Poem and account of 1st Afghan War

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Poem and account of 1st Afghan War

Postby DGoode32 » 31 Mar 2012 20:23

I recently discovered in the papers of my great grandfather, Corporal John Goode variously of the 48th, 54th and 41st Foot a poem about the massacre of the Brits in 1841/2 together with an account of the wanderings of his regiment from Belgaum to Upper Seinde until they finally became part of the Army of Retribution which laid waste villages and the Bazaar in Kabul, returned via the Khyber Pass and on their return to England marched through Canterbury on 19th October 1843. John was illiterate and therefore couldn't have written this himself. he also didn't participate in the Retribution because he came back to England and was discharged as medically unfit in 1842.So I'm intrigued as to how this original account and poem came to be in his possession.
My first question is whether the poem is well known -I assume so. It begins Now gather round all you Brtons bold / while I relate a tale/which will your stout hearts fill with grief/and make your cheeks grow pale. Would there have been scribes who reproduced this in the absence of copying machines? The long account of the campaign begins I now take up my pen to write an account of my travels in Seinde and Afghanistan and starts from receiving instructions on 26 September 1840 to move from Belgaum to Seinde. As I mentioned John Goode was probably there in the early stages during 1841 but was in in Bombay from the beginning of 1842 prior to his return to UK. Is it likely that accounts of this kind circulated widely or is this one likely to be unique.
I 'd welcome any information from the experienced guys on this site which might help me understand how these documents came to be in John Goode 's possession.
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Re: Poem re 1stAfghan War

Postby Liz » 02 Apr 2012 04:19

Hi David

I have a particular interest in the 1st Afghan War and have not come across this poem or account before.

I just googled the exact phrase "will your stout hearts fill with grief" and got only one result - your post. Likewise the exact phrase "starts from receiving instructions on 26 September 1840". So if the poem and account have been published before, they are well hidden in a book or books not yet scanned by Google Books.

As to who wrote this material (if it was the same person), well that is an interesting question. You say your man was illiterate. This doesn't stop it being his - I can point to several accounts of various conflicts scribed by family members, friends or interested officers that include considerable detail - but if he wasn't there then that's clearly a dead end.

Another possibility is that this material was written by somebody else who was there, such as a family member or friend. If so, the material was most likely to have been given or left to your man, but it's possible it was acquired later by somebody who recognised the material as being connected/relevant to your family. Stranger things have happened.

A third possibility is that the material was written by somebody else completely, who wasn't there but who was inspired by the accounts of people who were. If so, this is most likely to have been a family member. I think this is unlikely, by the way, but it would be difficult to rule this out without closer examination of the account in question.

I hope that this helps and that you will tell us more!!! All the best,

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Re: Poem and account of 1st Afghan War

Postby DGoode32 » 06 Apr 2012 12:17

Hi Liz

Glad to know you're intrigued by our poem. Here are its 11 stanzas:-


Come gather around all you Britons bold
While I relate a tale
Which will your stout heart fill with grief
And make your cheeks grow pale
We’ll sing the death of those brave men
That bold & gallant band
Whose bones lay bleached all on the plains
Of Affghans distant land.


Many the sigh & bitter tear
May now come forth in vain
Many a tenderhearted girl
May now weep for her lover slain[
Many a mother now may weep
To think the son she bore
Now left for food for hungry beasts
On Afghans rocky shore.


Ten thousand of those gallant lads
With heart and terror free
All for their country & their Queen
They ploughed the raging sea
Their hearts were strong & courage good
For hopes of Victory high
But now their bones unburied not
Lie beneath the Affghans sky.

The fortieth & forty-first, that brave undaunted band,
Were stationed at Cabool [Kabul],
And little dreamed of treachery
The natives were so cool
It was one morn at break of day
When sleep had closed their eye
A pistol fired, ten thousand yells
Then rent the Affghans skies.


They surrounded the camp & those brave men
Fought death right manfully
Compelled to quit their brave ranks
As heroes they did die.
As you sweep flies down from the wall
So swept were those brave men
Deceased, departed & destroyed
From their wild Affghans den.


Sir William Mac Norton our head chief[,]
He was the first to die
The Affghans[they cut off his head
And on a spear carried it high
Their mangled bodies all scattered lie
On those wild distant plains
But ten thousand tombs well built
For them made up with Affghans bones.


There were young & tender women too
Whose fond hearts knew no fear
Yet mercy implored from those foes
For those they held so dear
They threw the women of all ranks
Into dungeons dark & cold
To serve alike as common slaves
The Affghans they did hold.


Sir Williams tender hearted wife
Was made a captive too
And forced to serve in slavery for those
That had her husband slew
Chains of iron more fit for beast
Hung down her slender form
And there in bondage doomed to grind
The wild Affghanistan corn.


But retribution was at hand
Short was the rebels glee
We mowed them down by thousands
And set our captain free
We burned destroyed and plundered
Spared neither man nor beast
The vengeance that my boys we took
Amongst the Affghanistans.


The fortieth and fortyfirst
Those brave undaunted men
? were those that as not vengeance took
To whom they did implore
Their courage never failed them
Their men they never reeled
Had conquered many a thousand
Upon the battlefield.


May heaven protect bold Britain still
From every foreign foe
May heaven protect old Ireland
Form every curse and woe
God bless our Royal Virtuous Queen
May honour crown her cause
May she amend a soldiers lot
With good & wholesome laws.

The account of the campaign is longer and will take more time to transcribe. So it will come at a later date. It does link into the retribution part of the poem and indicates that the writer of the account (not my great grandfather) was present. If the poem is otherwise unknown, that leads to a possible conclusion that poem and text are by the same person. So far I have found no clue as to who he was. If it's of interest I can send a sample of the original. Meantime I await any comments from members of the forum.
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Re: Poem and account of 1st Afghan War

Postby ArmyJ » 22 Jun 2015 21:23

As I'm still catching up on the old posts in this forum, I just read the poem. It's an incredible piece. Did you ever get around to transcribing the actual account of the campaign?
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