Poor Joe the Marine

Melody - John Ashley

John Ashley

Poor Joe, the marine, was at Portsmouth well known,
No lad in the corps dress'd so smart;
The lasses ne'er looked at the lad with a frown,
His manliness won every heart.
Sweet Polly at Portsmouth he took for his bride,
And surely there never was seen
A couple so gay march to church, side by side,
As Polly and Joe the marine.

The bright torch of Hymen was scarce in a blaze,
When thundering drums they heard rattle;
And Joe in an instant was forc'd to the seas
To give a bold enemy battle.
The action was dreadful, each ship a mere wreck,
Such slaughter few sailors have seen;
Two hundred brave fellows lay strew'd on the deck,
And among them poor Joe the marine.

But victory - faithful to brave British tars,
At length put an end to the fight;
Then homeward they steer'd, full of glory and scars,
And soon had fam'd Portsmouth in sight.
The ramparts were crowded, the heroes to greet,
And foremost sweet Polly was seen;
But the very first sailor she chanc'd for to meet,
Told the fate of poor Joe the marine.

The fate of too many young sailors is commemorated in this song by John Ashley. But it is typical of the type of sea ballad that was immensely popular between about 1780 and 1830 when Charles Dibdin was writing. The easy melodic style had great appeal and 'Poor Joe the Marine' has lost none of its charm. John or Josiah Ashley (1780-1830) lived most of his life in Bath where he taught music and sang in concerts. He wrote many songs and ballads which were highly successful. He also wrote two pamphlets on the origins of the English National Anthem a subject that was being hotly debated in the late 1820s.

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