This awesome song, Dominion of the Sword, was written at the end of the English Civil War apparently as a rueful criticism of the upending violence of the Puritans and other opponents of the crown. Yet to our generation, more accustomed to rebellion, the song sounds like a forceful assertion of the importance and efficacy of rebellion.
The YouTube version is a new version of the lyrics. Martin Cathy says the regime wants us to believe that violence gets us nowhere, but that his song refutes that. Listen to the YouTube version and read both lyrics below.
Lyrics as recorded in the Loyal Garland, 1686:
Lay by your pleading,
Law lies a bleeding;
Burn all your studies down, and
Throw away your reading.
Small pow’r the word has,
And can afford us
Not half so much privilege as
The sword does.
It fosters your masters,
It plaisters disasters,
It makes the servants quickly greater
Than their masters.
It venters, it enters,
It seeks and it centers,
It makes a’prentice free in spite
Of his indentures.
It talks of small things,
But it sets up all things;
This masters money, though money
Masters all things.
It is not season
To talk of reason,
Nor call it loyalty, when the sword
Will have it treason.
It conquers the crown, too,
The grave and the gown, too,
First it sets up a presbyter, and
Then it pulls him down too.
This subtle disaster
Turns bonnet to beaver;
Down goes a bishop, sirs, and up
Starts a weaver.
This makes a layman
To preach and to pray, man;
And makes a lord of him that
Was but a drayman.
Far from the gulpit
Of Saxby’s pulpit,
This brought an Hebrew ironmonger
To the pulpit.
Such pitiful things be
More happy than kings be;
They get the upper hand of Thimblebee
No gospel can guide it,
No law can decide it,
In Church or State, till the sword
Has sanctified it.
Down goes your law-tricks,
Far from the matricks,
Sprung up holy Hewson’s power,
And pull’d down St Patrick’s.
This sword it prevails, too,
So highly in Wales, too,
Shenkin ap Powel swears
“Cots-splutterer nails, too.”
In Scotland this faster
Did make such disaster,
That they sent their money back
For which they sold their master.
It batter’d their Gunkirk,
And so it did their Spainkirk,
That he is fled, and swears the devil
Is in Dunkirk.
He that can tower,
Or he that is lower,
Would be judged a fool to put
Away his power.
Take books and rent ’em,
Who can invent ’em,
When that the sword replies,
Your brave college-butlers
Must stoop to the sutlers;
There’s ne’er a library
Like to the cutlers’.
The blood that was spilt, sir,
Hath gain’d all the gilt, sir;
Thus have you seen me run my
Sword up to the hilt, sir.
Lyrics by Martin Cathy, 1966:
Lay by your pleading, law lies a-bleeding
Burn all your studies down, and throw away your reading
Small power the word has, and can afford us
Not half so much privilege as the sword does
It’ll the foster the master, plaster disaster
This’ll make a servant quickly greater than the master
Ventures, enters, seeks and it centres
Ever the upper hand, never a dissenter
Kruger, Krugerrand-a, whither do you wander?
Gone to the suborning of Hastings Banda
Kruger, Krugerrand-a, tear you all asunder
Beira to Luanda, Gabarone to Nyanga
Talks of small things, it sets up all things
This’ll master money, though money masters all things
It is not season to talk of reason
Never call it loyal when the sword says treason
Calm for the worrier, the whaler, the furrier
This’ll get the measure of a Rainbow Warrior
Incognito, come and sink a Rainbow
President will never know, I should bloody coco
Subtle deceiver, turns calm to fever
See the pilgrim flay the unbeliever
It’ll make a lay man, preach and to pray man
It’ll make a Lord of him that was but a drayman
Conquers the crown too, grave and the gown too
Set you up a province, but it’ll pull it down too
No gospel can guide it, no law decide it
In church or state, ’til the sword sanctified it
Take books, rent ’em, who can invent ’em?
When that the sword says there’ll be no argumentum
Blood that is spilt sir, has gained all the guilt, sir
Thus have you seen me run my sword up to the hilt sir