Several readers have asked me for the full lyrics of “The Roast Beef of Old
England.” Here you go. I have abandoned the early-18c custom of
capitalizing the initial letters of nouns.
When mighty roast beef was the Englishman’s food
It ennobl’d our veins and enriched our blood;
Our soldiers were brave and our courtiers were good.
[Chorus] Oh! the roast beef of old England,
And old English roast beef.
But since we have learned from all vapouring France,
To eat their ragouts, as well as to dance,
We are fed up with nothing but vain complaisance.
Our fathers of old were robust, stout, and strong,
And kept open house with good cheer all day long.
Which made their plump tenants rejoyce in this song:
But now we are dwindled to… What shall I name?
A sneaking poor race, half begotten and tame,
Who sully those honours that once shone in fame.
When good Queen Elizabeth sate on the throne,
Ere coffee and tea and such slip-slops were known,
The world was in terror if e’er she did frown.
In those days, if fleets did presume on the Main,
They seldom or never returned back again–
As witness, the vaunting Armada of Spain!
Oh! then we had stomachs to eat and to fight,
And when wrongs were a-cooking, to do ourselves right.
But now we’re a… Well, I could–but, Goodnight!