The Pressers by Mary Brooksbank

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“The Pressers” is an anti-war song of the Scottish tradition reworked by Mary Brooksbank of Dundee on a text dating back to the Napoleonic wars. From the memory of a part of the song that she had learned as a child, Mary Brooksbank (1897-1978) expresses the anti-militarist sentiment of certain socio-cultural circles that have gathered around the folk revival of the 1960s.
A young peasant girl is in sore because her love has disappeared, ended up in a raid of the press gang and enlisted to fight and die in who knows what battlefield under the cannons of Napoleon Bonaparte.

THE WHITE SLAVES

It was the abolitionists who underlined the analogy between the slaves in the cotton plantations and the soldier (or the soldier-sailor), a prisoner in a military uniform: in the army the power relations are those of the master-servant, servants are the poor indigent and masters are the officers who often do not even try to disguise their contempt for the troops on which they exercise undisputed power of life and death.
Ray Fisher from “Willie’s Lady”, 1982


I
There is nocht in this wide world
but sorrow and care,
I weary (1) on Johnnie,
but Johnnie’s no there.
Sae waesome and dowie,
I feel like tae dee
Since the pressers (2) 
hae stolen my laddie fae me.
II
I look aroond the steading,
but Johnnie’s nae there,
At toil in the hairst field (3),
my hert it feels sair.
When I look tae yon high hills,
a tear blinds my e’e
Since the pressers
hae stolen my laddie fae me.
III
For he’s far ower yon high hills
and syne ower the sea
I ken nowhere my ain dear
laddie micht be.
In some foreign battlefield
maybe he’ll dee
Oh, curse on ye, Boney (4),
took my laddie fae me.
IV
Now the bonnie larks
singing mocks me in my care
But I’ll go on still hoping
till grey grows my hair.
Oh, ye wild winds a blowing
far ower the sea
Will ye blow back my bonnie
lad Johnnie tae me.

English translation Cattia Salto
I
There is nothing in this wide world
but sorrow and care,
I weary on Johnnie,
but Johnnie’s no there.
So woeful and mournful,
I feel like to die
Since the pressers
have stolen my boy from me.
II
I look around the steading,
but Johnnie’s no there,
At toil in the harvest field,
my heart it feels sore.
When I look to yon high hills,
a tear blinds my eye
Since the pressers
have stolen my boy from me.
III
For he’s far over yon high hills
and then over the sea
I know nowhere my own dear
boy might be.
In some foreign battlefield
maybe he’ll die
Oh, curse on you, Boney,
took my boyfrom me.
IV
Now the pretty larks
singing mocks me in my care
But I’ll go on still hoping
till grey grows my hair.
Oh, you wild winds a blowing
far over the sea
Will you blow back my bonny
lad Johnnie to me.

NOTES
1)referring to sadness and dispiritedness rather than exhaustion as in Eng.
2) Impressment, colloquially, “the press” or the “press gang“, refers to the act of taking men into a military or naval force by compulsion
3) the harvest was carried out by traveling teams of seasonal laborers who moved to the large Scottish Lowland farms.
4) Boney is for Napoleon. The origin of the name is perhaps “the Lion of Naples”

LINK
http://ontanomagico.altervista.org/arthur-mcbride.htm
http://mainlynorfolk.info/folk/songs/thepressers.html
https://www.folk-legacy.com/store/Scripts/prodView.asp?idproduct=129

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