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Kipling's Brown Bess

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  • Larry Lozon
    BROWN BESS (THE ARMY MUSKET-1700?1815) by Rudyard Kipling IN THE days of lace-ruffles, perukes and brocade Brown Bess was a partner whom none could
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1, 2001
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      "BROWN BESS"

      (THE ARMY MUSKET-1700?1815)

      by Rudyard Kipling


      IN THE days of lace-ruffles, perukes and brocade
      Brown Bess was a partner whom none could
      despise-

      An out-spoken, flinty-lipped, brazen-faced jade,
      With a habit of looking men straight in the
      eyes-

      At Blenheim and Ramillies fops would confess
      They were pierced to the heart by the charms of
      Brown Bess.

      Though her sight was not long and her weight was
      not small
      Yet her actions were winning, her language
      was clear;

      And everyone bowed as she opened the ball
      On the arm of some high-gaitered, grim grenadier.

      Half Europe admitted the striking success
      Of the dances and routs that were given by Brown
      Bess,

      When ruffles were turned into stiff leather stocks
      And people wore pigtails instead of perukes

      Brown Bess never altered her iron-grey locks,
      She knew she was valued for more than her
      looks.

      "Oh, powder and patches was always my dress,
      And I think I am killing enough," said Brown Bess.

      So she followed her red-coats, whatever they did,
      From the heights of Quebec to the plains of
      Assaye,

      From Gibraltar to Acre, Cape Town and Madrid,
      And nothing about her was changed on the way;

      (But most of the Empire which now we possess
      Was won through those years by old-fashioned
      Brown Bess.)

      In stubborn retreat or in stately advance,
      From the Portugal coast to the cork-woods of
      Spain
      She had puzzled some excellent Marshals of France

      Till none of them wanted to meet her again:
      But later, near Brussels, Napoleon-no less-
      Arranged for a Waterloo ball with Brown Bess.

      She had danced till the dawn of that terrible day-
      She danced on till dusk of more terrible night,

      And before her linked squares his battalions gave
      way
      And her long fierce quadrilles put his lancers to flight:

      And when his gilt carriage drove off in the
      press,
      "I have danced my last dance for the world!" said
      Brown Bess.

      If you go to Museums - there's one in Whitehall-
      Where old weapons are shown with their names
      writ beneath,

      You will find her, upstanding, her back to the
      wall,
      As stiff as a ramrod, the flint in her teeth.

      And if ever we English had reason to bless
      Any arm save our mothers',
      that arm is Brown Bess!
      _________________________________

      This was sent me by me Brover in Arms,
      Private 'Obbs of d/41st. It proves he will
      go far as he has book learnin' n'kin write
      as well! A bloke wif brungin'up is grand
      t'ave as a mate!

      __________________________________
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