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Old Sam

by Stanley Holloway (1929)
Illustrations by Bill Tidy and John Hassall

Right-o, boys, let battle commence.
Right-o, boys, let battle commence.

The Duke of Wellington (Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley) was a career soldier, spending much of his life fighting and killing people (see also Old Sam's Christmas Pudding). Yet in this story, he knew that soft words were in order.

The Battle of Waterloo against Napoleon was about to begin and perhaps the Duke sensed there would be significant loss of life (190,000 soldiers fought on both sides, of which 62,000 were killed or wounded).

Also known as Sam, Pick Oop Tha' Musket, this monologue was first performed at the London Palladium in 1929. It was Stanley Holloway's first monologue about Sam Small and he made a recording of it in the following year.

It occurred on the evening before Waterloo
And troops were lined up on Parade,
And Sergeant inspecting 'em, he was a terror
Of whom every man was afraid -

All excepting one man, who was in the front rank,
A man by the name of Sam Small,
And 'im and the Sergeant were both 'daggers drawn'
They thought nowt' of each other at all.

As Sergeant walked past he was swinging his arm,
And he happened to brush against Sam,
And knocking his musket clean out of his hand
It fell to the ground with a slam.

"Pick it oop," said Sergeant, abrupt like but cool,
But Sam with a shake of his head
Said, "Seeing as tha' knocked it out of me 'and,
P'raps tha'll pick the thing oop instead."

"Sam, Sam, pick oop tha' musket!"
The Sergeant exclaimed with a roar.
Sam said "Tha' knocked it doon, reet!
Then tha'll pick it oop, or it stays where it is, on't floor."

The sound of high words
Very soon reached the ears of an Officer, Lieutenant Bird,
Who says to the Sergeant, "Now what's all this 'ere?"
And the Sergeant told what had occurred.

"Sam, Sam, pick oop tha' musket,"
Lieutenant exclaimed with some heat.
Sam said "He knocked it doon, reet! then he'll pick it oop,
Or it stays where it is, at me feet."

It caused quite a stir when the Captain arrived
To find out the cause of the trouble;
And every man there, all excepting Old Sam,
Was full of excitement and bubble.

"Sam, Sam, pick oop tha' musket."
Said Captain for strictness renowned.
Sam said "He knocked it doon, reet!
Then he'll pick it oop' or it stays where it is on't ground."

Gradeley, lad
Gradeley, lad

The same thing occurred when the Major and Colonel
Both tried to get Sam to see sense,
But when old Duke o' Wellington came into view
Well, the excitement was tense.

Up rode the Duke on a lovely white 'orse,
To find out the cause of the bother;
He looks at the musket and then at old Sam
And he talked to Old Sam like a brother,

"Sam, Sam, pick oop tha' musket,"
The Duke said as quiet as could be,
"Sam, Sam, pick oop tha' musket
Coom on, lad, just to please me."

"All right, Duke," said Old Sam, "just for thee I'll oblige,
And to show thee I meant no offence."
So Sam picked it up, "Gradeley, lad," said the Duke,
"Right-o, boys, let battle commence."

One of the most popular stories of Waterloo; Les Misérables


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