Heart of Oak

Something for the weekend.  A departure from my usual selections of Irish songs against the English!  I have always been a sucker for the Age of Fighting Sail, and Heart of Oak , written by David Garrick  in the Annus Mirabelis of 1759, captures the spirit of that age when the Royal Navy transformed the seas into an English lake.

Come, cheer up, my lads, ’tis to glory we steer,
To add something more to this wonderful year;
To honour we call you,  not press you like slaves,
For who are so free as the sons of the waves?

(Chorus sung once…)
Heart of oak are our ships, Heart of oak are our men,
we always are ready; Steady, boys, steady!
We’ll fight and we’ll conquer again and again.

We ne’er see our foes but we wish them to stay,
They never see us but they wish us away.
If they run, why, we follow and run them ashore,
For if they won’t fight us, we cannot do more.

(Chorus sung once…)
They swear they’ll invade us, these terrible foes,
They frighten our women, our children and beaus,
But should their flat bottoms one dark night get o’er,
Still Britons they’ll find to receive them on shore.

(Chorus sung once…)
Britannia triumphant, her ships sweep the sea,
Her standard is Justice — her watchword, ‘be free.’
Then cheer up, my lads, with one voice let us sing,
Our soldiers, our sailors, our statesmen, and king.

(Final Chorus sung twice…)

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. When I was a teenager and a Sea Cadet in Canada we sang this song often. A few differences in what you have presented:

    not press you like slaves -> you as free men not slaves

    Heart of oak are our men -> Jolly tars our men

    Still Britons they’ll find to receive them on shore -> Stout Britons they’ll find to defeat them on shore

    You should do a post on the “Maple Leaf Forever”.

  2. Wow, don’t know how I missed that, thanks!

    ps. we have other variations, but I can’t share them in mixed company…

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