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GUEST,Lighter Help: Twa Recruiting Sergeants - How old? (70* d) RE: Help: Twa Recruiting Sergeants - How old? 03 Sep 13


> If it is a "recruiting song" why sing about the regiment being where it isn't?

Am out of my depth historically and socially, but I question the meaning of "recruiting song."

The 1706 song is unambiguous. It directly invites men to enlist for a range of motives: patriotism, adventure, honor, quick cash, free clothing, avoidance of naval impressment, plunder and wealth, recognition, proof of manliness, certain victory, public-spirited volunteerism, heroic return, escape from irascible boss and/or shrewish wife and screaming brats, wild sex, plus military and social advancement.

What a deal! However, the opening lines of "The Twa Sergeants" intentionally undermines the effectiveness of the appeal. Two sergeants are needed rather than just one (because one might not be enough to cajole the ordinary dubious youth?) They come to "catch" recruits, not to offer them the chance of a lifetime. But even so they can only induce 42. That number is no accident: it's there because the regiment was called "The Forty-Twa," which the singer interprets humorously as meaning it has only 42 soldiers in it instead of the prescribed hundreds. In the context of real recruiting, that's a snide suggestion that the Watch is a kind of fraud that sensible men will stay far away from. (Without those opening lines, of course, the song would be a forthright sales pitch, like its 1706 predecessor.)

So, if anything, JR's is more of a mild "anti-recruiting" song. Being unsympathetic to the recruiters, the song-maker could have had little interest in the details of where the real regiment might be sent, particularly since he had a ready-made refrain to hand. For the average person before about 1905, another war with France (with Gibraltar somehow involved) probably seemed as plausible as any.

"Internal evidence" in anonymous verses of uncertain date, that could have been altered on a whim or supplemented with new bits from elsewhere at any time, usually says little reliable about the date of composition, except that certain phrases (like "Queen Victoria" or "King George" in Greig-Duncan) could not have appeared *before* a certain moment. But they could appear at any time after.


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