The Arethusa
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

The tune appears in Walsh's Complete Dancing Master, circa 1730 as The Princess Royal. The air is attributed to Turlough O'Carolan (1670-1738).

William Shield was born at Smalwell, in Durham England in 1754. His father was a singing teacher and on his father's death, William was apprenticed to a boat builder. He continued his music and a piece he composed for the consecration of a church led to his leaving for London in 1779. He joined the orchestra of the King's band and became composer for Covent Garden Theatre. Shield died in Jannuary 1829.

Prince Hoare was born in Bath in 1755. His father was a painter. Prince Hoare became a noted painter of portraits and historical pictures. However, he turned to literature. He wrote twenty plays in eleven years and died in Brighton on December 22, 1834.

Shield adopted the tune for this song, also known as The Saucy Arethusa, which he included in his opera The Lock and Key (1796). The words were written by Prince Hoare.

The same tune was later used with other words (see links below).

Arethusa was a nymph associated with Aretemis in Greek mythology. While she was bathing the river god Alpheus saw her and fell in love. He tried to abduct her, but she fled to the isle of Ortygia. To protect her Artemis changed her into a fountain, but Alpheus changed into a river and they were united.

Come, all ye jolly sailors bold,
Whose hearts are cast in honour's mould,
While English glory I unfold,
Hurra for the Arethusa!

She is a frigate tight and brave
As ever stemmed the dashing wave;
Her men are staunch to their fav'rite launch,
And when the foe shall meet our fire,
Sooner than strike we'll all expire,
On board of the Arethusa!

'Twas with the spring fleet she went out,
The English Channel to cruise about,
When four French sail, in show so stout,
Bore down on the Arethusa!

The famed Belle Poole straight a head did lie,
The Arethusa seemed to fly,
Not a sheet or a tack, or a brace did she slack,
Tho' the Frenchmen laugh'd and thought it stuff,
But they knew not the handful of men how tough,
On board of the Arethusa.

On deck five hundred men did dance,
The stoutest they could find in France,
We with two hundred did advance,
On board of the Arethusa.

Our captain hailed the Frenchman, "Ho!"
The Frenchmen then cried out, "Hallo!"
"Bear down, d'ye see, to our Admiral's lee,"
"No, no," says the Frenchman, "that can't be,"
"Then I must lug you along with me."
Says the saucy Arethusa.

The fight was off the Frenchman's land,
We forced them back upon their strand,
For we fought till not a stick would stand,
Of the gallant Arethusa.

And now we've driven the foe ashore,
Never to fight with Britons more,
Let each fill a glass to his fav'rite lass!
A health to the captain and officers true,
And all that belong to the jovial crew,
On board of the Arethusa.
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    From Our National Songs
    See Bibliography for full information.