J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, February 17, 2018

“And shout, and shout, and shout, and shout, for brave AMERICA”

This broadside shown on the website of the Library of Congress could be the first printing of the words to “The New Massachusetts Liberty Song.” (I think the original is at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.)

The sheet might even have been created for Josiah Flagg’s 13 Feb 1770 concert, the first time we know that song was publicly performed. The printing was definitely done by April (as I’ll discuss next week).

The printers Edes and Gill included the same lyrics in their North-American Almanack for 1770, published around the start of March.

Like “The British Grenadiers,” which provided its tune, “The New Massachusetts Liberty Song” began with allusions to the classical world but praised contemporaries as even more admirable. Not because they stood up to modern weapons like grenadiers but because, as good self-protective Whigs, they hadn’t fallen to tyranny and decay:
That seat of science ATHENS, and Earth’s proud mistress ROME,
Where now are all their Glories, we scarce can find their Tomb:
Then guard your Rights, AMERICANS! nor stoop to lawless Sway,
Oppose, oppose, oppose, oppose,—thy brave AMERICA.

Proud ALBION bow’d to Caesar, and num’rous Lords before,
To Picts, to Danes, to Normans, and many Masters more:
But we can boast AMERICANS! we never fell a Prey;
Huzza, huzza, huzza, huzza, for brave AMERICA.

We led fair FREEDOM hither, when lo the Desart smil’d,
A Paradise of Pleasure, was open’d in the Wild;
Your Harvest bold AMERICANS! no Power shall snatch away,
Assert yourselves, yourselves, yourselves, my brave AMERICA.

Torn from a World of Tyrants, beneath this western Sky,
We form’d a new Dominion, a Land of LIBERTY;
The World shall own their Masters here, then hasten on the Day,
Huzza, huzza, huzza, huzza, for brave AMERICA.

GOD bless this maiden Climate, and thro’ her vast Domain,
Let Hosts of Heroes cluster, who scorn to wear a Chain:
And blast the venal Sycophant, who dares our Rights betray,
Preserve, preserve, preserve, preserve my brave AMERICA.

Lift up your Heads my Heroes! and swear with proud Disdain,
The Wretch who would enslave you, shall spread his Snares in vain;
Should EUROPE empty all her Force, wou’d meet them in Array,
And shout, and shout, and shout, and shout, for brave AMERICA.

Some future Day shall crown us, the Masters of the Main,
And giving Laws and Freedom, to subject FRANCE and SPAIN;
When all the ISLES o’er Ocean spread, shall tremble and obey,
Their Lords, their Lords, their Lords, their Lords of brave AMERICA.
This is not exactly the song I’ve seen in modern collections. For one thing, “The New Massachusetts Liberty Song” has often been retitled “Free America” because that phrase became part of its refrain. But the words “free America” don’t appear anywhere in this early version. I’ll discuss other ways the song evolved in a future posting.

COMING UP: But first, the inevitable parody.

1 comment:

J. L. Bell said...

Naturally, this posting about a broadside on the Library of Congress website would appear on a weekend when the Library of Congress website is down for maintenance.