Paul Jones
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

The tune is also known as Paul Jones, the Pirate. It appeared on broadsides almost immediately after the naval action described. Paul Jones, the Pirate: a new song was printed in 1779. The song was popular in both England and America.

The events described took place near Flamborough Head off Yorkshire on September 23, 1779, when a fleet commanded by John Paul Jones in his flagship, The Bonhomme Richard, met a fleet of British merchantmen escorted by two British men-of-war. During the battle, Captain Pearson, commander of the Serapis, asked John Paul Jones, greatly outgunned, to surrender. Jones responded, "Surrender, be damned. I have not begun to fight." Jones won the battle, but The Bonhomme Richard was so badly damaged it had to be abandoned and Jones sailed the Serapis home.

In the original broadside John Paul Jones' ship is given as "The Percy." Other versions have his frigate various from the Orient and Baltimore. The number of men wounded and killed also varies. A copy of the early broadsides can be found at the Bodleian Library.

Many tunes sprang up around the exploits of John Paul Jones. See links below to see why he was such a popular hero.

It's of an American frigate the "Richard" by name
Mounted forty-four guns, and from New York she came.
A-cruising down the channel of Old England's fame
With a noble commander, Paul Jones was his name.

We had not cruised long before two sails we espies
A large forty-four and a twenty likewise,
Some fifty bright shipping, well loaded with store,
And the convoy stood in for the old Yorkshire shore.

'Bout the hour of twelve we came alongside
With a long speaking trumpet: Whence came you? he cried;
Come, answer me quickly, I'll hail you no more
Or else a broadside into you I will pour.

We fought them four glasses, four glasses so hot,
Till forty bold seamen lay dead on the spot,
And fifty-five more lay bleeding in gore,
While the thundering loud cannons of Paul Jones did roar.

Our carpenter being frighten'd, to Paul Jones he came,
Our ship she leaks water and is likewise in flame,
Paul Jones he made answer, and to him replied,
If we can do no better, we'll sink alongside.

Paul Jones he then turned to his men and did say
Let every man stand the best of his play,
For broadside for broadside they fought on the main
Like true buckskin heroes we return'd it again.

The Serapis wore round our ship for to rake,
And many proud hearts of the English did ache;
The shot flew so hot, and so fierce and so fast,
And the bold British colours were hauled down at last.

Oh now, my brave boys, we have taken a rich prize
A large forty-four and a twenty likewise;
To help the poor mothers that have reason to weep
For the loss of their sons in the unfathomed deep.

Other songs related to John Paul Jones at this site:
Related Links
From English Folk-Songs
See Bibliography for full information.