I am a Bull, a quiet Bull;
Wish not to quarrel any more:
No lambkin milder walks in wool;
Until prevoked, I never gore:
And that’s just why, when forced to fight
To push and toss I do not cease,
With all my soul and strength and might,
Until I re establish peace.
A Bull I am begirt with brutes,
Wolves, bears, and tigers, beasts of prey,
I wish they’d mind their own pursuits,
And not keep getting in my way.
My aim is ever to stand clear
Of all concern with their affairs;
But not a jot I’ll yield, for fear
Of any tigers, wolves, or bears.
Those Yankees, when they knew that I
Don’t like it, oh! how could they be
Such stupid creatures as to try
To injure and impose on me?
They’ve seen what I can bear, and spend,
Aggressive insolence to stem,
War I should rue; but, in the end
‘Twould be a great deal worse for them.
Would aliens only not molest
Me, and each other leave alone,
No more for self-defence assessed
Should I beneath taxation groan;
On this or that, or t’other side,
Some neighbour always menaced by,
Armed to the teeth I’m forced to bide;
Oh, what an ill-used Bull am I!

Title:A Roar from John Bull


Publication:Ashton and Stalybridge Reporter

Published in:Ashton-under-Lyne

Date:Jan 18th, 1862

Keywords:america, war


Published in the aftermath of the Trent Affair, the diplomatic crisis which had brought Britain to the brink of war with America, this patriotic Punch poem begins with Britain personified as a bull in reference to the character of ‘John Bull’, with other countries referred to as smaller but aggressive creatures. The attitude of Britain is characterised as neutral but reluctantly drawn into the possibility of a conflict which it would almost certainly win. The second half of the poem largely abandons metaphor and refers directly to the parties involved. There tends to be a strong element of nationalistic wishful thinking in these kinds of poems, and both of these characterisations are less straightforward than they might seem. The Trent Affair revealed that Britain had officially attempted to hold talks with the Confederacy, belying its claims to neutrality, and the Union’s reaction proved that Lincoln very much favoured Britain’s friendship during the war. This became much more evident after the Proclamation of Emancipation of September 1862. The reference to ‘taxation’ in the final stanza reflects the very considerable financial strain the Britain was put under by the war, even beyond the huge burden of the cotton blockade, bringing into focus the unavoidably global nature of the conflict. – SR