What they forget is that children grow up.
Women and men off to what start? Born
out of wedlock, no prospects, they said.
A foundling I was, a fighter I stand.
Abandoned to fate, the hospital raised me,
fed and clothed for the good of my country.
Taught reading and writing, readied for trade.
A working-class lad with command of the page!
Apprenticed a sweet maker under indenture,
bullied and beaten so why would I stay? Ran
but press ganged; navy ships claimed my labour.
Traded sugar and flour for the rig and the sail.
France would invade, Spain lends her a hand.
We are better at sea; they claim better on land.
They hope to invade, so we sail to defend.
Now fully grown, with my Navy I stand.
At morn we eat dinner, may not see nightfall.
Drink a half pint of wine, blood fuel for the fight.
The signal comes through, we must rise to our duty.
Sailors and fighters, hold yourselves steady.
Straight at their flanks, headlong to their guns,
shun tactical ranks, under Nelson’s command.
We attack and they break, just as he planned.
No ships of ours lost. In victory we stand!
There is always a cost, many men by my side,
cut down to the deep, now the years have worn
by. Caught it all with my pen, now let’s drink to
forgetting. A foundling, a fighter, a writer, I end.
Find out more (including opening times) about the Foundling Museum’s Fighting Talk exhibition