Jon admits this is “One of the wordier Napoleon songs but a cracking tune and some really nice details. Interesting that the song’s sympathies seem to shift right at the end of the song – editorial perhaps? Certainly it seems pretty pro-Bonaparte in the opening verses.”
I’d say this is one of several wordy Napoleon songs and there’s at least one other epic that also seems to hedge its bets called The Deeds Of Napoleon. It suddenly lurches into a verse about the ‘Norfolk Hero’ (Nelson) and then back to recounting Boney’s triumphs and ultimate downfall. You’ll find it on this Mudcat thread. I’ve pondered on here before about whether he was viewed sympathetically in England, as he certainly was in Ireland. Mainly Norfolk carries some sleeve notes from Tony Rose that make the point that he’s far more often sung about than Wellington, or indeed the English Victory at Waterloo. He must have appeared as a larger than life character at the time and arguably had a greater affect on Europe than anyone since the Romans, or perhaps Charlamagne, but then the former gave the latter a massive head start. Whether he was a true champion of the revolution or simply an egomaniacal tyrant, or a combination of the two is open to debate. The Napoleonic wars, were undoubtedly bloody and terrible, with appalling loss of life, but the name suggest the French Emperor was the instigator, which he probably mostly wasn’t. Mind you I’m no expert. It’s another bit of history to go into my over stuffed projects file. Anyway I really like this song and recall first hearing Barry Dransfield’s version. It caused me some grief when compiling the Folk Awards 2006 CD as it followed the rather beautiful but quiet conclusion of John Tams A Man Of Constant Sorrow. Let’s just say Barry doesn’t hold back, but at 8.00 minutes it got my attention.