Abdul Abulbul Amir
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

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This song was written in 1877 by Percy French at Trinity College for a college concert. His original title was Abdulla Bulbul Ameer. He sold it to a publisher for five pounds. It was published without credit to him and he never received royalties for its later success. Many sources still list the author as anonymous.

My father was a Navy captain and this was one of his favorite songs. According to the Book of Navy Songs, "This song is representative of the non-nautical and non-naval songs that frequently become a favorite of the wardrooms in the fleet. An English correspondent writes that originally it was a ballad of the Russo-Turkish Wars."

Given the date and author, the Crimean War (1853-1856) is more likely the setting than the earlier Russo-Turkish Wars.

This tune is also known as The Ballade of Ivan Petrofsky Skevar, for which there are a few variations in the lyrics.

For other Percy French tunes at this site enter Percy French in the search engine or go to The Contemplator's Very Short Biography of Percy French.

The sons of the Prophet are brave men and bold
and quite unaccustomed to fear,
But the bravest by far in the ranks of the shah,
Was Abdul Abulbul Amir.

If you wanted a man to encourage the van,
Or harass the foe from the rear,
Storm fort or redoubt, you had only to shout
for Abdul Abulbul Amir.

Now the heroes were plenty and well known to fame
in the troops that were led by the Czar,
And the bravest of these was a man by the name
of Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

One day this bold Russian, he shouldered his gun
and donned his most truculent sneer,
Downtown he did go where he tred on the toe
of Abdul Abulbul Amir.

"Young man," quote Abdul,"has life grown so dull
That you wish to end your career?
Vile infidel know, you have trod on the toe
Of Abdul Abulbul Amir.

So take your last look at the sunshine and brook
And send your regrets to the Czar
For by this I imply, you are going to die,
Count Ivan Skavinsky Skavar."

Then this bold Mameluke drew his trusty skibouk,
Singing, "Allah! Il Allah! Al-lah!"
And with murderous intent he ferociously went
for Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

They parried and thrust, they side-stepped and cussed,
Of blood they spilled a great part;
The philologist blokes, who seldom crack jokes,
Say that hash was first made on the spot.

They fought all that night neath the pale yellow moon;
The din, it was heard from afar,
And huge multitudes came, so great was the fame,
of Abdul and Ivan Skavar.

As Abdul's long knife was extracting the life,
In fact he was shouting, "Huzzah!"
He felt himself struck by that wily Calmuck,
Count Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

The Sultan drove by in his red-breasted fly,
Expecting the victor to cheer,
But he only drew nigh to hear the last sigh,
Of Abdul Abulbul Amir.

There's a tomb rises up where the Blue Danube rolls,
And graved there in characters clear,
Is, "Stranger, when passing, oh pray for the soul
Of Abdul Abulbul Amir."

A splash in the Black Sea one dark moonless night
Caused ripples to spread wide and far,
It was made by a sack fitting close to the back,
of Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.

A Muscovite maiden her lone vigil keeps,
Neath the light of the cold northern star,
And the name that she murmurs in vain as she weeps,
is Ivan Skavinsky Skavar.
Related Links
From Book of Navy Songs
See Bibliography for full information.