Deserter (IV), The
DESCRIPTION: The singer, recruited while drunk, deserts. He is turned in in succession by a woman, a sergeant, and drummer. Each time but the last he is flogged and deserts, saying "the King's duty has been cruel to me." At last the king intervenes and releases him.
EARLIEST DATE: before 1853 (broadside, Bodleian Harding B 17(75a))
KEYWORDS: army recruiting punishment freedom royalty soldier
FOUND IN: Britain(England(South),Scotland(Aber))
REFERENCES (5 citations):
Greig-FolkSongInBuchan-FolkSongOfTheNorthEast #90, p. 1, "The Deserter" (1 text)
Greig/Duncan1 83, "The Deserter" (7 texts, 3 tunes)
Williams-Wiltshire-WSRO Mi 555, "Deserter" (1 text)
Dallas-TheCruelWars-100SoldiersSongs, pp. 167-169, "The Deserter" (1 text, 1 tune)
Henderson-VictorianStreetBallads, p. 148, "Deserter" (1 text)
Bodleian, Harding B 17(75a), "The Deserter" ("As I was walking down Ratcliffe highway"), John Ross (Newcastle), 1847-1852; also Harding B 15(220a), "The New Deserter"
LOCSinging, as109540, "The New Deserter," Ryle & Co. (Seven Dials), n.d.
NOTES [109 words]: Greig/Duncan1: Re version A "from father who learnt it in boyhood, say 1824." - BS
My guess is that the song is a few decades older than that, and that George III was the King. George's wars were extensive, so that the military was always looking for soldiers. Discipline was harsh. (Frankly, the singer was lucky not to be killed.)
George III was, however, personally merciful -- unlike his grandfather George II. If he somehow came to know about a case of a deserter about to be executed, he might well have intervened in this way. And then gone back to recruiting more drunks, because he couldn't seem to figure out that his actions had consequences. - RBW
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