"Some talk of Alexander, and some of Hercules... And such great men as these..." but none can compare, "with a row- row-row, row-row-row To the British Grenadiers." The prowess of the Grenadiers is praised, and toasts are offered to them
British Grenadiers, The Complete text(s) *** A *** As printed by W. H. Logan, The Pedlar's Pack of Ballads and Songs, pp. 110-112. Immediate source not noted. Some talk of Alexander, And some of Hercules; Of Hector and Lysander, And such great men as these. But of all the world axknowledges True valour best appears,-- With a row-row-row, row-row-row, Brave British Grenadiers. These ancients of antiquity Ne'er saw a cannon ball, Nor knew the force of powder, To slay their foes withall; But our brave boys have known it, And banished all their fears,-- With a row-row-row, row-row-row, Brave British Grenadiers. When we receive the orders, To storm the pallisadoes, Our leaders march with fuzees And we with hand grenadoes. We toss them from the glacis, Amongst our enemies' ears,-- With a row-row-row, row-row-row, Brave British Grenadiers. Then Jove the god of thunder, And Mars the god of war, Rough Neptune with his trident, Apollo in his car; And all the gods celestial, Descending from their speres, Do behold with admiration Brave British Grenadiers. But be you Whig or Tory, Or any other thing, I'd have you to remember, To obey great George our king, For if you prove rebellious, We'll thunder in your ears,-- With a row-row-row, row-row-row, Brave British Grenadiers. And when the siege is over, We to the town repairs, The citizens cry, "Huzza, boys! Here comes the Grenadiers." Here come the Grenadiers, boys, Without e'er dread or fear,-- With a row-row-row, row-row-row, Brave British Grenadiers. Come fill us up a bumper, And let us drink to those, Who carry caps and pouches, And wear the laced clothes, May they and their commanders, Live happy many years,-- With a row-row-row, row-row-row, Brave British Grenadiers.
That this song is old is obvious. Logan argues that the words must date from between 1678 (when the Grenadier companies were formed) and the reign of Queen Anne (died 1714), when Grenadiers ceased to carry grenades and became simply elite troops. The earlier date is fairly solid; the latter, of course, has the problem that a songwriter might not know that grenadiers had become a general term.
The same problems attend the tune. Fuld reports on various prints from around 1750, and the various parodies and adaptions categorically date it before 1780. It appears the tune is much older (and may not even be British), but no precise data can be offered. - RBW