By Oskar Cox Jensen
This examine deals a thorough reassessment of a vital interval of political and cultural background. by way of taking a look at a few four hundred songs, lots of that are made to be had to listen to, and at their writers, singers, and audiences, it questions either our dating with tune, and traditional Britons' courting with Napoleon, the battle, and the assumption of england itself.
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Additional resources for Napoleon and British Song, 1797–1822
Yet a grasp of meter was not the only criterion of lyrical ﬁtness. Writers also had to consider how ﬁtting were their allusions, vocabulary, sentiment, or tone to the audience and the likely performative context. No song may be imposed on unwilling listeners – it might be shouted down, laughed at, or simply ignored – and thus even the most topical political message had to be couched in terms appropriate to its audience. 38 But it should help inform our judgements as to the ﬁtness of Napoleonic productions: only the craftiest of Trojan horses are likely to have passed through the gates of popular culture.
Such were the persons responsible for mediating, even recreating, popular song, in public performance. As observed with regard to singers’ self-fashioning as crippled veterans or war widows, even the material properties of a performance could subvert a song’s message. Mather ‘used to “raise the wind” by vending his songs in the streets, seated on a grinder’s donkey, or on the back of Ben Sharp’s bull . . 152 This revelry was rendered anti-authoritarian by the preceding declaration, in the song’s ﬁnal verse, that ‘I’d sooner dance to the ﬁddle than march to the drum’: the singer’s unrestrained gaiety contrasts with the clumsy drilling forced upon volunteers.
Yet singers could also use physical properties to construct a loyalist persona. 153 The performative act also offered scope for musical licence. 155 This highly individualistic agency should be added to the historical record: on some level, the singer was always an artist, if not necessarily a very good one. This enabled singers consciously or inadvertently to subvert songwriters’ intended meanings through ironic or bathetic delivery. Yet it should be noted (and set against evidence of singers’ tendency to subversion) that their performative importance could also represent a great strength of the loyalist campaign.
Napoleon and British Song, 1797–1822 by Oskar Cox Jensen