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The tune appears in Walsh's Complete Dancing Master, circa 1730 as The Princess Royal. The air is a variant of Princes Royal, by Turlough O'Carolan.
The words, of course, are a later addition. Lord Nelson died in 1805.
In 1796 Shield adapted the same tune to The Arethusa for his opera. The Lock and Key (1796).
Bold Nelson's praise I am going to sing,
(Not forgetting our glorious King)
He always did good tidings bring,
For he was a bold commander.
There was Sydney Smith and Duncan too,
Lord Howe and all the glorious crew;
They were the men that were true blue.
Full of care, yet I swear
None with Nelson could compare,
Not even Alexander.
Bold Buonaparte he threaten'd war,
A man who fear'd not wound nor scar,
But still he lost at Trafalgar
Where Britain was victorious.
Lord Nelson's actions made him quake,
And all French pow'rs he made to shake;
He said his king he'd ne'er forsake.
These last words thus he spake,
Stand true, my lads, like hearts of oak,
And the battle shall be glorious.
Lord Nelson bold, though threaten'd wide,
And many a time he had been tried,
He fought like a hero till he died
Amid the battle gory.
But the day was won, their line was broke,
While all around was lost in smoke,
And Nelson he got his death-stroke,
That's the man for old England!
He faced his foe with his sword in hand
And he lived and he died in his glory.
One Hundred English Folksongs
See Bibliography for full information.