James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

April 18

Sir Sidney Smith

By Thomas Dibdin (1771–1841)

  • Sir Sidney Smith was a noted English admiral. During the war with France he was captured on April 18, 1798, in the Harbor of Havre de Grace and sent to Paris. He afterward escaped and crossed the channel in a skiff.

  • GENTLEFOLKS, in my time, I’ve made many a rhyme,

    But the song I now trouble you with,

    Lays some claim to applause, and you’ll grant it, because

    The subject’s Sir Sidney Smith, it is,

    The subject’s Sir Sidney Smith.

    We all know Sir Sidney, a man of such kidney,

    He’d fight every foe he could meet;

    Give him one ship for two, and without more ado,

    He’d engage if he met a whole fleet, he would,

    He’d engage if he met a whole fleet.

    Thus he took every day, all that came in his way,

    Till fortune, that changeable elf,

    Ordered accidents, so, that while taking the foe,

    Sir Sidney got taken himself, he did,

    Sir Sidney got taken himself.

    His captors right glad of the prize they now had,

    Rejected each offer we bid,

    And swore he should stay locked up till doomsday;

    But he swore he’d be d——d if he did, he did;

    But he swore he’d be hanged if he did.

    So Sir Sid got away, and his jailor next day

    Cried “sacre, diable, morbleu,

    Mon prisonnier ’scape; I av got in von scrape,

    And I fear I must run away too, I must,

    I fear I must run away too!”

    If Sir Sidney was wrong, why then blackball my song,

    E’en his foes he would scorn to deceive;

    His escape was but just, and confess it you must,

    For it only was taking French leave, you know,

    It only was taking French leave.