A Ballad of the Ranks

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A Ballad of the Ranks  (1898) 
by Arthur Conan Doyle

Who carries the gun?
      A lad from over the Tweed.
Then let him go, for well we know
      He comes of a soldier breed.
So drink together to rock and heather,
      Out where the red deer run,
And stand aside for Scotland's pride --
      The man that carries the gun!

            For the Colonel rides before,
                  The Major's on the flank,
            The Captains and the Adjutant
                  Are in the foremost rank.
            But when it's 'Action front!'
                  And fighting's to be done,
            Come one, come all, you stand or fall
                  By the man who holds the gun.

Who carries the gun?
      A lad from a Yorkshire dale.
Then let him go, for well we know
      The heart that never will fail.
Here's to the fire of Lancashire,
      And here's to her soldier son!
For the hard-bit north has sent him forth --
      The lad that carries the gun.

Who carries the gun?
      A lad from a Midland shire.
Then let him go, for well we know
      He comes of an English sire.
Here's a glass to a Midland lass,
      And each can choose the one,
But east and west we claim the best
      For the man that carries the gun.

Who carries the gun?
      A lad from the hills of Wales.
Then let him go, for well we know,
      That Taffy is hard as nails.
There are several ll's in the place where he dwells,
      And of w's more than one,
With a 'Llan' and a 'pen,' but it breeds good men,
      And it's they who carry the gun.

Who carries the gun?
      A lad from the windy west.
Then let him go, for well we know
      That he is one of the best.
There's Bristol rough, and Gloucester tough,
      And Devon yields to none.
Or you may get in Somerset
      Your lad to carry the gun.

Who carries the gun?
      A lad from London town.
Then let him go, for well we know
      The stuff that never backs down.
He has learned to joke at the powder smoke,
      For he is the fog-smoke's son,
And his heart is light and his pluck is right --
      The man who carries the gun.

Who carries the gun?
      A lad from the Emerald Isle.
Then let him go, for well we know,
      We've tried him many a while.
We've tried him east, we've tried him west,
      We've tried him sea and land,
But the man to beat old Erin's best
      Has never yet been planned.

Who carries the gun?
      It's you, and you, and you;
So let us go, and we won't say no
      If they give us a job to do.
Here we stand with a cross-linked hand,
      Comrades every one;
So one last cup, and drink it up
      To the man who carries the gun!

            For the Colonel rides before,
                  The Major's on the flank,
            The Captains and the Adjutant
                  Are in the foremost rank.
            And when it's 'Action front!'
                  And there's fighting to be done,
            Come one, come all, you stand or fall
                  By the man who holds the gun.

Variant[edit]

A variant of this was put to music by Alicia Adelaïde Needham (née Montgomery) (1863 - 1945), mother of Joseph Needham, under the title "Who Carries the Gun?"

"Who carries the gun?"
  A lad from London town.
We'll let him go, for well we know
  The stuff that never backs down!
He has learned to joke at the powder smoke,
  For he is the fog-smoke's son,
And his heart is light and his pluck is right,
  The lad who carries the gun.

    For the Colonel rides before,
      The Major's on the flank,
    The Captains and the Adjutant
      Are in the foremost rank.
    And when it's "Line to the front!"
      And there's fighting to be done,
    Come one, come all, you stand or fall
      By the man who holds the gun.

"Who carries the gun?"
  A lad from over the Tweed!
Then let him go, for well we know
  He comes of a soldier breed!
So drink together to rock and heather,
  Far out where the red deer run,
And stand aside for Scotland's pride,
  The lad who carries the gun!

    For the Colonel rides before, etc.

"Who carries the gun?"
  A lad from the hills of Wales!
Then let him go, for well we know,
  That Taffy's as hard as nails!
There are several Ll's in the place where he dwells,
  And of W's more than one,
With a "Llan" and a "Pen," but it breeds good men,
  And it's they who carry the gun.

    For the Colonel rides before, etc.

"Who carries the gun?"
  A lad from the Emerald Isle!
We'll let him go, for well we know,
  We've tried him many a while!
We've tried him East, we've tried him West,
  We've tried him on sea and land,
But the man to beat old Erin's best
  Has never yet been planned!

    For the Colonel rides before, etc.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1930, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.