Posted by: internationalroutier | February 1, 2010

Sing Routier sing!

After writing about the Poxy Boggards, I checked my email and there was a lovely missive from Jackie with the words to a period song Routiers used to sing a lot more than they do now. (Obviously that promise of beer for articles was a strong lure!) It made me think about how important singing and music is to having a great reenactment experience as opposed to a good one. One of my overwhelming memories of the Routiers from when I first came into contact with them in the early 90’s is the singing. Great blokey, loud and proud, chest out, bellies outer, singing. The novelty songs were always popular, clever and witty and usually easy to join in after a few listens but it was the period songs that were really mindblowing. To be singing a song that was sung 400 years ago!; that was how I knew Routiers were serious about their reenactment.
If the words and the music notations have survived then it is maybe one of the easiest and most authentic reenactments we can do. Plus, extra songs in the repertoire take no more room in the trailer. And it often makes marching properly much easier.
Leave your favourite Routier song in the comments. Personally I love the Owl song (haha conventions against pointing be damned!) and also cannot go past We Were Only 38. (Although now it is kind of ‘if only we were 38′). I feel the new Captain has plans to raise our voices once again; maybe we could do a doco in the spirit of Choir of Hard Knocks?, so clear your throats, stick our your chests and bellies and prepare to raise the roof- albeit canvas.

This song was mentioned by Captain Robert Monro in his memoirs of his service under Gustavus Adolphus in the Thirty Years’ War. This version is from John Forbes’ Cantus, Songs, and Fancies of 1662, with corrections from the 1682 edition.

When Canons are Roaring

Soldiers with swords in hand, to the walls coming,
Horsemen about the streets, riding and running,
Sentinels on the walls, “Arm, arm” a-crying,
Petards against the ports; wild fire a-flying.

When cannons are roaring,
And bullets are flying,
He that would honour win,
Must not fear dying

Trumpets on turrets high, they are a-sounding,
Drums beating out aloud, echoes resounding,
Alarm bells in each place, they are a-ringing,
Women with stones in laps to the walls bringing.


Captains in open fields, on their foes rushing,
Gentlemen second them with their pikes pushing.
Engineers in the trench, earth, earth uprearing,
Gunpowder in the mines, pagans upblowing.


Portcullis in the ports, they are downletting,
Burghers come flocking by, to their hands setting,
Ladders against the walls, they are uprearing,
Women, great timber logs to the walls bearing.




  1. A beer after drill to anyone that can sing more of the words than the captain!

    • As I recall, the Captain knows the words pretty well. I don’t think you’re in danger of losing your rent money *g*.

      Now louder, slower, faster “anything you can do”-er would be interesting and challenging for your purse.

      …and how fast are we supposed to sing this one anyway – it’s been done at paces varying between a dirge and a gallop. Inquiring minds want to know!

  2. Promises of beer are flowing like well…beer! Hurrah!

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