Theatre Royal Amateur Theatricals

A happy peace had long prevailed
In Britain’s isle, and Commerce far
Her branches had extended
Round the world, when there
Came, borne on midnight air,
This taunt: “The Saxon race
Have lost their ancient prestige,
Her sons are shopkeepers,
And know not how to wage
Battle with foes – the foeman face.”
There were fierce threatenings,
Fretful murmurings,
On foreign strands.
“Let England arm!”
Her Queen exclaimed; and ran the cry
The kingdom through – “Let true men arm
For hearths, and hearts, and country!”
Was England slow the answer
As of old to give – “Ready, aye, ready!”
Let Manchester reply, whose dower
Of sous, three thousand strong,
From counting-house and mill,
Shop and study, field and anvil,
This day – undaunted, resolute, well dril’d
Fear not a foe! Scan the world around:
Can queen, or king, or autocrat boast
Soldiers so brave, army as vast,
As can Victoria?
Twas love that called them out!
Free men all, free men arm’d for liberty;
Their service, rendered freely,
Of more worth is than much gold bought.
For “love of country paramount.”
“The acorn to an oak has sprung”-
A tree no blast can uproot,
‘Tis for “defence,” and “not defiance,”
Thus England stands arrayed,
Proudly relying “in defence”
On those her love has trained;
Who, “in duty" nobly “daring,” will do
All that man has dared!
So let the blood stain’d tyrant the lion’s lair
Avoid; for should there step upon our shore
The foot of hostile foe, the sun will
Rise his sight to glad no more;
And England will avenge herself
By freeing all men – all nations
Despots have wronged for centuries.
To aid us in the service of our love
We come your smiles to win;
“A little help” your hearts to crave:
And smiles and hearts we hope, so won,
That of our acting you will try
To say – “They well perform’d their duty!”

Title:Theatre Royal Amateur Theatricals

Author:J. R. Marsh

Publication:Manchester Courier

Published in:Manchester

Date:May 18th 1861

Keywords:nationalism, war


This is an interesting window into popular feeling in Britain at the very beginning of the American Civil War. The poem does not mention directly the conflict across the Atlantic which had only just begun, but perhaps reveals anxieties about the geopolitical destabilisation which the American War represented, with Britain’s trade and possibly military position endangered. Despite the British government’s stated neutrality, there were widespread fears that the nation would be drawn into the conflict, and this poem defiantly celebrates the nation’s (and Manchester’s) military strength. – SR

In the original publication, the following preface was attahced: 'Last evening there was a grand military dramatic performance at the Theatre Royal, in aid of the funds of the Salford Rifle Volunteers. Every part of the house was crowded, and the entertainment went off with considerable eclat. A detatchment of the Salford Regiment formed a guard of honour at the entrance and vestibule leading to the dress circle. Previous to the curtain rising upon the first piece, the subjoined prologue, written by Mr. J. R. Marsh, M.R.V., was read by Ensign Charles Mercier, 50th L.R.V., with great distinctness and effect.'