrutable pleasure of Confucius." (Pg. 89).

According to Jan Gabrial, this was a favourite song of Lowry's; "Then Malc arrived with Julian and spotting the ukulele, attacked a bawdy favorite song of his, "The Bastard King of England,'' with much gusto. (Inside The Volcano Pg. 44).

The song has been attributed, probably falsely, to Rudyard Kipling. Ed Cray tells us, "As the story goes, Rudyard Kipling wrote 'The Bastard King of England' (pronounced En-ga-land') and that authorship cost him his poet laureate's knighthood. It is too bad that the attribution is apparently spurious; 'The Bastard King' would undoubtedly be Kipling's most popular work." The Erotic Muse: American Bawdy Songs. The earliest  documented date of the song is 1927 though it probably dates at least to the First World War. The song about disease and sex may have appealed to Lowry's obsession with syphilis.

There are a host of different versions. - one version as published in The Folksinger's Wordbook compiled By Fred and Irwin Silber (p. 197)


Oh, the minstrels sing of an English king, of many long years ago,
Who ruled his land with an iron hand, though his morals were weak, and low.
His only outer garment was a dirty undershirt
That managed to hide the royal pride, but never hid the dirt.

He was wild and woolly, and full of fleas
And he had his women by twos and threes.
God bless the Bastard king of England.

Oh, the Queen of Spain was an amorous Jane, a lascivious wench was she,
Who loved to play in a royal way with the King across the sea.
She often sent a message by royal messenger,
To ask the king to come and spend a night or two with her.

Now, the king he had a rival bold whose name was Philip of France.
Who swore he'd stop this carrying on by the seat of his royal pants.
So off he sent straightway to Spain to steal the Queen away;
And foil the King with a royal ring and all on a summer's day.

When the news of this foul deed was heard within the royal halls.
The King he swore, by the shirt he wore, he'd have his rival's ___neck.
So he sent for the Duke of Zippety-Zap, who had a dose of the clippety-clap,
To pass it on to Philip of France, and all on a summer's day.

So, the Queen grew very wary when she next saw Philip of France,
She decided that the Frenchman had gone and lost his chance.
So then she straightway called our King and offered him her hand,
And the sound of royal wedding bells was heard throughout the land.

They had a royal wedding – all his subjects wished him well,
And the dancers danced without their pants, and so did the king as well.
His only outer garment was a dirty yellow shirt,
With which he tried to hide his hide but he couldn't hide the dirt.

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