…from the quills of the dead white poets
Cyril Tawney (1930-2005)
It happened on a sunny day in nineteen fifty-four,
We went to greet Her Majesty a-coming from the tour.
On a British submarine, on a British submarine,
When sixty solid sailors went a-cheering of the Queen.
Their lordships said: Now cheer, m’boys, but mind you make it smart,
There’s nothing looks so ragged as a-cheering from your heart.
Well when we saw the signal, boys, it made our innards freeze:
One order ONE, you hold your hats at forty-five degrees.
At forty-five degrees, m’boys, that what their lordships said:
On the order TWO, you wave your hats three times around your heads.
And when you go to shout, m’boys, be careful what you say,
The word you use for cheering is: Hurrah! And not: Hooray!
We sailed towards the Britannia, boys, the finest ever seen
With every man a-standing like a petrified marine.
But when we reached the moment, boys, that every skipper dreads,
A swarm of gnats as big as bats descended on our heads.
The boat was filled with waving arms, the air was filled with cries,
As every matelot cursed and fought to keep them from his eyes.
The Duke he scratched his head as he watched us all depart:
That’s the first time I’ve seen sailor boys a-cheering from their heart.
We waved our way across the bay till we were out of sight,
We waved our way all through the day and on into the night.
Ah, the day we met the Queen, m’boys, is a day I won’t forget,
If we hadn’t dived to ninety feet we’d all be waving yet.